Digging deeper into natural gas drilling

By Jillian Marshall

August 7, 2014 Updated Aug 7, 2014 at 7:09 PM EDT

Binghamton, NY (WBNG Binghamton) It's a hot topic across New York: natural gas drilling and its economic impact. That was the spotlight at the Greater Binghamton Chamber breakfast Thursday morning.

Pennsylvania is the second largest natural gas drilling state in the country, but just across the border in New York, hydrofracking is not allowed.

"The ban mentality, the idea that something is poorly understood or new, it should be banned. I think that's a mistake," said hydro geologist John Conrad.

Conrad works for an environmental and engineering firm called PVE Sheffler LLC, which is based out of Poughkeepsie.

Natural gas drilling education was the theme at the Greater Binghamton Chamber of Commerce breakfast "Eggs and Issues" Thursday morning.

Conrad, Anthony Ventello, the executive director of Progress Authority, and Peter Quigg, president of the Community Foundation of the Endless Mountains, made up the panel of natural gas experts at the breakfast.

They spoke on what they call misconceptions about natural gas drilling, and how to manage wastewater formed from hydrofracking in the Marcellus Shale region.

"Industry has really, for the first time ever, begun to recycle the vast majority of the saltwater," Conrad said.

Wells create 96,000 barrels of wastewater a day, which is 35 million a year. Conrad said the wells now recycle 87 percent of the wastewater, or saltwater, a year.

While the panelists had more than enough to say about the production of natural gas drilling and its impact on the economy, they said if New York ever allows fracking, it will be difficult to get large companies to invest.

"Energy companies need to do long-term planning and large-scale investment, which is sometimes hundreds of millions of dollars, before they can drill a well," Conrad said. "And most energy companies will just not risk that capital in towns where a town board could simply zone out oil and gas drilling."

The crowd at the breakfast had mixed opinions on gas drilling, but the supporters of drilling said those who are against it need to do more research.

"I think that they need to read more widely and I think that they need to look at what good things that are happening in neighboring communities in Pennsylvania," said Maureen Wilson, a Binghamton Chamber of Commerce legislative committee member.

Conrad added that hydrofracking will not happen in New York until Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) publicly releases the Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (SGEIS).