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Nov. 25, 2010
by Glenn Tolbert
Since 2007, more than 100,000 of Garrett County acres have been quietly leased for natural gas production, since the new pro-cess now commonly referred to as fracking provides a method of harvesting natural gas from the Marcellus shale that is sitting underneath much of the county.
The stakes can be very high. National media report that the type of drilling about to occur here can bring individual landowners anywhere from $5 to $2,000 per acre.
“I don’t think that anyone here is getting that high-end money,” said Mikal Zimmerman, who should know. Working through the Maryland Cooperative Extension Service, it is her job to advise landowners who are approached by representatives of natural gas companies.
Zimmerman’s advice is fairly straightforward to anyone finding a natural gas rep knocking on their door: “Do your research,” she said. “Talk to your neighbors and see what they’ve been offered. Do something that I call ‘unification,’ which is seeing if you can put your properties together to negotiate a lease jointly and have one drill site for all of the properties.”
Zimmerman also advocates having an attorney look over any would-be final agreement before signing it.
The fact that Garrett County is about to become a large producer of natural gas was the topic of a meeting last Thursday night, held at Route 40 Elementary School. Nearly 100 people attended, with their primary reason for doing so perhaps best summarized by local resident Natalie Atherton: “I’m here because I want to learn about what impact natural gas drilling can have on our drinking water, rivers, and lakes,” she said.
Atherton went on to argue that the permitting process should be slowed until any potential damage done by the drilling can be studied.
That seemed to be the theme of Thursday’s meeting: “Not enough is known, and we need more study.”
There were no representatives of Chief Oil and Gas present, the company that is ready to begin drilling in the Friendsville area, and numerous phone calls to the company were not returned.
In fact, the company held its own invitation-only meeting at Friendsville Town Hall at exactly the same time the meeting at Rt. 40 school was conducted.
The new technology used to extract natural gas from shale involves sending a drill bit and pipe down into the earth approximately 8,000 feet, through the water table. The drilling mechanism allows the operator to drill horizontally far and wide from the drill site on the surface. The drilling companies claim that since it is operating so deep, there is little chance of harm to the water table. The fracking process, which involves pumping water and toxic chemicals under extreme pressure, frees the natural gas hidden in the shale, and the gas is then brought to the surface. The fracking liquid is then retrieved and placed in holding tanks.
The Marcellus shale layer is enormous, and natural gas companies claim that it contains enough gas to provide an adequate supply for the nation for the next 20 years. The Marcellus shale layer can be found under the states of New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, and Virginia. The first drilling in Garrett County is set for the Finzel area; however, as yet no permits have been granted by the state of Maryland.
According to the Chief Oil and Gas web site, the company hires contractors and employees from the areas around its operations, thus providing jobs to many economically depressed areas in the aforementioned states.
The Garrett County commissioners recently appointed a gas drilling task force that has begun meeting and discussing what steps should be taken to guarantee safety to the local environment.
Landowners seeking advice on this subject are invited to contact Mikal Zimmerman by telephone at 301-334-6960 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
Read the full article here.