The Daily Star, Oneonta, NY - otsego county news, delaware county news, oneonta news, oneonta sports

Local News -

May 22, 2008

Land sought for gas riches

Central New York may be sitting on one of the richest natural gas finds in the United States, and ``landmen'' are offering leases to area farmers and other property owners.

``We have three landmen working in Otsego County now,'' Ron Bishop, an employee of Denver-based WhitMar Exploration said Tuesday.

The landmen approach property owners, typically asking them to sign five-year leases, which will allow the leaseholders to come onto the property and drill for gas. They've been busy in Delaware and Chenango counties and are active in Otsego, too.

Bishop said he couldn't disclose how much money the company usually offers because conditions vary from property to property.

``Every lease is individual,'' he said.

However, according to Steve Sinniger, president of the Otsego County Farm Bureau, the going rate varies from $25 an acre to about $2,400 an acre, depending on the geology and the skill of the bargainer.

``There's a big difference in what people are being paid; that's why we want to get the word out as soon as possible,'' he said.

Toward that end, the Otsego County Farm Bureau will hold a seminar at 7 p.m. June 5 at Unatego Junior-Senior High School. At that meeting, Jeff Decker of Vestal, a founding member of a property owners' coalition in Vestal, and other knowledgeable people will speak and answer questions.

``We just want to let people know what's available, so they don't regret signing a lease,'' Decker said.

Property owners in southwestern Otsego and southeastern Chenango counties may be paid more than $2,000 an acre, he said, if they refuse to go along with lesser offers.

Sometimes by pooling resources and working together, landowners may do very well, he added.

On Tuesday morning, Fred Schoellig of Route 51, whose farm is just north of Garrattsville, leased 700 acres to WhitMar at $50 an acre.

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