An exploratory natural gas well planned for Benton Twp. will be drilled on a handful of the 3,700 acres of farmland in Lackawanna County that have been preserved forever from development through state- and county-owned conservation easements.
Oil and gas exploration has been allowed on farms conserved through the state Bureau of Farmland Preservation's easement purchase program since it was developed in 1988.
The program aims to slow the conversion of prime farmland to nonagricultural uses, like housing developments, by buying development rights from farmers, but gas drilling was never seen as an incompatible use of the land.
The advent of Marcellus Shale drilling, with its larger well pads and longer operations than conventional shallow drilling, has brought more attention to the issue especially in parts of the state, like the northeast, that rarely saw gas drilling before.
"Obviously, Marcellus Shale presents a tremendous opportunity for farm owners to reinvest in their farm operations and pay down debt and maybe diversify the type of agriculture they're doing," said Doug Wolfgang, director of the Farmland Preservation Bureau. "That said, it's all about balancing the need for domestic energy with the preservation of our natural resources and our farmlands."Preserved farms protected from development but not gas drilling - News - The Times-Tribune