Viewpoints / 2013

Fracking's impact on severe weather

Published 3:59 pm, Friday, October 11, 2013
Wes Gillingham is program director at Catskill Mountainkeeper.I am heartbroken over the pictures I've seen of the flooding destruction in Colorado. It particularly hits home because in 2006 flooding from an extreme, intense, isolated thunderstorm destroyed my vegetable farm in Youngsville, Sullivan County. In a few hours, torrents of water ruined three of my tractors, devastated my irrigation equipment and took away 60 percent of my topsoil. I couldn't recover, and it put me out of business.
In some ways I was lucky, especially compared to the people in Colorado. I didn't have to worry about toxic fracking chemicals that are linked to cancer, infertility, autism, diabetes, thyroid disorders and many more conditions poisoning my family, which is a real fear for people in Weld County, Colo.
I did not have a natural gas well pad or a wastewater containment facility on my land. I did not have condensation tanks or open pits that contained toxic fracking waste. That meant that the washout across my field had water in it and not toxic waste.
In New York, proponents of gas drilling say we can protect ourselves from this type of devastation by having better regulations. The tragedies in Colorado and the 2006 flood of my farm eviscerate this theory.
While the regulations in the Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement, the conditions under which New York state proposed to regulate fracking, may be better than what they have in Colorado, history tells us they are unlikely to address a weather calamity like the Colorado flooding.
My farm was destroyed by what was considered a 500-year flood, but the SGEIS only seeks to prohibit wells in areas that are defined as 100-year flood plains. This flood plain definition has been rendered almost meaningless, as climate change has created a "new normal" where we are seeing the increased frequency of weather events that previously were defined as 100-year, 500-year and even 1,000-year occurrences. We experienced two 100-year floods and the 500-year flood in a five-year period.
Even if the proposed regulations were more stringent, our government does not have the ability or willingness to enforce regulations. A recent study showed the Department of Environmental Conservation has lost one third of its staff. And in case after case, the Federal Environmental Protection Agency has been walking away from dealing with fracking pollution.
Ironically, it is the carbon emissions from burning natural gas and other fossil fuels that is accelerating climate change, which in turn is increasing the intensity of storms.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has maintained a moratorium as the Department of Health and DECstudies the science on fracking. If there was ever a sign that fracking is not right for New York and we need to move to clean energy, the Colorado disaster is it.

_____________________________________________________         Letter: Fracking is 'just all around, a bad idea'

Updated 5:18 pm, Friday, September 27, 2013
  • Willie Nelson on stage at Farm Aid 2013 at SPAC Saturday Sept. 21, 2013, in Saratoga Springs, NY.  (John Carl D'Annibale / Times Union) Photo: John Carl D'Annibale / 00023919A
    Willie Nelson on stage at Farm Aid 2013 at SPAC Saturday Sept. 21, 2013, in Saratoga Springs, NY. (John Carl D'Annibale / Times Union
Last weekend, Willie Nelson and his Farm Aidshow brought attention to the threat that fracking poses to us family farmers. They clearly struck a chord. When Pete Seeger sang, "New York deserves to be frack free!" the audience erupted in cheers. I hope Governor Cuomo is taking notes.
My family has 250 dairy cattle and 750 acres of crop and pasture land in Central New York. It's an economically viable business although, like other farmers, we've struggled this year with too much rain and not enough pollination. We certainly don't need any additional threats to our agricultural way of life. And fracking is the biggest threat of all. Our concerns are validated by studies showing serious consequences for farmers when fracking is introduced nearby. For example, in Pennsylvania, one report by animal health experts suggests that several cases of illness, death and reproductive issues in cows, horses, fish and other animals were the result of exposure to gas drilling operations. In one case, more than a dozen cows died within an hour of direct exposure to fracking fluid. Additionally troubling is that exposed animals may be entering the food system, further endangering public health.
Even so, one of the biggest challenges to studying the impacts of fracking on farming is that gas drilling corporations refuse to disclose the chemicals and mixtures they use, making it impossible to fully comprehend the entire range of contaminants being injected into the land. And it's not only the terminal use of water spiked with toxic chemicals that is dangerous. In addition to these chemicals, fracking wastewater would also contain the radioactive materials and other dangerous chemicals found deep in the Marcellus Shale.
Fracking would bring New York farms nonstop noise and air pollution without remedy, since it is exempt from key provisions of nearly every federal regulation on pollution – the Clean Air, Clean Water and Safe Drinking Water acts, the Toxics Release Inventory, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act and the National Environmental Policy Act.
Farming already has omnipresent and inherent threats of weather, economics and other risks. Let us say no to hydrofracking (Governor Cuomo, are you listening?) so that the purity of our air, water and our farmland is not put at risk. The family farms that Farm Aid aims to support, and the food that is produced in New York that nourishes our bodies and those of our children, grandchildren, neighbors, communities and cities, must not be jeopardized by an inherently dangerous and dirty fossil fuel extraction process.
As Willie Nelson said about hydrofracking: "I'm against it. It's bad for the land, bad for the farmers, bad for the soil. It's just all-around a bad idea."
I couldn't agree more.
Kathie Arnold is a Cortland County legislator and farmer who owns and operates Twin Oaks Dairy LLC, an organic farm in Truxton.

