A lot of rural landowners in Pennsylvania were sitting on a gold mine.
They just didn't know it.
Then advances in drilling opened up vast reserves of natural gas in the Marcellus formation in Pennsylvania.
Suddenly, the land of dairy farmers and other property owners in Pennsylvania, particularly the large rural tracts, became very attractive to natural gas companies.
Well, the royalty payments to property owners from gas companies could top $1.2 billion for 2012.
Those payments have transformed the lives of many rural Pennsylvania property owners, a lot of them in our region.
No more living off credit cards.
No longer living paycheck to paycheck.
For farmers using 30-year-old equipment, unable to afford the debt from a new purchase, life has changed with these royalty payments.
Now, they can keep their equipment up to date and no longer worry about the next breakdown every day.
"It's a lot more fun to farm," said Shawn Georgetti, a dairy farmer 30 miles southwest of Pittsburgh.
Since Pennsylvania has a gross domestic product of more than $500 billion, $1 billion may not seem like a lot of economic impact from the natural gas industry.
In fact, critics of the industry say the gas drilling impact is grossly overstated.
Don't tell that to those getting the royalty payments.