Last evening, I was talking with a second home buyer who’s thinking about buying a house somewhere in the Catskills, but was under the impression that anything in Sullivan County will be vulnerable to gas drilling. That’s not the case, although this is a new area of due diligence buyers will likely be exercising here.
First, maps of the Marcellus Shale show it only under the western and northern parts of Sullivan County, with the eastern boundary depicted on many maps running from Barryville in the SW to Rockland township in the northeast. It seems that Bethel is in, Mamakating and Fallsburg aren’t. (I’m still looking for a good close-up map of the Marcellus in Sullivan, if anyone knows a site with one posted.)
A second big factor is that the gas needs to be transported to market by pipeline. The Millennium Pipeline, a major gas pipeline in the northeast, runs through western Sullivan. (Pipeline map .pdf.) Proximity to the pipeline likely increases the probability of drilling activity. So even though Bethel, Liberty and Rockland townships include significant areas on the Marcellus, they’re not close to the pipeline (with the exception of the far southwest corner of Bethel, where the pipeline runs through.) Even in the most vulnerable western townships (Fremont, Delaware and Cochecton), most of the land in those townships is miles from the pipeline. A good rule of thumb, in the short term at least, is that the closer you are to the pipeline, the higher probability there will be drilling activity in the area. (Note, though, that a drilling area doesn’t have to be contiguous to the pipeline. There will likely be networks of small feeder pipelines to get the gas to the main Millennium pipe.)
Another consideration is that the gas companies are only interested, at least at this point, in larger acreage leases, or the ability to put together large acreage leases. I’ve been hearing that the “land men” have only been approaching landowners with at least 50 acres to lease, and preferably much more. If you’re in an area with large, locally owned farms, there is a high likelihood those farms are being targeted for gas leasing. Large hunting club properties are also likely candidates for leases. The area where I live, for example, in Delaware Township is primarily second home owners on 5 to 25 acre parcels, so less likely that the immediate surrounding area will see drilling. But across the valley, as well as the northern end of my road, are some large farm holdings — and are more likely leasing candidates.
Some areas and types of property may be relatively immune. Covenant protected developments, like Black Forest Colony and Pine Ayre and any of the lake developments may not see much impact.
Lastly, in many areas that have experienced drilling, many reports indicate that increased truck traffic to and from drill sites is one of the major disruptions. Currently, second home buyers tend to avoid the busier state roads through the county (97, 55, 52, 42 and 17B) because they’re major traffic arteries. Some of our county roads, particularly those that run to or through the prime drilling areas, may also see significant increases in truck traffic. Its way too early to know what the traffic patterns or road use will be like, but potential increases in traffic start to become a consideration in a home purchase.