The announcement that the Sun-Gazette will publish listings of gas drilling leases starting Sunday has generated quite a lot of feedback.
Readers have been asking for information on gas lease parcel locations and sizes ever since the boom began a few years ago.
The Sun-Gazette received a couple dozen calls this week from property owners critical of the upcoming listings.
The Sun-Gazette intends to go forth with the lease listings, which number in the thousands. They will run each Sunday in the Region section until the Sun-Gazette has listed all of the transactions.
The information is a matter of public record and is available - to the general public as well as the newspaper - at the Lycoming County courthouse.
Most of the property owners who called the Sun-Gazette were particularly concerned about the listing of their home addresses. To answer their concerns, whenever possible the listings will not include home addresses of the property owners, according to Sun-Gazette Publisher Bernard A. Oravec.
Oct. 11, 2525, John Smith, of Philipsburg, xyz company, 77.40 acres at Route 1010. Lessor is the same.
"All of this information is a matter of public record, available to anyone, and we have received great interest from readers about where gas leases are and their size," Oravec said "In deference to the concerns expressed by a few property owners, we will endeavor to remove home addresses from the listings."
However, if the transaction involves the same parcel that someone lives on, the Sun-Gazette has an obligation to list the location, Oravec pointed out.
"We're trying to serve the interests of readers, our top priority, while also respecting the concerns of the property owners," he said.
Listings such as these are common nationwide where gas leases are prevalent.
Knowledge about the gas leases serves a number of purposes that might not be readily apparent to people. For instance, if a person knows a neighbor has leased property for gas drilling, they would have time to have well water tested.
State law assumes that any water well within 1,000 feet of a gas well that goes bad within six months of the well being drilled was caused by the gas well. But that only can be determined if the water well was tested by an independent company before the gas well was drilled. Knowing who is leasing the property allows neighbors the time to have the testing done.
It also is useful to landowners whose lease may be expiring to know which gas companies are in the immediate area.
"The gas drilling boom is of maximum reader interest on so many levels," Oravec said. "The boom creates economic energy, environmental and infrastructure concerns and a thirst for information that will help readers understand its broad impact. The drilling impacts everyone in our county in some way.
"The Sun-Gazette has been a leader in the coverage of the gas drilling boom precisely because we have tried to cover each facet of the story with fairness and substance," Oravec added. "The leases are one more piece of the information puzzle."