Viewpoints / 2011-2012

New York's Fracking Process Is Broken                    

Will New York State officials approve fracking next month?
Not if they follow the facts or the science.

New York's four-year effort to assess the safety of the controversial gas drilling practice known as fracking is broken. To fix it, the state must either declare a ban on fracking, or extend the moratorium now in place while it addresses the fundamental flaws in what has been, to date, an almost Kafkaesque regulatory process.
The environmental community is aghast at how New York is handling fracking. Many of us feel that we've never seen anything like the train wreck unfolding before us. And, it's not just the greens who are crying foul -- veteran Albany columnist Fred LeBrun recently observed that:

"The rulemaking-process ... has been from hell, an abomination. The public has been deceived, misdirected and kept utterly in the dark over where the state was heading concerning the most important environmental issue of this generation."
Rarely has a government so thoroughly earned such bad press. LeBrun's broadside came several days after state officials released a new round of draft fracking regs; gave the public only 30 days to comment on them; and declined to disclose any details about its own private study of fracking's health impacts.
Asking the public to comment on proposed regulations when state bureaucrats themselves haven't finished evaluating whether fracking will lead to public health problems is unconscionable, especially when Christopher Portier, Director of the Federal Center for Environmental Health, admits that fracking has been a "disaster" in some communities and that we lack much of the basic information needed to know whether it can be done safely.
Another issue the State can't seem to get right is whether fracking will truly benefit New York's local economies and our upstate communities.
In November 2011, members of a state task force on fracking were invited to hear from consultants hired by the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation to analyze the economic and community impact of fracking. When asked why, in a 250-page report, they had devoted only six pages to fracking's documented economic and social downsides, the consultants replied that they had only been asked to study the benefits of fracking.
Following that shocking admission, State Environmental Commissioner Joe Martens conceded that the state's socio-economic impact review was "a little thin" and promised that his agency would take a closer look at the costs of fracking to local communities.
Over a year later, we're still waiting for that 'closer look.' All we know for sure is that the state basically disbanded its fracking task force soon after the disastrous meeting on economic issues and has released nothing since to show that it has come to grips with the evidence that fracking damages roads, degrades local character, harms tourism and agriculture and may even drive down a community's long-term employment growth, economic diversity, educational attainment and ability to attract investment.
Fracking isn't just a problem in the communities whose air, water and land it pollutes. Any hope that fracking will benefit the broader public, by adding to our domestic energy reserves, runs squarely into recent federal findings that the process releases so much methane into the atmosphere, it may actually cause more climate disruption than coal or oil.
Given all this controversy over the impacts of fracking, you've got to wonder why State officials have rushed out with new regulations when they haven't even finished all of the relevant studies.
One theory is that New York's administrative laws would require the Department of Environmental Conservation to start the whole process over again, if it doesn't finalize its regulations by February 28, and that may simply be too much to bear for an agency that has been so preoccupied with fracking for so many years.
The other possible explanation for the mad push to get these regulations out the door is even more troubling. What if, despite fracking's negative impacts on air, water, health, climate and community character, pro-fracking officials in New York are simply bound and determined to give the drillers the green light, and they think it will be easier to do so if the public doesn't have all the relevant studies during the official comment period?
Whatever the reason for this travesty, a lot of people are furious about it. By the January 11 deadline set by the state, concerned citizens (many of whom had never protested anything before fracking) had filed over 200,000 comments blasting the deficiencies in the draft regulations. These comments confirm the sad truth: New York State has not been honest with itself or with the public about fracking's impacts on public health, our economy and community character, or the global climate.
Fracking is too big, too risky and too important to get wrong. Thankfully, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo still has the chance to do the right thing. He can just say no to fracking, based on its numerous, well-documented problems. Alternatively, he can release all of the state's studies on fracking -- many of which are not even finished yet -- and then give New Yorkers the chance to comment on a full record.                          
Or, Governor Cuomo can just continue to press forward with the "rulemaking process from hell," and approve fracking. If he does, he'll forfeit any claim to the public's trust on one of the defining issues of his administration.
Editorial: Drill deeper, New York 

