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Finding peace in the drilling fields

Even at that price, many farmers in and around Skaneateles have signed up. Greenfield was uncomfortable with how the contract was set up, though, and also that drilling would have taken place on his farm overlooking Skaneateles Lake -- a pure drinking source for many Central New Yorkers.

The odds are better for landowners than the gas companies, though -- Carson said typically landowners would receive 12 percent, or an eighth, of the monthly profits once a well is successfully producing, in addition to the one-time lease bonus, over the life of the well.

But there are no guarantees, said Dan Carson, vice president of exploration with New York Shale Gas, one of the gas companies actively gathering mineral rights throughout CNY in hopes of drilling within the year.

"It's a gamble," Carson said. "Everything is 'maybe, it might happen, it could be.'"

The uncertainty lies in the fact that Utica shale, the formation companies are eyeballing in CNY, is unproven -- it has yet to be tapped for natural gas, and though the science points toward profits, there is no way of knowing whether drilling the shale will actually be economical.

And the impact of gas drilling reaches much farther than the pockets of gas companies and landowners.

Gov. David Paterson has proposed in the 2010-11 Executive Budget a 3 percent severance tax on natural gas and oil production in the state, which could provide an estimated $1 million revenue for the state in 2011. The tax would apply to horizontal wells drilled in Marcellus or Utica shale.

The state already imposes a production tax on natural gas wells through real property taxes, the revenue from which stays in local governments.

Water wars and other risks

Overwhelmingly, CNY residents have expressed their biggest concern with hydrofracking is the potential contamination of drinking water.

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