A sign of things to come? Norse Energy, a Norway-based company, wants to close the natural gas line spigot piping free gas to land owners that it contracted with. It's dropping the free gas lease provision in favor of a propane subsidy.
So far only about 16 land owners in New York's Madison and Chenago counties have been affected, according to Norse Energy Spokesman Dennis Holbrook. But that may signal the end of free gas to holders of close to 180,000 acres of natural gas rights in New York and Pennsylvania.
That's a major inconvenience to farmers, especially those who use a lot of natural gas for dairy operations as well as shop and home heating. Norman Wedge of Lebanon, N.Y., for instance, invested $15,000 to converting his wood and oil-burning heating system to gas.
Norse offered him $7,000 to convert to propane. And, he would get a subsidy for the gas used. Holbrook confirms that Norse has revised its lease practices, and now rarely offers land owners access to gas produced by their wells.
Norse has learned that farms may not be small gas users. "If their free gas is a significant amount of the total production of that well, then we have a problem operating that well," Holbrook acknowledges.