As natural gas drilling slows, some have feared that Lycoming County's golden-egg laying goose is about to fly the coop. However, Michael Krancer, secretary of the state Department of Environmental Protection, anticipates that natural gas production will benefit the state for many years to come.
"Pennsylvania stands at a crossroads because we are the source of a product in high demand. I believe the state will see the benefits from the gas and oil industries for years to come," Krancer said.
Since the beginning of the year, more than 20 new oil and gas permits have been issued in Lycoming County alone, according to information on the department's website.
"People think that production is slowing down, because there's not as much drilling as there was before. But those wells are expected to produce for years and years," he added.
The Marcellus Shale formation, in particular, is known as a "superstar formation" among those in the industry, according to Krancer.
"Marcellus produces more liquid than any other formation," Krancer said.
Krancer also stated the natural gas drilling process has become significantly safer over the last four years.
"As time goes on, we're finding that most gas and oil companies are generally abiding by the law. Most have a strong ethos towards environmental safety," Krancer said.
Krancer believes the trend primarily is due to operators in the field gaining skill, as they have more time to work with new drilling technologies.
"As these operators get to know the new technology, specifically for horizontal drilling, they are becoming safer and more efficient at their jobs," Krancer said.
He added that increased safety enforcement, in compliance with Act 13, was another reason for the decline in hazards.
"Act 13 requires operators to tell us when they're doing various activities. This way, we can time inspections based on different activities. It's a way for us to manage our resources," Krancer said.
"The inspectors are much more successful at seeing infractions if they know what type of activity they are walking into," he added.