THE TIMES UNION                                                                                                                           Published 9:14 pm, Monday, January 14, 2013
Questions still abound on natural gas drilling.
With our health and environment on the line, New York must know the answers before moving on.
Perhaps more than any other place in New York, the Capital Region knows that science matters. An unswimmable Hudson and a half-billion dollar PCB dredging project just up the river from Albany are costly proof of what happens when we make decisions on incomplete knowledge.
It's a good time to remember this as New York winds down its review of high volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing — popularly known as fracking. There are disturbing signs that, even after more than four years, we don't have the knowledge to make a fully-informed decision.
We realize the state is eager to be business-friendly. We also understand that fortunes large and small are riding on whether New York lets the gas industry sink its drills into the gas-rich Marcellus Shale.
The question is simply this: What's the risk to human health and the environment? We're not convinced the state Department of Environmental Conservation knows — especially when some scientists and physicians are saying they aren't sure.
Of course, the drilling industry has been assuring the public that all is perfectly safe, but we've learned that isn't so. The industry, for example, wanted to drill in the Catskills watershed, which New York City depends upon for drinking water; now that's off the table. DEC says it is reconsidering whether to allow drilling near New York City's two aging aqueducts — the only two ways all that water can get to the city.
The industry also wanted to be able to dispose of at least some of the tens of millions of gallons of toxic, potentially radioactive fluid used in the drilling process by spreading it on roads as a de-icer. (The Marcellus Shale is considerably more radioactive than other shale formations that have been fracked). One might as well just pour this directly into streams and aquifers. To its credit, DEC says it doesn't favor this idea — at this time.
Scientists warn that there are many things they don't yet know about the fracking process. They're still learning about the effect on human health of constant noise and light from activities like gas drilling. Geologists are looking at a marked rise in earthquakes in some parts of the country where there has been an increase in fracking or deep well drilling for fracking fluid disposal. And some wonder if, when the entire production process is considered, natural gas is as clean as its proponents say.
And then there's a potentially key document — a health study on fracking that's being done by the state Department of Health — that has yet to be finished or made public. The state has engaged a group of scientists to review the Health Department study, but that review is secret, too. The DEC says it will consider whether the findings of the Health Department raise any significant issues.
In other words, the public, after getting less than all the information it needed to comment on fracking, could well be shut out of further comment even when that information is revealed. Under the latest timetable, the entire review could wrap up by late February.
That timetable is quite simply unfair and inappropriate, given what we now know, and what we don't.
For a lot of people, natural gas presents hope. They see it as a key to America's energy independence and as a cleaner fuel to tide us over until even cleaner alternative energy sources can be widely deployed. Maybe in time their view will turn out to be right.
But any fair current analysis must return, time and again, to fracking's still uncertain cost, not just in dollars and cents, but in terms of human health, safe drinking water, and a clean environment. When the stakes are that high, everything we don't know should be a red flag.


Citizens pulling together to stop frackingBy MARY ANN SUMNER AND STEPHEN J. STELICK JR., Commentary                             Published 8:20 pm, Monday, December 31, 2012

The Genesee County-based drilling company Lenape Resources filed a lawsuit late last month to force the citizens of Avon, in nearby Livingston County, to accept hydrofracking.
It's not the first time that Big Oil and Gas has tried to intimidate local communities. In the Tompkins County of town of Dryden, we were sued by Anschutz Exploration for trying to protect our town of 14,500 people from the impacts of fracking. Also last year, Norse Energy, a Norwegian company, replaced Anschutz Exploration in the litigation.
You can swap out the plaintiff in a lawsuit, but it doesn't change the nature of this fight. It's David vs. Goliath. Us against them.
Outside energy companies like Norse don't value our communities. They want to come into our towns, exploit our resources — by blasting millions of gallons of chemically treated water into the ground to fracture the shale and force out oil and gas — and move on. But it's not going to happen, not if we can stop it.
The energy industry claims that the gas rush will bring jobs to upstate New York; but those claims are overblown. When more than 1,000 New York businesses recently called on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to maintain the state's moratorium, they noted that fracking has failed to create long-term jobs in other states. The promise of temporary jobs is not worth the risk to the health and well-being of our neighbors and children. The law is on our side.

