New York’s Marcellus Landowners Have the Most to Lose
Developing the natural gas resources in the Marcellus Shale has become an incredibly contentious issue in New York over the past 3 ½ years. Initially gas companies were caught unaware. They assumed that development in New York would be embraced as it has been in other parts of the country. The economic benefits to rural upstate communities would surely make up for the temporary disruption and inconvenience. Thousands of jobs would be created and landowners would receive royalties for years to come. Instead, energy companies have been opposed by a well funded, national opposition determined to stop gas development in New York. Natural gas companies needed to be out in front of the message years ago but that opportunity has since passed. They have made many concessions but it is clear now that the opposition does not want to agree to anything. Three and a half years of study and delay has yielded a set of regulations that are the strictest in the nation but the opposition is still not satisfied. It is obvious that their goal is to ban development in the state entirely.
So, who really suffers if development is banned in New York’s Marcellus Shale or the regulations are so cumbersome that they make it economically unfeasible for companies to proceed? The energy companies will move on to shale plays in other parts of the country and the environmentalists will beat their drum for the next great environmental “threat”.
It is the landowners in Central New York and the Southern Tier who will suffer. They are the silent majority of hard working citizens desperate for the opportunity to develop their natural resources. They are the most vulnerable stakeholders in this debate.
Landowners in the Southern Tier are facing a critical time. Even before Hurricane Irene devastated communities the recession had taken a heavy toll. Central New York and the Southern Tier had been steadily losing jobs over the past years. During the last decade the Southern Tier has seen IBM, Maple Vale Books and many other businesses big and small shut down or leave the area. Drive through the small towns and witness the boarded-up businesses and empty strip malls. Their children, faced with this blight and lack of opportunity, are deciding to leave New York for brighter opportunities. Now landowners must deal with Hurricane Irene’s devastation on top of an already bad economy and they are close to the breaking point.
The excruciatingly long SGEIS review process has taken an emotional toll on landowners as well. The contentious debate over the past 3 ½ years has left landowners feeling demonized for supporting the right to develop their land and it has divided communities. It is time to move forward with safe, regulated drilling and allow the resulting job creation, cheap gas and economic progress to uplift and heal these communities.
This is a turning point for the region. The landowners in Central New York and the Southern Tier have been patient but this process must come to an end now. The livelihoods of over 70,000 New York landowners depend on Marcellus development. And the economic uplift to the region will benefit all Southern Tier residents in the form of new jobs, tax revenues and abundant natural gas. If New York passes on the Marcellus Shale opportunity, it will inconvenience the gas companies but they will survive and move elsewhere. The opposition will chalk up another “victory” for the environment and move on to save the salamanders somewhere. But the landowners will remain and try to scrape together an existence. They will see their sons and daughters leave the area and they will likely follow; maybe over the border to Pennsylvania where they can find work and dream about what could have been in New York.
Jennifer Levine has been advocating for safe and responsible drilling on behalf of New York landowners and business for the past three years. She is founder of Marcellus Communications in Delmar, NY.