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Grisanti and Fracking

Among the pieces of legislation State Senator Mark Grisanti has trumpeted in recent weeks is S.7167, which would provide oil and gas companies the option to double the size of a “spacing unit” for a horizontally drilled and fracked gas well from 640 acres to 1,280 acres. (The spacing unit is the maximum acreage associated with each well.) The rationale is that allowing drillers bigger lots on which to situate their wells would provide a bigger buffer between the well infrastructure and the surrounding countryside, protecting habitat. Where a company might have drilled and fracked two wells on two separate spacing units, they might drill just one well instead. Half the drill pads, half the impact.

In fact, like many of the pieces of legislation regarding fracking which Grisanti and other, pro-fracking legislators have sponsored, S.7167 is a favor to the gas industry sold as a boon to the state’s environment. Doubling the size of the spacing unit means that a gas company can secure twice the acreage for drilling at half the cost. It also allows gas companies to seize gas rights on a larger piece of property through the state’s compulsory integration statute, “the absolute worst compulsory integration law in the US,” according to gas industry insider and anti-fracking activist Chip Northrup, who blogs about fracking-related issues at Under New York State law, a driller that owns gas rights to 60 percent of a spacing unit can aggrandize the gas rights to the other 40 percent, whether the owners of those gas rights wish to open their lands to drilling or not. Twice the spacing unit, twice the potential aggrandizement.

“Holding acreage at minimal cost is critical,” Northrup writes. “Doubling the size of the well spacing facilitates that for shale gas drillers. All they had to do with Grisanti is write the bill for him and provide a cover story.”

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