Tuesday, December 22, 2009


environmentalism, natural gas, marcellus shale
I'm not really weighing in on the whole natural gas debate*. To be honest, I'm not even that informed on the whole issue (we've hit the time of year where all I care about is the impending Christmas Family Implosion, to begin in T-minus 56 hours) from a climate change/energy independence perspective.

I can tell you what I think about the consequences on a local scale, however, because I live near the Marcellus Shale.

The Marcellus Shale is a huge deposit (or something) of natural gas in Pennsylvania, which resides under what is mostly farmland or undeveloped ruralness. The gas company has been signing leases right and left with the owners of this land for increasingly outrageous sums of money. I know this because the law firm I work for has prepared at least 100 of said leases.

Last year, the gas company was paying about $2,500/acre. Last week, I typed one out for more than $6,000/acre. This wouldn't bother me, except that the land is owned by a group of farmers, who will not be farming this spring. I understand why the farmers are doing it. The gas company is paying more than they would make farming, and now they don't have to do anything for the money.

Unfortunately, we can't eat natural gas. I know who these farmers are because I see them at the Farmer's Market every summer/fall. Well, not next year. I'm not sure there will be a Farmer's Market next year, because literally half the farmers signed that lease. Yay, capitalism, but what are we eating next year?

*I've come to a conclusion about American Thinker. The founder of the website clearly has a liberal friend whom he consulted about the name of his rightwing internet crapabration who snarkily replied "American Thinker", not even realizing what he was unleashing upon the irony aware of the world. I'm sure liberal friend is properly apologetic about all this, but the damage has been done.


  1. Is the Natural Gas industry buying up all their land or just mineral rights and renting part of the land. Natural Gas is huge where I live in Oklahoma and the common procedure is to rent land from the farmers (cattle farms here). They rent a space for the drilling rig and possibly a long term rent for putting a pipe through the land. I have never heard of using up all their land.

  2. They're doing something weird that I can't quite catch, mostly because I'm typing leases and don't have any authority to ask. I don't know if it's just during the initial setup phase that they're going to be trampling all over everything, and then spring 2011 the farmers will be back to work or what, or if it's permanent.

  3. I think the cost isn't in lack of farmers, market forces take care of that if there isn't enough food, and per comment above, most of the land stays farmable. The cost is to the environment, noise, trucks, groundwater, and especially streams as all the water used in drilling gets discharged to streams relatively untreated.

    Royalties are payed to property owners within 1 mile radius of a well, so the leasing is just an up-front bonus, because the big money is in the royalties if gas is pumped (I think). The risk of leasing is getting a well put on your property, which involves a huge water storage basin, a big gravel pad, and lots of semi trucks going in and out hauling water for the drilling operation. But everyone in the community pays the price environmentally anyway.


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