Archive for October, 2017

Educator Delivers Crash Course On Local Shale Gas

October 19th, 2017 Comments off

Natural gas locked in shale formations two miles or deeper throughout much of Potter County is coveted by energy companies, but early signs suggest it is not the bounty that has been documented both east and southwest of the county. With that as his foundation, educator Dan Brockett of Penn State University presented a crash course on the topic to about 65 people attending this week’s Potter County Natural Gas Resource Center meeting at the Gunzburger Building.

Brockett, an affiliate of Penn State’s Shale Energy Education Team, has addressed regulators and policymakers across the U.S. and abroad. With just 40 minutes to share years of accumulated knowledge, he moved quickly between topics. Among the highlights of his presentation:

  • Economics, political trends and energy dynamics all point toward increased drilling for shale gas in Potter County. That makes it incumbent upon public officials to focus their efforts on risk reduction in the areas of environmental protection, public safety and community impacts.
  • There is an oversupply of gas in the Appalachian Basin, including Potter County. That glut has kept prices low, reducing companies’ incentives to drill for more. At the same time, low-priced gas could be an attractant for other industries to consider locating in Potter County.
  • While Potter County is already one of the biggest hubs for gas transmission and storage in the East, more pipelines are coming as the companies that have acquired rights and drilled for gas seek to move it to market.
  • Industry excitement was focused on Marcellus Shale as recently as five years ago, but companies found that the Marcellus gas in Potter County was marginal – at least while prices remain stagnant. However, companies that have been recently exploring the deeper Utica/Point Pleasant formations are pleased with the early results.
  • There have been roughly 110 shale gas wells completed in Potter County since hydrofracturing technology allowed companies to drill them beginning in 2008. While multiple factors make the industry unpredictable, signs point to hundreds, or even thousands, more wells being drilled in the coming years.
  • Negative community impacts that have been experienced in areas with intense shale gas development have included deteriorated roads, noise, traffic and business congestion, and water contamination. However, most of the impacts have been temporary. Early trends in Potter County suggest that there will not be a “gas rush,” but more likely a steady and long-lasting pattern of drilling and production as market conditions dictate.
  • Potential for water pollution ranks at the top of citizens’ concerns, as confirmed by questions raised at Tuesday’s meeting. Companies must be held accountable for following the laws. Issues of concern should be shared with state lawmakers and regulatory agencies.
  • A host of political issues related to shale gas drilling are unresolved in Harrisburg, ranging from a proposed severance tax and pipeline regulations, to the authority of local governments, setback requirements and royalties/landowners’ rights.

Connecting 55-Older People With Volunteer Opportunities

October 17th, 2017 Comments off

Senior Corps manager Steve Weeks (second from right) met with Commissioners (l. to r.) Doug Morley, Paul Heimel and Susan Kefover.

Volunteering is a great way for many older Americans to stay engaged in their communities and make a difference. It opens the door to opportunities, meeting new people, and making new friends. One of the nation’s largest and most recognizable volunteer networks, the Senior Corps, is making a push for participants in Potter County. Also known as the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP), Senior Corps provides the opportunity for people age 55 and older to share their time and talent in a wide variety of volunteer activities. Steve Weeks, director of RSVP for Potter, Tioga, Clinton, Lycoming and Northumberland counties, shared details with the Potter County Board of Commissioners last week.

“Many retirees and other people 55 and older are eager to serve and give back to their communities,” Weeks explained. “The problem we’re seeing, especially in this part of the state, is that they’re not sure where they might be needed or what they can do to help. Senior Corps bridges that gap, not only for the volunteer, but also for the agency or organization that needs the help.”

Schedules are flexible, Weeks pointed out. Volunteers can choose a location or community project, as well as the number of hours they wish to serve. They receive basic orientation and training, as well as full insurance coverage while serving. Senior Corps members have become a lifeline to many nonprofit organizations, public agencies, and other groups who depend on volunteers to help meet the increased demand for services. As community needs are identified, they respond quickly. Perhaps it’s providing food to hungry neighbors, training unemployed workers, offering support to struggling veterans and military families, or helping a child learn to read.

Weeks said he is establishing a Potter County advisory committee for outreach to potential Senior Corps members and organizations where these volunteers could serve. Terry Cole, director of Pennsylvania CareerLink, and Potter County Human Services executive director Jim Kockler have agreed to serve on the committee and other members are welcome. For more information on Senior Corps, contact Steve Weeks in Wellsboro at 570-765-3075.

TDWC Mission: Protecting Public Water Sources

October 6th, 2017 Comments off

An organization dedicated to protecting Potter County’s public drinking water continues to draw interest from other area counties as well as the Pa. Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP). Triple Divide Watershed Coalition was formed in 2011, pulling together all nine public water systems in Potter County – a first for a Pennsylvania county. Among guests attending Wednesday’s TDWC meeting at the Gunzburger Building were, from left, DEP representatives Mark Stephens and Mark Accettulla, and Tioga County Planning Director Kerry Miller. An organization similar to TDWC has been formed in Tioga County. Two of TDWC’s most ambitious projects are being used as models for similar initiatives in Tioga. One is a partnership with the U.S. Geological Survey to chart and assess groundwater sources by testing dozens of private wells and springs. The second is the installation of 24/7 monitors on public drinking water sources to document flow, temperature and conductivity. This creates a database while alerting water system operators to any potential contamination or other aberration.

Mission of TDWC is “to protect public drinking water sources within the headwaters region of the Allegheny, Genesee and Susquehanna River systems from any degradation of source water quantity or quality.” This is accomplished by proactively evaluating susceptibility to contamination, working to minimize or eliminate potential threats, creating long-range protection strategies, supporting local planning and inter-governmental cooperation, encouraging public education initiatives, and any other activity to benefit present and future generations. Members are the community public water systems serving Austin Borough, Genesee Township, Ulysses Borough, Charles Cole Memorial Hospital, Coudersport Borough, Roulette Township, Galeton Borough, the Northern Tier Children’s Home and Shinglehouse Borough.

Boys & Girls Club Receives County, School District Support

October 4th, 2017 Comments off

Boy and Girls Club of Potter County is off to a positive start for its second year of operation at the Coudersport Elementary School. Participation has doubled from the previous high of 20 children before the club made the move to its current site, with approval from the Coudersport Area Board of Education. Children, who range from kindergarteners to eighth-graders, receive academic tutoring, healthy snacks or a complete meal, and a number of recreational and artistic opportunities during after-school hours. Special educational programming is also held from time to time. Monthly membership fees are a critical source of income. Low-income parents can qualify for financial assistance based on a sliding scale, thanks to a fund established by the Potter County Board of Commissioners through state funds provided under a Human Services Block Grant. Officers of the organization hope to eventually establish regional clubs in other Potter County communities. “Kids need a safe, fun place that keeps them off the street and allows them to learn life skills and grow academically,” said board president George Dubots. “These children are our future, so it’s vital that we give them every possible advantage to be able to succeed.”