Schoharie County’s Four Partners have formed a Steering Committee to move ahead on the topic of natural gas leases, drilling, and exploration.
With that in mind, the Four Partners have also scheduled a follow-up to their heavily-attended May 29 meeting at SUNY Cobleskill.
A second meeting to focus on the idea of forming a coalition to negotiate more favorable leases than those typically offered will be held Wednesday, July 16, 7pm, again in SUNY Cobleskill’s Bouck Hall auditorium.
“We’ve had some discussions about the subject and noted that the coalitions formed in other areas would seem to make sense for Schoharie County too,” said Jodie Rutt, executive director of the Chamber of Commerce, a member of the Four Partners.
“The Four Partners would suggest that we look into the possibility of forming a coalition to get landowner involvement so we can maximize the potential benefit for all landowners.”
Because of the potential impact leases can have on all residents, the Four Partners are urging everyone to attend the meeting on the 16th.
Members of the Steering Committee include: Earl VanWormer, Stanley France, Sandie Prokop, Stacey Della Femina, and David Huse.
“Right now, we’re discussing our options,” said Mr. Huse. “That and educating people.
“There was a lot of information shared at the first meeting and we hope people have had enough time to digest it by now. This issue isn’t going away. We need to be proactive.”
Mr. Huse said Jeff Decker and other representatives from the Coalition Connection, which has been working to help landowners in the Southern Tier negotiate much more favorable leases for natural gas exploration, will be at the July 16 meeting at SUNY.
“We’re hoping to get people to sign up [with the Coalition Connection],” he said.
The Coalition Connection doesn’t charge for its services upfront, but rather on a “commission” basis once—if—lease revenues start coming in.
“If we can get to the point where a block of landowners are negotiating together on this, we’ll all be the better for it,” Mr. Huse added.
So far, “landmen” from as many as a half-dozen companies have been contacting local landowners, primarily in the seven northen Schoharie County towns of Sharon, Seward, Richmondville, Carlisle, Esperance, and Schoharie, hoping to lease land for natural gas exploration.
Leases typically pay per-acre signup bonuses with 12.5 percent royalties on extracted gas, but lease rates are all over the board.
Vince Stalis, a consulting geologist for Coalition Connection, said in May that leases in the Southern Tier were initially in the $3-$5 range; now some are up to $2,500 an acre.
Mr. Stalis will be among those at the July 16 meeting.
“We hear rumors that the natural gas companies are pulling their landmen out because they’re not signing up enough people,” Mr. Huse said, “but we just don’t know if that’s true.
“To Schoharie County’s credit, we’re not a bunch of hicks willing to just sign anything. It’s up to us to negotiate the best deal for ourselves.”