Pinkey wrong about fracking's future

_______________________________________________________________                    September 7, 2013

Frack dreams are based on hogwash

Chuck Pinkey has never met an intellectually suspect right-wing idea he doesn’t adore.
The Daily Mail, his source for the U.K. Met Office “End of Global Warning,” story, is a conservative tabloid that condoned apartheid in SouthAfrica; that ran a story “Abortion hope after ‘gay genes,’” suggesting parents could use genetic testing to plan aborting a fetus testing positive for the so-called Xq98 ‘gay’ gene; and has run homophobic articles generating the largest number of press complaints ever received in England. The Daily Mail even ran an article saying “Just ONE cannabis joint can bring on schizophrenia as well as damaging memory” — an article debunked by the scientist who did the research. Dorothy Bishop, professor of neuroscience at Oxford, awarded the Daily Mail the “Orwellian Prize for Journalistic Misrepresentation,” calling the article “the worst misrepresentation of a scientific article in a national newspaper.”
For scientific authority, the Daily Mail appears to rank up with consulting your Ouija board.
Regarding Sustainable Otsego, Pinkey’s slams are predictable. His solution is more fossil-fuel extraction, more deregulation (how will that make gas drilling safer?) and more Walmart-style exploitation of suppliers, employees and customers.
His dismissal of local value-added agricultural products, presumably in favor of commodity dairy, is bizarre. Wishing for a return to the past is not an economic strategy — it’s a fantasy. Regrettably, no New York family dairy farm is ever again going to successfully compete with commodity milk from factory dairies. (Sad facts, but so are water supplies polluted by fracking, and just because you won’t believe the facts doesn’t make them untrue.)
Larry Bennett is a resident of East Meredith and the public relations manager for Brewery Ommegang.


Gas Wells, Schools Just Don’t Seem to Mix Very Well

September 1, 2013
Linda Shalaway The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register
In school, sometimes real life trumps academics. That's what happened one day recently in my classroom when a senior student asked: "Mrs. Shalaway, do you think it is worth staying and fighting for this area, or do you think we should just get out now?"
Oh no, one of those too-frequent moments when I can't say what I really think.
"Your home is always worth fighting for."
But the student wasn't satisfied with my answer. She and her classmates were upset by news reports that two new gas well pads were being planned for the immediate vicinity of their brand-new "green" school. Some claimed that even before this "last straw," their parents were already planning to leave.
These young people knew what more gas wells meant. They've lived it for the past several years. Those who live on the back roads running by well pads have choked on the dust, listened to the incessant roar of heavy equipment, and watched the never-ending parade of heavy tankers, huge gravel trucks, and other unidentifiable equipment hauled on flatbed trailers.
Those who haven't experienced it that intimately certainly have had to negotiate the potholes and heavy truck traffic on Route 250. They've learned to leave home at least 15 minutes earlier than before.
And everyone - even the occasional out-of-state tourist leisurely passing through the area - can see the jagged scars on green rolling hills and ridges.
But two new well pads on either side of the school? Is nothing sacred?
Concerned for our students' health and safety, CHS faculty senate wrote to the state's Department of Environmental Protection. Most immediately, we are concerned that the toxic gases and chemicals necessarily a part of gas well drilling and fracking would be sucked into the school's "green" climate control system that relies exclusively on a constant intake of "fresh air." (An Aug. 25 News-Register article features a prominent WVU scientist urging the DEP to regulate and monitor these toxic gases at all wells.)
We are also concerned about advance warning of an accident requiring the school's evacuation. How would buses get to the school soon enough? Where would 400 children and adults go if Route 250 were shut down to all but emergency vehicles?
Then there's the traffic. Trucks would drive right past the school and turn at the intersection where student drivers and buses would be turning.
Our questions and concerns fell on deaf ears. Even before the comment period ended, the DEP website for well permit comments disallowed comments.
So we emailed our faculty letter to DEP officials but haven't heard from any. Our local politicians didn't even know about the proposed pads. When our vice-principal sought answers from Trans Energy, he received them, including the following, printed verbatim:
- What type of continuous organic chemical monitoring system will be installed?
We will not have a continuous organic chemical monitoring system, and have never had one on a location.
- Will you use any type of a sound barrier?
We will not use any type of sound barrier. The well will be located 3,740 feet from the school. There is a large hill between the school and location. (Inaccurate). You will not have any noise problems from the rig.
- Dust Control, what is you plan for dust?
We do not have a plan for dust control - we are not driving near the school.
- Will we receive radon detectors for Cameron High School?
We will not provide radon detectors - the wells will not have radon emissions.
The Trans Energy response, which does not include even one concession for the safety of children, concludes with, "We would be happy to meet with any concerned parents or community members."
We go to great lengths to encourage West Virginia students to keep their talents in West Virginia. We award Promise Scholarships for state colleges and universities. We forgive the school debt of doctors and pharmacists who practice in the state.
And we encourage business and industry to keep our citizens employed. Wouldn't it be ironic if one of those industries ends up driving out those same talented individuals we are trying to keep here?
Linda Shalaway is a National Board-certified teacher and author "Learning to Teach ... Not Just for Beginners (Scholastic, 2005). She teaches at Cameron High School. Syracuse councilors call on Obama to reconsider his stand on fracking: 

By Your Letters 
on August 20, 2013 at 2:09 PM, updated August 20, 2013 at 2:14 PM

To the Editor:

   As Syracuse Common Councilors tremendously proud of our city, we are pleased that President Obama chose to visit this week, casting a national spotlight on Syracuse and the surrounding region. As individuals who have each spent much of our careers focusing on the environment and clean water, we urge President Obama to carefully consider the science on fracking and reevaluate his position.

   Syracuse, of course, has some of the best drinking water in the country. It is among the many things residents are rightfully proud of. Clean water and the accompanying beautiful natural environment throughout the region are among our key economic drivers, supporting tourism, agriculture, wineries and breweries, and a high quality of life in upstate New York. They are our priceless assets that have provided a stable economic foundation even in the hardest of economic times.
   These are among the reasons why the prospect of fracking has been met with so much resistance in Central New York, resistance which has grown hand in hand with awareness and education about the science and track record of the process. Put simply, the more New Yorkers have learned about fracking, the more they oppose it.
   Across the border in Pennsylvania, news of spills, blowouts, accidents, and violations have been so common that they are hardly news any longer. A growing body of peer-reviewed science demonstrates inherent problems ranging from underground migration of methane and other chemicals, dangerous air pollution that threatens people's health and significant climate impacts that undermine any potential benefit over coal or oil.
   Meanwhile, the oil and gas industry has sought political influence and fought transparency every step of the way. From refusing to disclose chemicals used in the process, to making victims sign nondisclosure agreements as part of settlements, to getting gag orders on doctors who treat patients harmed by fracking operations, the industry has done everything it can to thwart science.
________________________________________                 August 7, 2013

