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Last updated: February 15. 2013 6:36PM - 292 Views

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MATT HUGHES

mhughes@timesleader.com
LAKE TWP. – Luzerne County landowners who have signed a natural gas lease with drilling company Encana & Gas will know by Christmas whether their leases hold the potential for millions in royalty payments or just a lump of coal.

Speakers at Thursday’s meeting of pro-drilling group Citizens for Cleaner Energy said hydraulic fracturing will begin at Encana’s Salansky well site in the next few weeks -- possibly as soon as this weekend.
Carl Kern, of Mountain Energy Inc., Tunkhannock, said Encana has contracted one of his trucks to haul 80 truckloads of water to the Salansky site starting as soon as Saturday, a sign that hydraulic fracturing should begin at the site soon.
“It’s going to get fracked real quick,” Kern said, referring to the hydraulic fracturing process.
The Salansky well site, located off Zosh Road in Lake Township on property owned by Amy and Paul Salansky, is the second exploratory well drilled by Encana in Luzerne County. Economist William H. Kent of Benton, who addressed the approximately 80 people who attended the meeting at the Outlet United Methodist Church in Lake Township about the economic potential of Marcellus Shale development, said Encana has chosen to frack the Salansky well first because the shale beneath it is relatively flat, making it easier and cheaper to frack than the sloped shale beneath Encana’s first exploratory well, located off Route 118 near Ricketts Glen State Park on property owned by Edward Buda.
Encana’s fear, Kent said, is that the formation of anthracite coal in the area required intense heat, which may have burned away much of the natural gas beneath the county millions of years ago.
“They’re worried about this; all the companies I talked to,” Kent said.
Should the wells produce, however, he said Encana plans to drill as many as 300 wells in the county, offering tremendous economic potential, for both those who leased and for the county and state budgets.
“We’ll keep our fingers crossed that this turns out to be as good as it can be,” Kent said.
Kent also said that unfair taxation and sensationalism of unwarranted environmental concerns also have the potential to drive economic growth, potentially significant enough to render property taxes unnecessary, away from the area.
Mentioning by name the Back Mountain-based Gas Drilling Awareness Coalition and the Citizens’ Environmental Legal Defense Fund, who recently presented an ordinance that would ban hydraulic fracturing to the Lehman Township Commissioners, Kent and others accused those in favor of a moratorium on gas drilling of spreading misinformation and creating unnecessary fear of the gas industry.
He conceded mistakes have been made by the industry, particularly by the Cabot Corp. in Dimock, where the state said improperly sealed well casings allowed methane to contaminate drinking-water wells.
“The Cabot Corp. broke all the rules,” Kent said. “They got caught and they are paying a big price for it, but so did we all, because it’s handed an example to the anti-drilling minority that they can use to beat us over the head.”
“On the other hand,” he said, “Encana showed us all how gas drilling should be done. They are the poster child of the natural gas industry.”
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