Officials Return From Western Gas Fields ‘Invigorated’
Posted in the Los Alamos Forum
Since: Feb 12
#1 Feb 5, 2012
BY RICK HIDUK —
Participants in a recent shale gas energy conference held in Hobbs, New Mexico, referred to a whirlwind trip to Lea County, NM, as “exhausting” but “enlightening.” Bradford County Commissioners Doug McLinko, Mark Smith, and Daryl Miller, Susquehanna County Commissioner Mary Ann Warren and Pennsylvania state Rep. Tina Pickett were among local elected officials to partake in discussions and serve as guests on informative panels.
“It was a very interesting trip, and we came away with a tremendous amount of information,” said Miller.“We spent a fair amount of time with several of their elected officials and local business leaders discussing a wide range of issues that any area involved in energy exploration faces.”
New Mexico, with only two million people compared to Pennsylvania’s 26 million, is a key energy producing state. Lea County has been drilling for oil and gas for more than 70 years, and business is suddenly booming again in light of the technologies that support horizontal drilling and fracking. There is also a uranium plant in the county.
“They are very proud of their energy,” said McLinko.“They call it the Energyplex. They were drilling for oil right along the road to town.”
McLinko was among the participants to return with the notion that Pennsylvania counties in the Marcellus shale region may have been better prepared for the gas boom than was initially realized. Challenges such as housing shortages, environmental concerns, regulations, and work force have plagued Hobbs for years, and authorities there haven’t conquered all of their issues, despite being so many years ahead of this area in oil and gas production.
“They are not that diversified in their economies,” said Central Bradford Progress Authority director Tony Ventello.“We have a very diversified economy to begin with, which can be helpful with the swings in the industry. Let’s build on it.”
“You have to be balanced with different kinds of industry. You can’t rely on just the gas industry,” McLinko concurred.“You have to be proactive in planning growth and attracting jobs, not reactive. We’re also in a better position with our regulations than they were when they got started.”
Making sure that the industry progresses within affective guidelines continues to be a priority here, but Ventello and McLinko agree that the emphasis should be on how to sustain the economic momentum generated by the gas boom by taking advantage of the energy that we are producing.
“They demand responsible drilling, but you need to be diverse in your job base,” said McLinko.“We need to be ready to go, so we don’t miss one development opportunity that can add to the tax base and reduce the pressure on landowners.”
“My intention was to look at the value-added natural gas utilization. Let’s not harvest it and let it leave the area,” Ventello added.“Let’s look at natural gas as a feedstock for other development in this area.”
Water conservation and the protection of drinking water is an especially sensitive issue in New Mexico, Miller explained, because the state is more arid to begin with. With more than 50,000 wells drilled, the state has no documented cases of contamination of fresh water wells as a result of fracking.
Ventello, Miller, and Pickett took note that upwards of 35 percent of Lea County’s budget depends on energy production revenue, which has dealt the area some economic blows due to the inconsistency of energy development in the past. The area boasts of low property taxes, but its citizens have endured boom and bust cycles during the three generations of oil production in the Permian basin and gas drilling in the Woodford shale.
“They tax the industry to the point of critics saying they are overtaxing,” related McLinko, who feels that gas companies here are doing a better job at repairing infrastructure than in New Mexico.
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#2 Mar 1, 2012
So, we could raise taxes, according to McLinko?
That sounds dumb, We ought to just force them to invest in more infrastructure instead.Make the money go local, to workers, and not to Santa Fe!
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