Local landowners and representatives from Chesapeake Energy share their perspectives on the mineral rights leasing  and natural gas drilling processes.


Visualizing the impact a natural gas drilling operation has on a piece of property isn’t difficult, says Scott Rotruck, Vice President of Corporate Development for Chesapeake Energy. It’s a lot like watching ER.


“You can think of a lot of the natural gas drilling process in medical terms,” he explains, speaking with Matt Sheppard, Corporate Development Director, this Monday. “Our 3D seismic technology basically takes a sonogram of the earth, telling us very specifically what’s under our feet. When I first started this work, I was up in New York and we’d occasionally have wells as shallow as 27 feet. Now we’re applying the latest  technology to see what’s down there as deep as 7500.”


Sheppard agrees. “I call the Appalachian Basin the most-drilled, least-explored area in the nation,” he says. “We’ve had a lot of wells drilled, but now what we’re doing is using technology that wasn’t available previously or taking technology that already existed and applying it to new areas.”


Those new areas include Wayne County, targeted within the last year as a possible location for deposits of the natural-gas bearing Marcellus Shales. Many landowners in Pleasant Mount, Creamton, Damascus, and other communities have received letters and visits from landmen, or professional mineral rights leasing agents, on the behalf of Chesapeake and other companies. Many of these landowners have joined citizens organizations to help them make the best decision for their property. One such landowner is Nick Barna of Tyler Hill, a member of the Northern Wayne Property Owner’s Alliance.


“I haven’t made a decision for my property yet, so I’m just up there to learn,” he says of the group. “I think we (Damascus) probably have more people involved and are better prepared to deal with this than most communities.”


Barna has nothing but positive things to say for the organizers of the NWPOA who have helped him and his fellow landowners.


“Marian Schweighofer is a very fairminded woman,” he says. “She is very open, and she and plenty of other people have worked hard to take care of property owners.”
One of these hard workers is Mike Uretsky, who handles the NWPOA’s public relations.
“My main concern is making sure the feeding frenzy of interest in our area doesn’t harm any stakeolders—by which I mean the property owners, their neighbors, and others in the community,” says Uretsky. “I’m not motivated by self interest; in fact, much of my land is on a nature conservancy.”


Like many people in our area, the environment means a lot to Uretsky. And he says that a well-negotiated lease can help protect landowners who worry about their natural resources.


“A lot of natural gas operation depends on how it’s managed,” he says.
These environmental concerns don’t stop at the NWPOA, however. According to Sheppard and Rotruck, Chesapeake Energy makes maintaining a small environmental footprint a major goal of its drilling operations.


“We want to be as minimally disruptive to the environment as we can. We’ll plan helidrops of equipment rather than building roads if we have to,” says Sheppard. “Our goals in the area are long-term, so we want good referrals.”


Rotruck, continuing on his medical analogy, puts it differently. “We want to let Mother Nature heal,” he says.