Make rules that are based on science

At the first landowners meeting I attended in 2008, some people were already convinced that bringing gas drilling into our community was in everyone’s best interest — especially their own. These “true believers” decided the benefits of industrial-scale gas drilling outweighed the risks in the absence of any supporting evidence because they believed gas industry safety claims were legitimate, truthful and accurate.
They were unconcerned that the system was rigged by the industry with the help of its Albany lobbyist-lawyer, who convinced the DEC earlier to push Compulsory Integration (CI) to the New York State Legislature to “maximize gas production,” and legislation that pre-empted local zoning laws to ensure no opposition to the gas industry’s plans of “community industrialization.”
CI is basically legalized piracy enabling drillers and colluding landowners to take oil or gas from a neighbor refusing to “play ball” and lease their land. Local zoning rights have been upheld by NY Courts, will CI?We now know the gas industry cannot operate without causing a multitude of problems over time, that “safe & responsible” gas drilling belies a ruthless and reckless industry operating with a blatant disregard for public health and safety, that “bad things” tend to happen to residents living within a mile of active oil or gas wells (farther even), and that the DEC’s suggested setback of a few hundred feet doesn’t come close to protecting nearby residents from potentially catastrophic drilling impacts. 
We also know stray methane migration is a problem endemic to drilling, and that there is a strong likelihood that shallow pockets of pressurized methane will become disturbed and mobilized, seeking the path of least resistance.
We demand protection from an out-of-control industry, and we deserve regulations based on science and not the “faith-based” approach offered by the gas industry, DEC, and some landowners.
Richard Averett     ButternutsREAD MORE: _______________________________________________
July 31, 2013

If fracking's safe, why exclude watersheds?

Regarding letters from Ms. Lusins (July 23) and others stating that hydraulic fracturing is completely safe and will not contaminate our water: Why does the state Department of Environmental Conservation report studying fracking issues recommend exemptions for both the New York City and Syracuse watersheds, which supply drinking water to their respective communities?
Why does the New York City Department of Environmental Protection state that fracking poses an unacceptable threat to the drinking water supply of its residents and cannot be safely permitted within the New York City watershed?
Stan Rabbiner   Oneonta
Read More:
__________________________________________________________August 3, 2013

Pipeline firm is offering landowners a raw deal

I met with Bob Lidsky the other day, a Davenport landowner whose property sits in the path of the proposed “Constitution Pipeline.” Bob told me about his interactions with the pipeline company’s “Right of Way Agent,” and showed me the documents he had received.
The agent’s introductory letter starts with a conflict of interest: “My responsibility is to be the ‘voice’ of the Constitution [sic] directly with you, (landowner) as well as to represent ‘your voice’ and best interest to communicate and work in ‘good faith’ negotiations.”
The agent is working for the interests of the pipeline company; it is unethical to claim to also represent the landowner’s best interests.
Although the Right of Way agreement gives the company access to the entire property, landowners are only offered three times the value of the 50-foot strip of “impacted acreage” where the pipeline will lie.
This one-time monetary offer is the only payment for any damages the company might cause during installation of the pipeline. No compensation whatever is offered for loss of property value.
Signing within three months gets the landowner three times the value of the impacted acreage. Signing during the next three months brings only twice the value, and waiting beyond that results in a payment of only 1½ times the value.
This puts a lot of pressure on the landowner to make a quick decision and sign the agreement without taking time to do the necessary research in order to make an informed decision.
There are many potential consequences of signing the pipeline company’s Right of Way agreement. Mortgages generally prohibit hazardous activity and hazardous substances from being on the mortgaged property. Will the landowner be able to get a mortgage to build a home if there’s an easement for a gas pipeline on the land? Will the landowner be able to sell the land later with this limitation on the property?
Signing makes the landowner potentially liable for any damage that results from the industrial activity they have voluntarily allowed on their land. Bob’s insurance agent told him he wouldn’t be covered for any damages resulting from pipeline activity, since his coverage does not extend to business activity, which he would be entering into by accepting compensation from the pipeline company for an easement to use his land for industrial operations. These and other issues should be explored by every landowner before signing a Right of Way agreement.
A follow-up letter from the pipeline company threatens the landowner with the forcible seizure of land through eminent domain if they do not sign. This letter states that eminent domain is the “last option considered.” It doesn’t state why.
The reason, kept well-hidden by the pipeline company, is that the landowner might get a lot more money through eminent domain proceedings. The pipeline company does not want to resort to the courts because it will raise their costs considerably, and limit their rights regarding use of the easement (the terms of the agreement permit the pipeline company to build any kind of “appurtenant” facilities they deem necessary, including compressor stations, to expand the size of the pipeline, and to run anything they want through the pipeline, including tar sands).
Landowners should consult an eminent domain attorney, many of whom will work on a contingency-fee basis.
Bob told me the pipeline agent misrepresented the terms of the Right of Way agreement to him more than once in order to convince him to sign. Landowners should be very wary of this. The terms of the Right of Way contract specifically exclude any verbal or written agreements or promises made by the agent to the landowner from being enforceable in court.
When Bob told the agent that the pipeline would destroy the only site on his property where a home could be built, the agent replied that the route is not negotiable. Bob was not happy that his property would be destroyed for the purpose he intended, and that he would only receive a pittance in compensation, based on the value of the small strip of land where the pipeline would be constructed.
When confronted with this fact, the agent did not argue the point that the amount offered was only a small fraction of the amount the property would depreciate in value, stating only that the price was firm and the pipeline company would not negotiate.
Well, there is a real Constitution out there, and it states that the government will not seize land without just compensation to the landowner. In a court of law, the land subject to taking must be valued at its “highest and best use.” A court will also take into consideration any decline in the value of the remaining parcel. The court may also award the landowner compensation for appraisal costs and legal fees.
It is not just the pipeline company’s terms that are non-negotiable, the U.S. Constitution and its command of just compensation when land is seized is also non-negotiable. And if a judge orders the pipeline company to pay the landowner six or seven times their “non-negotiable” offer, there will be no negotiating that, either. ____________________________
July 27, 2013