Read more:        _______________________________________________________ 

Another Voice:                                                         
Fracking spoiled farm’s hay fields
The Buffalo News
By John Peters from Arcade, NY  10/15/2012
The oil and gas industry apparently believes its own propaganda – that modern drilling techniques are environmentally friendly. Maybe it’s time the true-believers at the Independent Oil and Gas Association of New York stop by my small farm in the Town of Arcade and see, first hand, the mess made by one of their drillers.
Before the drillers arrived two years ago, my land produced excellent quality hay, feed for my livestock. Then the state Department of Environmental Conservation gave the company permission to level eight acres of land for a drilling rig next to my hay fields.
Down the drill bit went to the Theresa sandstone 6,000 feet below. Up came tens of thousands of gallons of toxic drilling fluids to fill a pond built for that purpose. But, when four days of heavy rain washed out the small poly-lined pond, guess where all of those toxic fluids ended up? Yep, in my fields and an adjoining neighbor’s field.
How could this happen if the drilling is environmentally friendly? Well, first of all, the drillers did not care enough to protect my land from a natural downpour, a commonplace event. Perhaps to save a few construction dollars and fatten their bottom line?
Next, the DEC failed to inspect the drilling operation to make sure my land was protected. If the DEC has the authority to issue the drilling permit, doesn’t it also share the responsibility to protect my land and, when things go wrong, share the blame? Can we count on the state to do its job? Apparently not.
I asked the Wyoming County Soil and Conservation office to look at my hay field. Its agent described the damage caused by the drillers in a blistering five-page report. At last, I had some hope that the drilling company would do the right thing and offer to pay for removal of the toxic wastes covering my hay field. Nope. The company did not move. And the county has no legal authority to force drillers to fix anything.
Then, to my surprise, an engineering firm hired by the drillers stopped by. His conclusion agreed with the Wyoming County study. My hay field was ruined by the company’s own drillers. The engineer’s recommendation: Build a storm retention pond and release the water slowly through the new roadway. The storm water retention pond was never built.
Finally it dawned on me. No one would help me. Not the drilling company. Not the Oil and Gas Association that represents the drilling company. Not my own town government, not even the state agency that gave the driller a license to ruin my hay field.
Now I am buying hay at $8 a bale for my cattle – many times more than the costs to grow my own hay. I have hired a lawyer and I am suing the drillers.
The next time you are tempted to believe the oil and gas industry propaganda, stop by my farm for a dose of reality.

Fracking? For whom?

U.S. exports of natural gas would come at huge risks to our environment
Published 9:10 p.m., Saturday, September 22, 2012

Should the U.S. export natural gas?
The answer depends on what you think about hydrofracking.
Historically, the U.S. has had to supplement domestic natural gas production with imports, but now the extensive use of hydraulic fracturing to extract gas from shale could allow America to become a gas exporter. A recent article in Barron's suggested that the U.S. could become the world's largest exporter of gas by 2017.
But let's be clear. When we're talking about natural gas exports, we're talking about shale gas.
That is, we're talking about fracking. So let's reframe the question: Should the U.S. be fracked to supply foreign nations with gas?
The objections to fracking are legion, and each one needs to be weighed in the balance if the U.S. is to develop a prudent gas export policy.
We know, for example, that fracking even a single shale gas well requires millions of gallons of fracking fluid, and produces huge quantities of toxic wastewater.
All of this fluid has to be transported, usually by truck, and that means hundreds of diesel trucks going to and from each well pad. The exhaust from these trucks combines with the methane and volatile organic compounds released into the atmosphere during the extraction process to produce ozone.
It's no exaggeration to say that, because of fracking, some rural communities have higher ozone levels than Los Angeles on a bad day.
Developing a giant shale formation like the Marcellus will entail injecting hundreds of billions of gallons of toxic fluid underground, and no one can say with any certainty how this might impact our drinking water supplies in the years and decades to come.
We do know that a recent geochemical study conducted in northeastern Pennsylvania found naturally occurring pathways between underground shale formations and shallow drinking water aquifers. The fact that the industry insists that fracking be exempt from the Safe Drinking Water Act is not reassuring.
And of course there other issues to consider, including the recent peer-reviewed studies that indicate that shale gas is, from a greenhouse gas perspective, worse than oil or coal. Health care professionals say we don't know what effect fracking will have on human health, while economists worry that disruptive extraction activity might damage local economies by crowding out long-term sustainable businesses like agriculture and tourism.
Right now the U.S. doesn't have the infrastructure it needs to become a major gas exporter. Canada and Mexico don't need our gas, and the liquefied natural gas (LNG) export terminals that will be necessary to tap lucrative markets in Europe and Asia have not yet been built.
Constructing the eleven huge LNG export terminals now on the drawing boards will cost more than $100 billion.
Tens of billions more will be needed to build pipelines to bring the gas to the coastal terminals. Should the United States pour this kind of money into fossil fuel infrastructure at a time when scientists warn that we are already suffering the adverse impacts of climate change?
The Obama administration has held up licensing export terminals until after the election. This winter, when licensing is again on the table, scientists, health care professionals and concerned citizens who oppose fracking may find themselves allied with manufacturers who realize that competition with foreign markets will drive up costs for both American industry and consumers.
Finally consider this: If the U.S. does export shale gas, it will be supplying countries like France that have already banned fracking because it's too dangerous.
Is the U.S. on its way to becoming an energy extraction colony for other nations?
Are we the new Third World?
Bruce Ferguson works with the volunteer organization Catskill Citizens for Safe Energy,


