Drilling is gone, questions remain

Date: February 28, 2011

W HOOSH! THAT giant sucking sound heard around Luzerne County last week was Encana Oil & Gas USA Inc., pulling up stakes and exiting the state.

As it rapidly withdraws from the county\’s Back Mountain region and the commonwealth, Encana carries in its draft a flurry of emotions, not the least of which are certain residents\’ dashed hopes. The natural gas firm and its partner company, Whitmar Exploration Co., had drilled two exploratory wells in this territory and recently deemed it unlikely to produce sufficient amounts of natural gas to be profitable.

So long, land leases. (The companies had signed renewable deals for the rights to more than 25,000 acres in the county).

See ya, royalty checks. (They remain but a fantasy, for now.)

In many corners of the county, the gas company\’s decision drew a massive sigh of relief. Area residents rightfully worried that widespread drilling might cause havoc in communities unprepared for the industry\’s arrival. In particular, they wondered if it would do lasting harm to drinking water supplies.

Residents who have been anxiously eyeing the industry\’s actions here, for whatever reasons, would be wise not to view the latest development as a final act, but rather a lengthy intermission. (A moratorium, if you will.)

It seems reasonable to conclude that one day other natural gas companies or changing conditions, either in fuel prices or technology, might put Luzerne County back in play.

Regardless of whether that day arrives, let\’s use this reprieve in the Marcellus Shale melodrama as an opportunity for personal introspection and public action. Did our state, county and local governments respond appropriately to the industry\’s potential threats, or its possible economic upside? If not, why not? What weaknesses have been exposed that can be addressed? Was cooperation evident among governing bodies?

Are adequate safeguards in place for our water supplies today? What about tomorrow?

Were our decisions related to the natural gas industry motivated mostly by self-interest, civic good or something else entirely?

The next time drilling companies, or another outside force, begin to influence our communities, how can we be better prepared to handle the situation smoothly, swiftly and collaboratively?

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.