Fossil fuels, freak flooding go hand-in-hand

New York hit a couple of amazing milestones recently. Unfortunately, they weren’t the good kind.
Nine months ago, Superstorm Sandy levied a record amount of destruction on our state. And last month, record rainfall caused rivers to swell to unparalleled levels, flooding dozens of towns and cities in Central and Northern New York and causing millions in damage.
The culprit of the flooding was global warming. Gov. Andrew Cuomo said as much when he visited a new firehouse in Keene, rebuilt after Hurricane Irene destroyed it in 2011. But as he toured towns damaged by the effects of global warming, saying they needed to invest in infrastructure to deal with the symptoms of climate change, he failed to mention one of global warming’s biggest and growing contributors: methane and hydraulic fracturing.
New York, under Cuomo’s leadership, now has a unique opportunity to help stop global warming. By banning fracking, in our state we can send a clear message that we are ready to fight climate change head-on, and not just respond to its terrible consequences.
For too long, Cuomo and others have remained silent on fracking’s impact on our climate, leaving the gas industry’s claims unchecked. That’s a dangerous policy, because gas and oil companies like to tout natural gas as a “bridge fuel” between other dirty fuels, such as coal, and greener solutions, such as wind and solar.
Unfortunately, the bridge claim doesn’t hold any water. Fracking would release large quantities of methane gas from wells. According to the International Panel on Climate Change, the comparative effect of methane on global warming is at least 25 times greater than that of carbon dioxide over a 100-year period.Read More:
_________________________________________July 27, 2013

Hartwick needs to ban fracking

The town of Hartwick is surrounded by municipalities that have already instituted bans: Otsego, New Lisbon, Milford and Middlefield. A survey was sent to town residents last year, and a resounding 70 percent to 80 percent of those who responded were against it being allowed in our town. Despite those overwhelming results, the town board has not yet taken the very simple steps necessary to protect its citizens.
The state Environmental Conservation Law, section 15-0154 section 6, protecting water resources for specific areas, should be expanded to cover the whole state and thus prevent the possible pollution of current and potential water supplies. The highest and best use of New York state’s water resources is for human consumption and for the benefit of all of the state’s flora and fauna. It should not be compromised, polluted or commodified. Hartwick should join the municipalities of Otsego County that have already taken proactive, protective measures.
The dubious temporary benefits of natural gas extraction are eclipsed by the potential damage that our aquifers could experience. Once our water supplies are contaminated, there is no easy way to restore them to their pristine states. 
Hartwick residents or property owners may sign the petition at 
____________________________________July 27, 2013

Many mislead about fracking's benefits

Mr. Downey, Ms. Kurtz, Ms. Lusins: So much for the property rights of their neighbors.
They would have none — only those who wish to drill shall have rights. They are perfectly willing to trample over all necessary land to complete the movement of natural gas.
The only way it gets anywhere is through pipes over other people’s land — willing or not. 
A fracked well site only lasts for so long, and then it is finished. A fracked well site uses millions of gallons of water a day. Where will all this water come from? Look at Chobani growing so big its neighbors’ wells were compromised. 
Yes, we need jobs. Businesses need to balance profit and growth with size. Growth for the sole purpose of growing larger is the philosophy of cancer, ultimately killing its host.
Most of us outside cities and villages will never enjoy the benefits of receiving natural gas. It simply costs 10 times the cost of cable, which most of us do not have and never will. There is also the additional cost of replacing boilers and furnaces: $5,000 to $7,000. Pro-frackers seem to envision a world where the gas goes directly to the residents and landowners. This is pure fantasy.
Even in Alaska, Exxon-Mobil is pushing for a trans-Canada pipeline down the Northeast corridor, ultimately for conversion to LP gas and export.
Wait until you see Oneonta surrounded by frack sites. The water will disappear, replaced by chemicals, not removable.
A mile out, a mile down and a mile back. A perfect well-point system (go look that up).
At the next rally, we will wear our best, put on some makeup, maybe get our hair styled, and the men will wear suits or at least a jacket and tie.
Barbara Loeffler     Oneonta

_______________________July 12, 2013 

Anti-fracker not just a 'true believer'

Vera Scroggins is not the “true believer” condescendingly described in the Associated Press story, “Local Women Fight Fracking” (The Daily Star, July 8). She is the quintessential tireless, “just the facts, ma’am” investigator. 
If anyone doubts this, go to YouTube, enter her name and you will see the visual record that the intrepid Vera has compiled of waste, degradation and bitterness in northeastern Pennsylvania.
Night and day, for the past few years, she has shot hundreds of videos of spills, flares, leaks and noises; interviews with both victims and proponents of fracking; and the hot spots she takes visitors to see, hear and smell. She films while shadowing wastewater trucks, hiding behind bushes, flying in helicopters. She films public and industry meetings, fearlessly pushing past bullying security guards. 
Vera is not only an investigator, she is now one of the great citizen authorities on fracking. Listen as she knowledgeably identifies every structure, every pipe, every pit at a frack site, ticks off the gases being released, then refers to the industry sources where this information can be verified. Watch “Citizen Tour of Susquehanna County Gas Development — Parts 1 and 2,” in which she takes two councilmen and a resident from Chenango County on a tour of this densely fracked region.
If two hours of travelling through rundown towns and bleak landscapes tests your patience, jump to the last minute and hear a landowner, in response to a councilman’s question, say that if he had known, he would never have signed a lease. 
Recently I was asked why, if fracking is such an economic disaster, we do not hear about it. Ask the AP. Its story was about Vera, but it should have been about the facts she has discovered, which AP reporters should have discovered for themselves.
Carole Satrina Marner
__________________________________June 22, 2013

