Appalachian Basin

Butternuts Chooses Butter

Last week the Town of Butternuts, New York acknowledged natural gas exploration is most likely coming to their area and took steps to plan for its arrival – an approach that should be emulated by Towns being targeted by the purveyors of local shale gas bans which are slowly being proven illegal.  About 60 people attended the meeting in Butternuts with opinions split between those supporting natural gas exploration and those opposing it.

Butternuts Prepares to Manage Natural Gas Production

The Town of Butternuts has no zoning law and Town Board members were in agreement they didn’t want to begin adopt one now.  However, they still want to ensure parameters are in place to manage responsible natural gas development.  Notwithstanding this the Board indicated they had reviewed various road use agreements employed elsewhere.  In their review, the Board was not satisfied the agreements they reviewed had good legal standing.  They felt strongly that any agreement they approved should have a solid legal foundation.

With this in mind, the Town Board voted to seek outside assistance as Butternuts wants to coordinate their approach with surrounding towns.  Enforcement of a town-specific law can be difficult for small towns such as Butternuts and a consistent approach will make it easier for companies operating in the region by allowing for easier operations and increased likelihood for greater economic development (the “butter”).

The path Butternuts is pursuing is a responsible one.  It will allow the Town to benefit from the responsible development of natural gas while creating responsible regulations to manage any impacts the town could experience as a result of this development.  At the same time, developments within the industry are helping to significantly reduce the impacts towns like Butternuts will have to manage.

Industry Reducing Its Footprint

Many developments in the natural gas industry, and Marcellus Shale in particular, have reduced transportation impacts associated with natural gas development.  One such development is the creation of large freshwater reservoirs so water can be piped directly to nearby well sites thus reducing truck impacts on surrounding roads (see pictures below of typical reservoir and piping system in Lycoming County, Pennsylvania).  Developments such as this, combined with greater collaboration between industry and local governments and state departments of transportation,  are significantly reducing impacts  and in some cases are leaving roadways in better condition than existed before the industry’s arrival.

The following pictures are from an area of Lycoming County experiencing extensive natural gas development.  In these pictures it is noticeable the area’s rural character has not diminished and local roads are in better conditions than they have been in a long time.  In addition, these pictures highlight the fact that natural gas production is not as threatening and cumbersome as some make it seem.  For example, there are numerous well pads in the immediate vicinity of this picture and a well was being developed while these photographs were taken.

Typical Township Road in Well Developed Gas Exploration Area (Lycoming County, Pennsylvania).

Fresh Water Reservoir for Supplying Multiple Well Pads

Water Line Used to Supply Well Pads (Also Note Good Road Condition)

Responsible Regulation- A Win, Win for the Community

All in all, the meeting in Butternuts went very well because it focused on the reality of natural gas development and the responsible steps that could be taken to manage any unintended impacts.  This is a far more productive, proactive, engaging and responsible approach than farfetched speculation, hysteria and nutty schemes to stop development based on unfounded fears of a vocal minority who will stop at nothing to halt responsible natural gas production.

Communities win when their elected officials are able to have an adult conversation on responsibly developing natural gas and ways to responsibly manage its impacts.  The contrast of this type of effort compared to a hysteric knee-jerk and possible illegal attempt to completely restrict development could not be more stark.  The former enables a community to move ahead together enjoying the economic benefits responsible natural gas development will bring while the latter wastes time, precious resources and only puts the town in a precarious position to defend a law advocated by outside interests that will cost the Town significant sums to defend in the legal system.  A high cost for a law an attorney will not defend and one NY towns  never should have passed in the first place.

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