Upper Bucks town wins fight over gas-drilling

Posted: October 24, 2013

NOCKAMIXON TWP. A Michigan-based energy company has given up efforts to drill for natural gas in upper Bucks County, ending a six-year legal battle over zoning issues with Nockamixon Township.

The town's elected officials "made it impossible for the company to move forward," Terry Beia, the manager of Arbor Resources, said Tuesday when reached by phone.

Nockamixon, about 15 miles north of Doylestown on Route 611, fought the drilling in court, arguing that the land wasn't zoned for heavy industry. Arbor had signed hundreds of leases with landowners to drill exploratory wells.

Jordan Yeager, Nockamixon's attorney, said he received a letter from Arbor last week that said it would drop its legal efforts.

"They were trying to ignore the rules that everybody else needs to live by," Yeager said. "When we stood up to them, they fought it. And now they've abandoned that fight."

Regardless of Nockamixon's efforts, Arbor was unlikely to drill anytime soon. Two moratoriums on drilling are in effect in Bucks County. And a saturated natural gas market has kept prices low, making gas exploration a big gamble in an area not yet known for being rich with the resource, experts say.

In 2012, state lawmakers mandated that no drilling permits could be issued in Bucks and Montgomery Counties until a study assessed how much drillable gas sat beneath them. And in 2010, the Delaware River Basin Commission barred drilling in the river's watershed until regulations were adopted and approved.

Nockamixon is situated on the geologic formation known as the South Newark Basin, which stretches from north-central New Jersey to Montgomery County. A recent U.S. Geological Survey report indicated that the basin could contain as much as 876 billion cubic feet of natural gas.

But the Marcellus Shale formation, which is in the western and northern parts of the state, holds 160 times more gas and already is fueling Pennsylvania's natural gas boom, according to the latest estimates from the U.S. Department of Energy.

Dan Weaver, spokesman for the Pennsylvania Independent Oil and Gas Association, an industry group, said it was not a shock that Arbor Resources gave up on Nockamixon.

"Do companies really want to spend their efforts and resources where they really don't know what their yield might be?" Weaver said. "Drilling for natural gas here in Pennsylvania is based on economics, and it's just not there."






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