There's no economy without ecology

My neighbor approached me at the last Sidney Town Board meeting saying we have something in common. What he meant was the beautiful hill where I live and where he has land to “develop.”
Many of my friends went to Albany to petition their government to protect and defend their homes from CONstitution Pipeline with drilling and fracking to follow. The DEC, Department of Environmental Conservation, has asked Williams and Cabot to evaluate a complete build-out of high-volume hydrofracking all along the route.
This is a polarizing issue, but only if we participate in what one friend dubbed a circular firing squad. If we allow ourselves to be made sport of, the political parties — both Democrat and Republican — with arguments that local oil and gas will stay local and keep our children out of war, or that the only avenue for development is mountaintop removal and unconventional oil and gas drilling, will distract us long enough for corporate interests to prevail. Corporate “citizens” have no home, no allegiance, no patriotism and won’t be here later when air and water are harmed and our true riches despoiled.
Pennsylvania farmers and residents have come to Sidney to warn what bad neighbors drilling, pipelines, compressor stations really are; how health and community costs are externalized to reap higher corporate profits. Raising our voices now is the only participatory democratic avenue when money dictates politics in Albany and Washington.
Thank you, local patriots who are making visible a beautiful thing, people coming together to work for a sustainable local economy. There is no economy without ecology, for living, breathing citizens.
It is easy to see during this fruitful and gorgeous summertime what we have to lose.
Cathy McNulty
Sidney Center
McNulty says she is writing on behalf of Friends of Sustainable Sidney.

The gas industry’s hot air


Our opinion: The gas industry’s belated acknowledgement of problems in Pennsylvania only underscores how long it tried to persuade the public otherwise.
The spin from the natural gas drilling industry has been so rosy for so long that an energy executive’s recent acknowledgement that things have not been as good as the ads suggest must seem like refreshing candor.
Unfortunately, it only affirms what many New Yorkers have suspected all along: that there is every reason to question the industry’s claims about hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. Nor is there any reason to believe that the industry’s seeming frankness is anything but the latest spin.
Let’s review the record.
First the gas industry sought to dismiss concerns about the new fracking process. It distorted the truth by declaring that fracking has been around for decades. The full story is that high volume, horizontal hydrofracking is a new and dramatically different version of the low-volume, vertical method that had long been used. It covers a vastly larger area, and pumps millions of gallons of water and chemicals into the earth to fracture rock and release gas. To suggest the new process is the same as the old is like saying there’s no difference between a bamboo fishing pole and a mile-long commercial net.


Marcellus Watch: Bullies and superheroes in the fracking battle

By Peter Mantius
Posted Jun 04, 2013 @ 12:34 PM

It’s chilling to watch private industry seize the reins of government and steer it down a dark and dangerous back alley of self-interest. But it happens. That’s why we need real-world superheroes like Helen and David Slottje. They help us sort out right versus wrong.
Helen and David live in Ithaca. They are lawyers who are married to each other. They are probably underpaid in money but well rewarded in gratitude from those who have bothered to acquaint themselves with the natural gas industry’s efforts to manipulate the legal landscape in New York State.
A few years ago, that industry began an aggressive push to gain land rights in the Southern Tier so it could begin fracking the gas-rich Marcellus shale. Landmen working for companies like Chesapeake Energy fanned out across the region to peddle lease deals to naively expectant landowners.
Lease-granting landowners – many of whom were also local politicians – readily bought in to the industry promise that a fracking boom would mean an economic boom for upstate New York (on top of personal riches for them). Many organized into coalitions, which served as uncritical local lobbies for the industry’s agenda.
Meanwhile, gas industry agents had been working in Albany, corralling state senators and reinforcing old loyalties at the state Department of Environmental Conservation in a bid to build a broad legal foundation for widespread fracking.
Three of its key legal principles would be:
• The landowner has a basic right to exploit his or her privately-owned gas resources, and that right supersedes others’ rights to be protected from damage caused by fracking activities.
• State bureaucrats at the DEC have the final say over where a gas well can be drilled, superseding all powers of local governments.
• DEC bureaucrats may grant a gas company the authority to drill on property that hasn’t been leased, even if the property owner is adamantly opposed.

Together, the three principles amounted to an extremely aggressive legal agenda aimed at stripping rights from anyone opposed to the gas industry’s drilling schedule. That includes landowners who fear the environmental risks of fracking and those who simply want to wait to try to frack later at a better price. 

Read more:


Hazards of fracking outweigh profits

Published: May 25, 2013  The Standard Speaker

Having read the Associated Press article titled, "As Pa. gas production soars, experts debate taxes," in a recent edition of the Standard-Speaker, I couldn't help but write this letter.
Natural gas drilling and collection by means of hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as "fracking," is an extremely lucrative, but environmentally unsound, practice. It all comes down to money, of course, as the recent article suggests. Billions of dollars are to be made yearly by the natural gas companies and land owners sitting on shale formations.
All Gov. Tom Corbett and state legislators seem to care about is how much of a share the state will profit in taxes from this. Economically speaking, this is all well and good. And for the everyday consumer of natural gas, the news is great: prices are at an all-time low. After all, who can argue with cheap heat in an area with long winters and skyrocketing oil prices?
What everyone seems to be missing, or what they seem to be avoiding, in the case of the natural gas companies and the government of the State of Pennsylvania, is the environmental cost of fracking. Those reading this who just groaned, moaned, or tossed the paper across the room are probably thinking, "Here we go again, an environmentalist nut!" Take a drive around the outskirts of Hazleton, across the airport beltway, or south on Route 309, and have a look at the damage done by strip mining; damage that is largely cosmetic at this point, but will never go away.
Now, take a hard cold look at the facts about fracking (you can easily do this via an online search) and you'll find that the potential and actual damage from natural gas collection is and will be far from just cosmetic. However much money consumers save now on their heating bills, however many billions natural gas companies and land owners may make, and however many millions the state makes on a yearly basis from all of this, once the water table in an area is irrevocably damaged, there's no turning back the clock to reverse it.
Ancient Rome was partially brought to its knees by lead poisoning because of the use of lead pipes in their water supply system. Let's not be so naive. Your children will not be able to fix the damage that's now, nor will they be able to live on Mars.

