Before a packed house at Tuesday’s town meeting, Jeff Heller of the Steuben County Land Owners Coalition urged people to join the coalition instead of signing individual leases with gas drilling companies.

“Our advice to all land owners, and towns too ... we would try to get you to try not to sign a lease until you’ve either contacted the coalition or an attorney. For your own sake. These people are going to make this sound awfully rich, and it is awfully rich. But it may be richer than they’re making it sound,” he said. “We don’t want land owners to sign prematurely.”

People in Steuben County shouldn’t expect rates that high, said Heller, but he’d be happy with $1,000 per acre. And the more members in the coalition, the better the prospects of receiving favorable lease rates, he said. According to its website, over 5,000 land owners are in the coalition, with the total represented acreage topping 164,000 acres.

Fourteen other states have started hydrofracking and gas drilling, said Heller, and the coalition thinks New York will become the 15th.

Standing in the way are environmental concerns, including questions of radiation and damaging water supplies by drilling.

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