Shale topics presented at gas seminar

A sizable crowd was on hand for the first Elk County Gas Task Force educational seminar, held Wednesday evening at St. Marys Area Middle School.Elk County Commissioner June Sorg acted as the hostess as she introduced each of the seminar's three speakers: Jim Clark of Penn State Cooperative Extension, who spoke about water issues; Mike Donovan of Seneca Resources, who presented a brief overview of Marcellus Shale; and attorney Tom Wagner of St. Marys, who provided information on land leasing. Among the highlights of Clark's presentation were facts that one million farms and homes in the state have a private water supply and 45 percent of them have never been properly tested. While public water supplies are under mandates to be tested, private water supplies are not. Clark emphasized the importance of having water supplies tested, especially if there is gas drilling expected to take place nearby. He added that well water should be tested every 14 months. Nearly 50 percent of people in the state get their drinking water from wells."All management of private water supplies is mandatory," Clark said. "Many wells have inadequate construction and there are many naturally occurring problems in ground water."Next, Donovan provided an overview of Marcellus Shale activity occurring in Pennsylvania, as well as information on the fracking process. According to Donovan, the Marcellus Shale rivals many of the large gas fields found in Saudi Arabia. Wagner concluded the presentations by providing information on basic legal concepts, property owners' rights and leasing issues, some of which he said he has dealt with firsthand.Among his points were those concerning the difference between surface and mineral rights and negotiating leasing principals.At the conclusion of the seminar, participants had several of their questions answered by the panel of speakers.Jodi Foster, Elk County Planning Department's community and economic development coordinator, noted that any questions not answered at the event due to lack of time can be found with responses on the county's website, Those without Internet access may contact the Elk County Commissioners' office for assistance in obtaining the answer to their question.