Drill end impacts economy

Date: February 28, 2011

Encana\’s decision to stop drilling in Luzerne County means major development won\’t happen here.

By Jennifer Learn-Andes jandes@timesleader.com
Luzerne County Reporter

The environmental impact of natural gas drilling is subject to debate, but nobody disputed that driller Encana Oil & Gas USA Inc.\’s continued presence in Luzerne County would have created jobs and work opportunities.

Rosenn Jenkins & Greenwald LLP in Wilkes-Barre has also represented numerous property owners – both in Luzerne County and neighboring counties — in finalizing their natural gas leases.

Hauling, construction, heavy equipment rental, road building, legal, surveying, title searching, engineering – the list goes on.

Then there\’s the purchasing power of new residents who need food, housing, clothing and entertainment.

“In places where gas development has been very active, there has been major employment increases and business activity directly related to that gas development,” said Tim Kelsey, a professor of agricultural economics at the Penn State Cooperative Extension, which has been actively involved in studying natural gas issues.

Encana\’s decision to scrap drilling in Luzerne County means that major development probably won\’t happen here, Kelsey said.

The company announced Thursday that the two exploratory wells it has drilled in the county are unlikely to produce natural gas in commercial quantities, prompting the company to immediately cease operations in Luzerne and Colombia counties.

Kelsey characterizes the company\’s departure as a “missed opportunity.”

“It\’s different than a situation where you have a major employer who quits and leaves, suddenly leaving many people unemployed,” Kelsey said. “It was more an opportunity that looked like it was coming to Luzerne County but won\’t happen.”

Luzerne County businesses may still capitalize on the natural gas boom in neighboring counties, in large part because of its proximity to major highways, Kelsey said.

“Luzerne County can still capture some of that supporting activity. The county could still see some benefits,” Kelsey said.

Wilkes-Barre-based Borton-Lawson, for example, has been providing architectural and engineering services to natural gas companies in neighboring counties in addition to Encana, said Mike Wilk, vice president of the company\’s civil business unit.

Borton-Lawson hired 20 new employees to work on natural gas business in Bradford, Susquehanna and Wyoming counties, including site design and assistance with permitting applications for well pads and pipelines, Wilk said.

Encana\’s departure was disappointing, though the company should still be busy on natural work in other counties, Wilk said.

“We enjoyed working for Encana. We thought they were a very good company to work for, and we were looking forward to more work with them,” Wilk said.

Rosenn Jenkins & Greenwald LLP in Wilkes-Barre has also represented numerous property owners – both in Luzerne County and neighboring counties — in finalizing their natural gas leases, said Joseph Persico, the firm\’s managing partner and a partner in the firm\’s real estate division.

Persico said he is optimistic that the firm\’s natural gas legal work in other counties will continue.

“We have a group of real estate lawyers here who have been following this trend every since it began, and they are familiar with gas leases and gas companies,” Persico said.

Economic growth from the natural gas industry has been “rather significant” in neighboring counties, he said.

“Obviously it was our hope that many of those employment activities would take place here,” Persico said.

Todd Vonderheid, president and chief executive officer of the Greater Wilkes-Barre Chamber of Commerce, said law firms and engineering companies in Luzerne County have been handling natural gas work and will continue to do so.

“Luzerne and Lackawanna counties have been receiving some part of the economic spin-off long before Encana started drilling,” Vonderheid said.

He pointed to Baker Hughes, a drill bit supplier now established in the Crestwood Industrial Park.

“Baker Hughes is a vendor to Marcellus shale. There are companies that need access to vendors who will likely locate in more densely populated areas,” Vonderheid said.

Kathryn Klaber, president of the natural gas industry advocacy group Marcellus Shale Coalition, said the economic impact of Marcellus development “knows no borders or county lines.”

“The supply chain and employment needs of Marcellus operators and those servicing the industry stretch well beyond the areas under development,” Klaber said. “These opportunities will only increase as additional wells come on line and clean-burning natural gas is safely and effectively developed.”

Staff writer Matt Hughes contributed to this report.

 

Copyright: Times Leader

 

Joe Price
Attorney Joe Price is a seasoned Trial Lawyer serving Northeast, Central and Southeast Pennsylvania for the past forty (40) years. He has handled serious personal injury cases in courts throughout the Federal system including New Jersey and New York. Attorney Price is A.V. Rated by Martindale Hubble. He is Board Certified in Civil Practice by the National Board of Trial Advocacy since 1996.