Dominic J. DeJoseph,

May 23, 2013

Natural gas boom is a false promise

Support for the Constitution and Leatherstocking Pipelines is based primarily on the false promise of affordable shale gas. False, since the price of this gas is too volatile to make it a reliable energy source in the future.
With so much drilling, and not much demand, there is now a glut of gas. Because of this, prices sank from more than $13 a unit in 2008 to under $2 in 2011. Today the price is about $4. Yet the break-even cost of production is more than $8. The volatile price will be determined not by local costs but worldwide supply and demand. 

Gas companies have pressured the U.S. Department of Energy into considering the export of liquefied gas to foreign countries. Twenty export applications have been filed. The DOE secretary commented, “If the government does not allow more exports, companies will not have the economic justification to drill for the gas at all.”


Sandra Steingraber: Illinois, say no to fracking

By Sandra Steingraber
Posted May 23, 2013 @ 01:02 AM
I spent the first half of my life in downstate Illinois and the second in upstate New York. Both are agricultural lands with big skies, interlaced streams and aquifers and a human culture that cheerfully carries on despite inattention from the busy metropolis tacked on at the border.
Ominously, New York and Illinois have something else in common: Each state is caught in the crosshairs of an industry that seeks to blast apart its bedrock via a brutal technology called high-volume, horizontal hydraulic fracturing (fracking), which uses chemical-laced water to free bubbles of methane — natural gas — trapped within deep layers of shale.
From New York to Illinois, I bring a message: Don’t let them do it. Say no to Illinois Senate Bill 1715, now being rushed through the Illinois General Assembly before the end of the legislative session in the hope that you blink and miss it.
Shale gas extraction from fracking is an accident-prone, carcinogen-dependent enterprise that turns communities into industrial zones. It destroys water, pollutes air, wrecks roads and lowers property values. Fracking, as currently practiced, cannot be made safe by any regulations, let alone the sorry set of rules contained in SB 1715.
The backers of this bill claim it contains the strongest regulations for fracking in the nation. Nonsense. New York State promulgated a far stricter set of rules that prohibited drilling on state lands and set aside certain watersheds as off-limits to fracking altogether — and still we rejected them.
New York State’s regulations were subject to numerous public hearings and comment periods. Hundreds of scientists provided testimony, as did thousands of business owners, farmers, faith leaders and ordinary citizens. And thrice, over nearly five years of deliberation, we’ve sent a deeply flawed environmental impact statement back to the drawing board.
From that democratic process, New Yorkers now know a lot about fracking. The more we find out, the deeper our objections. When you look under fracking’s hood, you see terrifying problems. Behind the hard sell and soothing promises, this contraption is unsafe at any speed.
First, we uncovered problems with the promised jobs. When our economists looked closely at the industry’s projections, they discovered that the jobs that fracking provides are temporary, toxic, and carry high rates of injury. They also wipe out other jobs. When rural lands are industrialized for gas drilling, tourism and recreation industries disappear.


Hydraulic Fracturing Is A Dead-End Path

May 12, 2013   The Post Journal, Jamestown, NY
In the 1960s the tobacco industry tried to counter evidence that smoking had serious health impacts by spending millions to make ludicrous claims about the benefits and safety of smoking. Today's natural gas industry is in much the same position, making claims about fracking that collapse under scrutiny. Yet because of the immense wealth and power of the energy corporations, they are generally succeeding in making very big profits while putting our people and water resources at risk through the fracking process.
The industry proponents often say, "We've been fracking wells for 60 years without any problems." However, high volume hydrofracturing, using millions of gallons of freshwater and hundreds of tons of toxic chemicals per well, is very different from the fracking of earlier decades. This new kind of fracking has only been used since 1997 and most HVHF wells are less than five years old. Fracking's many negative impacts are being green-washed by an industry spending millions to convince us that fracking is safe and to increase its profits at the expense of the environment. For example, the gas industry used its influence to lobby for the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which exempted fracking from having to follow the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, and several other major environmental laws. What has resulted from this lack of regulation are serious environmental and health issues associated with virtually every aspect of fracking. Leaking well-casing seals, radioactive isotopes in the frack fluid, compressor station air pollution, hazardous waste disposed as if it is household garbage, serious animal and human health impacts, contamination of water wells and surface water and almost-daily reports of accidents, spills, illegal dumping and explosions, are just a few of the many indicators of fracking's risks.
Compounding the problem is the apparent favoring of corporate over societal interests by government agencies. Environmental conservation departments fail to properly oversee the thousands of wells being drilled. Legislation that favors fracking is passed by politicians who have received immense amounts of money from the gas industry. We see this even in New York, where fracking has been on a temporary hold. The NYS Assembly recently passed a bill authorizing a two-year moratorium on fracking so that several health studies can be completed. But, Senator Libous, who received $190,000 from the gas industry in the last election cycle, refuses to bring the bill up for a vote.Read More: Weekly  -  Thursday, April 25,2013

