Municipalities mull pros, cons of area gas drilling

Community leaders say the Marcellus Shale industry has impacted the local area in both a positive and negative manner since drilling for natural gas began about five years ago.

Lycoming County Planning and Community Development gathered feedback Wednesday night from boroughs as part of a study it’s conducting on Marcellus Shale impacts.

“It definitely has had an impact,” DuBoistown Borough Council President Michael Caschera said.

Caschera said he couldn’t say whether the drilling has been good or bad for the area.

“Has it been financially successful for this community? Not really,” he added.

Caschera was among a handful of community leaders discussing the effects from drilling during the Lycoming/Sullivan Boroughs Association meeting.

Montoursville Borough Councilman Dennis Holt said the drilling industry certainly has brought more truck traffic to his community, but he noted the positive aspects of the Marcellus Shale as well.

Storefronts and warehouses are no longer vacant, and the borough is raising more revenue than ever from sales of water to drillers.

“The only negative you can say is trucks, trucks, trucks,” said Holt, an employee of Sooner Pipe, a gas well casing distributor in Montoursville.

Mayor John Dorin said the gas industry has meant more people in the community who are renting properties, and that’s not necessarily a good thing.

“I’d rather see families,” he said.

Lycoming County Planning and Community Development Deputy Director William Kelly noted that the county’s population decreased from about 120,000 to 116,000 between 2000 and 2010.

However, those population figures are questionable as many people, including those working in the gas industry, may not have been counted.

Borough officials noted that the area is meeting some of the demands on municipal services caused by the industry.

Holt said that gas companies have done a good job repairing roads negatively impacted from heavy truck traffic.

“We are going to put up a new terminal at the airport,” said Dorin. “If not for the Marcellus Shale, we probably couldn’t justify it.”

Holt added that area hospitals likely are becoming busier due to the hazardous nature of the gas industry.

“There is an accident on rigs every day,” he said.

Kelly noted that no drilling is done around Muncy, but the borough still feels the adverse effects of the industry.

“It is at the unavoidable crossroads of gas activity,” he said.

Emergency services, some borough officials noted, are forever being challenged to meet their community’s demands.

South Williamsport Borough Councilman Ed Weinhoffer said it’s difficult to find volunteer firefighters when they must meet so many training guidelines just to go on duty.

Dorin noted that it’s particularly tough for his borough to keep in place an adequate supply of part-time police officers.

No sooner are they trained when they leave the borough for full-time work elsewhere, he explained.

DuBoistown Mayor Lou Plankenhorn said he felt the Marcellus Shale has had an overall positive effect for all communities.