Southern Tier Energy Partners, a newly formed organization representing about 2,000 property owners known collectively as the Tioga County Landowners Group, has signed a preliminary agreement with two companies that want to develop Marcellus and Utica shales in New York by using an alternative to the controversial hydraulic fracturing drilling method.

The landowners' group controls about 135,000 acres in Tioga County and is working with eCorp International and GASFRAC Energy Services Inc. eCorp is known in this area as the developer of the Stagecoach Storage Facility in Tioga County, a natural gas storage operation that is now owned by Inergy Midstream of Missouri.

GASFRAC, based in Calgary with branch offices in Texas, uses a process that injects gelled liquid petroleum gas, with three additives, into an underground rock formation to release trapped natural gas. During the fracking operation the gelled liquid petroleum gas, or LPG, liquefies and returns to the surface as propane gas. The propane is recovered, chilled back into a gel and reused.

GASFRAC's drilling method would not be subject to the provisions of the state's Supplemental Generic Environmental ImpactStatement, which will only guide permitting for the type of hydrofracking being used by companies in Pennsylvania, DEC says.

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