After years of battling over whether Southern Tier land owners whose mineral leases had expired could renegotiate for higher rates or drop their agreements entirely, about 200 property owners are free of their leases.

Word has come that the settlement with Chesapeake Energy to back away from contested leases has been finalized after the company recently agreed to drop a legal appeal.

The big energy company has released 13,000 acres of land on which it had sought to indefinitely extend the lease agreements at the originally negotiated rates, which are much lower than the agreements being penned on newer leases.

Chesapeake had argued it needed to hang on to the expired leases into the unforeseeable future given that New York State still has not made a decision on natural gas exploration in the Marcellus Shale.

Meanwhile, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation deputy commissioner for administration, Anne Reynolds recently told lawmakers there is no timeline now for offering a recommendation on regulations for the natural gas industry related to hydraulic fracture drilling.  The DEC is continue to review thousands of comments it received two years ago in a draft review on fracking.