Colorado 'promotes' natural-gas catastrophe that now threatens Colorado River

By Joel Dyer
Parachute Creek is now officially contaminated with cancer-causing benzene and heaven knows what else. A carcinogenic stew is now making its way quickly down the creek and presumably into the Colorado River a mere four miles away from the source of the contamination, a natural gas plant run by Williams, the international oil and gas company headquartered in Tulsa, Okla.
I’m outraged by what has happened, and everybody in this state should be as well. It didn’t have to happen. We could have stopped it. We just chose not to. State authorities, along with the company, have been watching this slow-motion catastrophe unfold for months, all the while taking one half-measure after another, supposedly in an effort to stop the benzene from reaching the creek. One can only assume that our state’s gas-friendly regulators have allowed Williams to use a half-assed approach full of half-measures because it was half as expensive as doing the right thing from the get-go.
This is, of course, just the latest example of why it is insane to have one government agency, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC), charged with acting as both the oil and gas industry’s primary promoter as well as its supposed chief regulator. You’d have to be dumb enough to drink fracking fluid to think that such a conflicting arrangement could work with any efficiency when it comes to public safety and protecting the environment. Right, governor?
So how did the catastrophe at Parachute Creek occur, and how bad is it? It’s still hard to say exactly, because the story keeps changing, either because the parties involved are telling bald-faced lies or they are the most incompetent group of people to ever walk upright.
Even now, after the contamination in the slow-moving groundwater plume under Williams’ gas plant has been allowed to make its way all the way to the creek, the company and the state still aren’t being forthcoming about what exactly is in the water besides benzene. When it comes to hydrocarbon contamination, if there is benzene in groundwater, then there are almost certainly several other equally or even more dangerous contaminants along with it. But at this point, it’s unclear if the Williams contamination has even been tested for all of the potential contaminants it contains. I have to say, such secrecy is incredibly irresponsible, considering that Parachute Creek water is supposed to be used as part of the town of Parachute’s drinking-water supply. I guess the COGCC is wearing its promoter hat when it comes to making Williams tell us exactly what it has spilled into our water. Lord knows, we wouldn’t want the company to have to go to any additional expense.
And it’s not just the Parachute water supply that’s being affected. Cattle and horse operations downstream are using the water for their animals, and several farmers depend on the creek’s water for irrigation.
This is a big deal. I recently spent a few days with a fellow down by Walsenburg who had the misfortune of irrigating his crops with water contaminated by a gas company six years ago.
The land he irrigated is still dead and won’t even grow grass. As a result, he is on the verge of losing his fourth-generation farm and dairy.    
Not mad yet? Let’s take a look at the timetable on this calamity and see if that pushes you over the edge.

Please read the entire opinion piece at: 19, 2013

Pipeline would be violation of our beliefs

The value of their properties will decline, while the value of Cabot/Williams stock will increase. Financial power and political influence will have been used to transfer private wealth to the stockholders of Cabot/Williams.
The Constitution Pipeline violates our belief in America the Beautiful. Cabot/Williams will cut the straightest and cheapest route across our landscape that it can persuade FERC commissioners to approve. It would dredge through wetlands, barely skirt lakes, fragment forests, and irreversibly scar lovely hills.

Fracking would inevitably follow. Forests will be razed, hills cut up into quarries, waters polluted with undisclosed chemicals, and silence shattered with 24 hour roar of compressors. Rather than our beautiful, productive, healthy, peaceful, rural landscape we will be left with an ugly, unproductive, unhealthy, noisy, industrial landscape.

I refuse to believe or accept that this is how we Americans believe decisions that affect us so closely should be taken or that we want our countryside to be so blindly destroyed.
Bruce S. Kernan
South Worcester


Prof says fracking has sordid track record

The Montana Standard

Recently, the Montana Tech Petroleum Department, the Butte Patriots, which according to the Montana Tea Party website is the local Tea Party affiliate, and the Montana Petroleum Association sponsored a film titled FrackNation. The film’s purpose was to “uncover fracking facts suppressed by environmental activists.” Fracking is the process of creating fractures in rock to release oil or natural gas. It is currently a booming method of petroleum and natural gas extraction in Montana and North Dakota. Fracking has a sordid national track record.
In order to achieve full disclosure, I suppose I would be considered, by Tea Party standards, a “radical environmentalist.” I served many years on the board of the Montana Environmental Information Center, several years as president, and I served on the board of the Clark Fork Coalition. I have seen the FrackNation film and read the glowing praise in the current Legislature for fracking. There is a darker side to the story.

The current promotional hype aside, fracking is a major potential threat to public health, the environment and social justice.

— John W. Ray, Ph.D., is a professor of political science and public policy at Montana Tech. His views are his own, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Montana Tech.

Opposes Constitution Pipeline

Thursday, March 14, 2013 11:00 am   The Mountain Eagle

Dear Editor:
The projected route would run directly under the only area of my property that is buildable. Without being able to build a home, my property becomes significantly devalued if not worthless. The meager compensation typically paid for a right of way is insignificant compared to the purchase price of the property.
This pipeline is open access, and must accept fracked gas along the entire route, which makes gas drilling probable. There will be compressor stations, perhaps on my land. They create a constant source of loud noise, bright light and noxious air pollution, and carry the risk of fire and explosion. Marcellus gas contains high levels of radon, creating a possible health hazard for my family and me.
The pipeline corridor fragments habitat, creates a loss of my privacy, can be accessed at any time, day or night, is maintained with the use of toxic chemicals used to inhibit vegetation, creating danger to me, domestic animals and wildlife.
I would face possible injury, loss of life, increase in medical costs, loss of homeowners and liability insurance, loss of property value, increased and costly difficulties in obtaining real estate financing.
A gas pipeline running through the county will result in considerably lower property values on or near the route. It will inhibit potential property buyers should I try to sell.
I will not personally benefit from the use of gas to heat a home, as Constitution will not make gas available to me.
I advocate for the preservation and enhancement of the rural character of Delaware County; a safe, quiet and scenic environment; a non-industrial agricultural and tourist-based economy. I oppose the Constitution Pipeline.
Robert Lidsky
Read More:

