New Castle News

Editorials

April 12, 2012

Our Opinion: Governing entities need to consider various options

NEW CASTLE — Amid tough finances, it should come as no surprise that local school districts and municipalities are reviewing their options.

And one such option is considering the signing of oil and gas leases for public property. In many cases, this is a controversial move, with residents openly worried about the environmental and related consequences of any drilling.

Such concerns need to be considered. Problems do crop up with drilling, both large and small. That, however, does not preclude the signing of leases after all factors are examined.

Local officials need to take a broad view when it comes to these decisions. It’s important to recognize oil and leases are a matter of negotiation. And with thousands of dollars per acre now being offered by potential drillers because of interest in Marcellus and Utica shale resources, there’s good reason to negotiate.

There are many factors to keep in mind with shale drilling; money is not the only issue. With drilling come noise, trucks, pollution potential and assorted inconvenience. Finding ways to minimize these problems is within the ability of any property owner when it comes to signing leases.

That’s especially true with government entities. While private property owners may not have a legal obligation to their neighbors with these leases, municipalities and school districts have political responsibilities at the very least. It is understandable that they would want to be sensitive to the concerns of people who live near possible drilling sites.

That must be part of the process. But it does not prevent the signing of leases. The financial benefit for local governing entities is too important to ignore.

Of course, not every municipality or school district has land that’s practically available for leasing. If only a few acres are at stake, it’s probably not worth the trouble.

For some local entities, however, there is large acreage available. So while these officials need to respect residents, they also need to keep another constituency in mind: The people who routinely pay taxes.

(Mitchel Olszak is the editorial page editor at The News. Contact him at (724) 654-6651, extension 628, or e-mail him at nceditor@ncnewsonline.com)

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