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More than 1,500 sign gas leases
|COOPERSTOWN - The gas rush continues.|
More than 1,500 property owners in Otsego, Delaware and Chenango counties have agreed to let firms prospect for natural gas on their land, even as calls come from some quarters for a moratorium on drilling.
The excitement comes as geologists predict that much of the central New York area is sitting on rich gas deposits, trapped in shale deep in the ground.
Gas has been found in Springfield, and firms are betting big money they’ll find it throughout the area, as they have in northern Pennsylvania.
Two months ago, New York state geologist Richard Nyahay told a crowd of 700 at Unadilla Valley Central School in New Berlin that on a scale where 1.00 is an ideal drilling prospect, this area rates ``.98 or .99.’’ Last month, Nyahay quit his state job to go to work for GasTem USA, a Montreal-based firm that plans to drill in upstate New York, according to the Reuters News Service.
The boom has been building for a few years. At first, landowners typically were offered $2 an acre to sign leases that would permit wells to be drilled. State law guarantees landowners a 12.5 percent royalty on producing wells, and with this incentive, some signed up.
In the interim, energy prices spiked, drilling techniques improved, and the dollars per acre shot up.
About three months ago, Fred and Anna Schoellig of New Lisbon leased 800 acres for $50 an acre.
But on Wednesday, Elmira attorney Christopher Denton, who represents the landowners’ cooperative Central New York, said it’s not uncommon now for land in the Southern Tier to be leased for more than $1,000 an acre.
When leases are recorded in county clerks’ offices, the amounts paid to landowners often are not included. Companies that acquire the drilling rights are free to assign them to a different entity, usually a drilling firm.
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