Yes, a drilling moratorium

Our opinion: The Legislature should pass a moratorium on fracking while multiple studies are under way.
Whether you feel that natural gas fracking is the economic salvation of New York or an environmental disaster waiting to happen, there is one indisputable fact about it: The science is not in. Not by a long shot. And that’s why a moratorium in New York makes sense.
State leaders who have vowed to let science guide their decision on whether to allow high-volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing could show they mean what they say by declaring that the idea is off the table at least until some serious study is done.
While the industry’s persistent public relations campaign has portrayed fracking as clean and safe, we simply don’t know if that’s true. At least five studies are under way or being considered on fracking as scientists and health researchers seek answers.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is expected to release findings next year on a study of the potential effect of fracking on drinking water.
Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania, Columbia, Johns Hopkins and the University of North Carolina recently announced another study, and Harvard’s Center for Health and the Global Environment is planning one, too. New York’s Department of Health is doing its own health review while the state holds off finalizing an environmental impact statement and new drilling regulations.
Another recently announced study is already instructive: Geisinger Health System, which operates hospitals, clinics and an insurance program in 44 Pennsylvania counties, plans a 20-year study that will look for possible links between fracking and illnesses among its 2.6 million clients.
In effect, then, fracking is the experiment, and the people of Pennsylvania are the laboratory mice.
It’s essential to have more objective information on fracking. The industry has too often taken liberties with the facts. It long asserted, for instance, that drilling has never damaged water supplies. When that turned out to be untrue, it sought to downplay the damage.
And still we don’t know how many incidents were covered up by generous payments and confidentiality agreements. As recently as last week, a private settlement came to light in which a family outside Pittsburgh was paid $750,000 after their water was contaminated.
The latest Quinnipiac poll found New Yorkers are less and less enamored with fracking. The industry blames Gov. Andrew Cuomo for not showing leadership — that is, bending to its will — while Mr. Cuomo faults the industry for not making its case.
Or perhaps the people of New York realize that science isn’t a slick TV ad nor a politician simply saying something is so. Perhaps they’ve looked at the body of evidence and found it too thin for comfort.
And perhaps they’re finally saying what the state of New York ought to be saying: “Safe? Prove it. We can wait.”


Fracking would bring more harm than good to New York

Published 4:01 pm, Wednesday, March 20, 2013
Despite rhetoric from the gas industry, New York is likely to be worse off with fracking. The boom-and-bust cycles typical of extractive industries like shale gas take a toll on local communities. The oil and gas industry spends vastly more money on equipment than training, and employs transient workers, who follow the rigs from state to state — which means few new jobs for New Yorkers and wages sent elsewhere.
Industry-funded economic impact studies exaggerate estimates of how much gas is in the shale and how much of it can be gotten out, which overstates projections of jobs, income and tax revenue.
Pennsylvania is a good case study. An early industry estimate was that 88,000 Marcellus-related jobs would be created in Pennsylvania in 2010.
But official data show that only 65,000 jobs were created statewide in all industries in Pennsylvania in 2010, and half of those were in education, health, leisure and hospitality.
The oil and gas industry doesn't consider industries it displaces. Such industries vital to upstate New York include agriculture, organic farming, tourism, outdoor recreation, hunting, fishing and wine and beer making.
Fracking brings additional problems. Some banks will not issue mortgages on homes with gas wells.
If you can't get a mortgage or homeowners insurance, or if drinking water becomes contaminated, home values and, consequently, property tax revenue may plummet.
Governor Cuomo — you don't have to bring fracking, and its significant costs, to New York.
Jannette Barth is an an economist with Pepacton Institute LLC, a research and consulting firm in Croton-on-Hudson.
Read more:

Assessing the risks of fracking

New York needs to be diligent where Pennsylvania has been careless
Published 10:42 pm, Saturday, March 9, 2013

Now that Gov. Andrew Cuomo has stopped the clock on hydraulic fracturing for natural gas in order to give his health commissioner more time to study its potential problems, medical professionals in other states where fracking has arrived have a chance to weigh in. New York can learn from our experiences.
The Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project meets with patients who believe their health has been, or could be, affected by natural gas drilling. In both home and office visits, we see people with an array of adverse health signs and symptoms that appeared together with plausible exposure pathways to natural gas activities. Typically, neither they nor their physicians know what to do.
Based on our own observations, here are my suggestions for New York State Health Commissioner Nirav Shah and his team as they review possible health impacts of fracking.
First, take a close look at air. When we began our project, I thought that water would be the exposure pathway of highest concern. While contaminated water certainly poses significant risk, I now believe that air pollution is the more likely pathway of exposures in many cases.
There are at least a dozen different sources of uncontrolled air emissions ranging from ponds of contaminated flow back, flaring wells, organic emissions from compressor stations, and dehydration devices, to spills and disposal of silica, frack fluids and flow back water during transportation and at illegal disposal sites.

Read more:

Whether accurate or not, recent stories of an epiphany by Gov. Cuomo about the dangers of fracking, the infl uence of his trusted confi dant Robert F. Kennedy Jr., and a last-minute decision to cancel gas well permits are heartwarming.
   Those who are concerned about the future, however, would be wise to examine what has actually been said — and not said — by the Cuomo administration.
   Last month, from beneath a shroud of secrecy surrounding the state’s report on high-volume hydraulic fracturing, a single letter emerged — an announcement by Department of Health Commissioner Nirav Shah that his agency will take a few more weeks to complete its review of health impacts.
   Although acknowledging that more work is necessary, Dr. Shah’s two-page letter fell short of committing to the independent transparent Comprehensive Health Impact Assessment called for by a consortium of medical professionals, and it remains to be seen whether he will recommend postponing a decision to issue permits until after the studies identifi ed in his letter are complete. IMMEDIATE RESULTS
   The most concrete outcome of Dr. Shah’s announcement was that it delayed release of the Supplemental Generic Environment Impact Statement initiated by former Gov. Paterson, thereby causing a procedural clock to run out on woefully inadequate regulations proposed last year by the state Department of Environmental Conservation.
   Disturbingly, this otherwise good news was swiftly clouded by DEC Commissioner Joe Martens, who chimed in that he may issue permits for fracking without adopting any new regulations at all — an unabashed gift to industry.
   Martens’ threat is not only an affront to the many scientists, medical professionals and residents of New York state who submitted hundreds of thousands of detailed comments on rules proposed by DEC. It is also a direct violation of a promise made by the Cuomo administration that if fracking is permitted, it will only happen pursuant to the “strongest regulations in the country.”
   Although the governor has been silent so far on Martens’ outrageous comment, those with an ear to the ground have good reason to suspect a link to rumors of pilot programs or demonstration projects in “sacrifice zone” counties of the Southern Tier — the target of prior trial balloons. DUBIOUS PROJECT