Town official concerned over gas rig fires: “there should be a moratorium”

Lebanon, Madison County (WSYR-TV) – For the second time in just three months, a huge gas rig has caught fire in southern Madison County.

It happened in the town of Lebanon, near the Chenango County border.  Two workers suffered burns from the fire that lasted for hours Thursday.

Cleanup efforts have carried over into Friday, when crews had to go deep into the fields to reach that rig owned by Nornew, a subsidiary of Norse Energy.

The fire was so far in, there was no real danger to anyone living around there, but Lebanon town supervisor Jim Goldstein worries about what would happen if it were on a rig closer in.

“I think there should be a moratorium on drilling in this area until we get to the bottom of what’s causing these problems and what has to be done to remediate them,” Goldstein says.


It is the second fire in three months, but Holbrook says his company makes safety a top priority.
Still,  Goldstein is worried this gas rush may come at too great a risk.

The DEC says about 100 to 200 gallons of diesel fuel were released from equipment at the rig.  A spokesperson says the spill is contained and most of the diesel has been padded up.

There are also barriers in place to prohibit it from reaching a nearby stream.

That part of southern Madison County may just be sitting on huge reserves of natural gas, which energy companies see as a potential gold mine.

“We are in an area that some people have estimated is the largest gas well plate in the history of the United States, and there’s a right way to do it and the wrong way to do it.  We have an industry that I think is moving far too fast that cannot be tracked,” Goldstein says.

A handful of companies have come and gone — especially now, as the state reviews regulations for companies wanting to drive through the Marcellus Shale in an attempt to find that natural gas.

But one company has stayed; Nornew says it sees a goldmine in the Herkimer sandstone formation in the area.


In the town of Lebanon and the neighboring town of Smyrna, Nornew has about 100 gas wells already drilled.

“I have huge concerns about their ability to track when this Marcellus slate drilling starts where the water’s going to come from — where the waste is going to go,” says Goldstein.

Goldstein worries just what toll the search for the next big energy source will take on his area without proper controls.

Some geologists say there is enough recoverable natural gas in the Marcellus Shale to supply the entire United States for about two years.