By Zack Needles
Of the Legal Staff
Bala Cynwyd, Pa.-based environmental, energy and land use firm Manko, Gold, Katcher & Fox has opened a new office in Williamsport, Pa., with an eye toward better serving its North Central Pennsylvania client base, which has grown in conjunction with the rise of the natural gas industry in the region.
While oil and gas operations in the region have been active since the Marcellus Shale play began picking up steam a few years ago, the decision to open in North Central Pennsylvania comes at a time when many companies are moving their rigs to Southwestern Pennsylvania and Ohio, where there exists more valuable “wet” gas – a combination of methane and other components such as propane, benzenes and ethane.
Northern Pennsylvania, meanwhile, has a higher concentration of “dry” gas, which is almost pure methane and, as a result, is currently worth less on the market than wet gas.
But firm partner Marc E. Gold said that while the firm is well aware of current market trends, there’s still plenty of work to be done in Central Pennsylvania involving development stemming from the oil and gas industry.
According to Gold, the firm has recently been involved in several brownfields redevelopment projects in which land in the region has been prepared for the construction of office buildings to serve the oil and gas industry.
Meanwhile, the transportation and housing industries in the region have also experienced a spike recently as a result of the oil and gas industry.
“If you look at any statistics from the Chamber of Commerce for Williamsport, you can see it’s just been a booming area,” Gold said, adding, “While we’d love for it to be vibrant and for the natural gas industry to be chugging along [in the region], if, for the moment, it’s not, that doesn’t deter us from thinking we can open a practice up there.”
Although, at least for the time being, there will be no lawyers stationed in the office on a full-time basis, Gold said he and his Manko Gold partners Todd D. Kantorczyk, Jonathan E. Rinde, Michael M. Meloy and Michael C. Gross will be splitting their time between Williamsport and Bala Cynwyd.
Gold said the firm would not rule out the possibility of adding full-time attorneys to the office, but its immediate goal is to establish a presence in the region and to serve its existing clients there.
“We have clients in the area – both natural gas clients and other clients – and, given the activity up in that region, we thought it was better to be closer to where the business is,” Gold said, adding that the firm also wanted to be near the state Department of Environmental Protection’s Northcentral Regional Office, which is based in Williamsport.