Guest Viewpoint: Gas drilling, 

homeowners don't mix

5:40 PM, Sep. 18, 2012 Written by
Elisabeth N. Radow
A home represents a family’s most valuable asset. If gas drilling comes to the Southern Tier, homeowners have property-related effects to consider, whether they have already signed a gas lease or are still considering one. The list includes property use and safety, homeowners’ insurance, the home mortgage and the ability to resell one’s home.
For local elected officials, the impact of gas drilling on a property’s assessed value, and by extension the real property tax base revenues, requires consideration since there are municipal bills to pay for existing expenses and new expenses associated with this heavy industrial activity, such as road and bridge repair, emergency response, and expanding health and social services.
Home mortgages and gas drilling don’t easily mix. The mortgaged property needs to stay safe and uncontaminated because lenders sell 90 percent of all home mortgage loans to the secondary mortgage market in exchange for funds to make new home loans. Gas leases allow gas companies to truck in tankers with chemicals, transport flammable gas and toxic waste, operate heavy equipment 24/7 and often allow gas storage underground, for years, all in a person’s backyard. Residential mortgages prohibit the kind of heavy industrial activity and hazardous materials on the residential property that fracking brings. Homeowners who welcome gas drilling on their land should get lender consent first.
Gas leases typically create easements for pipes, roads and underground gas storage that continue after the gas company leaves, with no funds for upkeep. Gas drillers can sell the lease without telling the homeowner, so there’s no way for a family to control who drills on their property. Homeowners can get slammed with risks for dangerous activity they don’t even control. Industrial-sized risks are so expensive, even gas companies don’t get fully insured for them.
Self-insurance from a gas driller can be risky. If the company is not fully insured and low on cash, a homeowner may not get compensated if damage occurs.

Homeowners insurance doesn’t cover risks from fracking. In July, Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company, America’s largest homeowner’s insurance company, confirmed this existing policy. Nationwide also stated it won’t renew homeowner’s policies on properties with drilling. Every mortgage requires homeowners insurance to stay in effect, so maintaining homeowners insurance should be a priority for homeowners with mortgages. Structural damage to the residence and water contamination present two primary concerns to homeowners, since a home on shaky ground or without drinkable water can lose substantial value and may not sell.
People potentially forced into drilling under their property by a New York statute also need to consider their mortgage and homeowners insurance if presented with a Department of Environmental Conservation notice of compulsory integration. In this case, it is the DEC hearing on compulsory integration where these property impacts should be addressed.
For New Yorkers seeking the return of a healthy state economy, the shift of drilling risks and expenses from the gas companies to the homeowners and taxpayers deserves as much attention as do the potential profits.
Read More:

Guest Viewpoint: Fracking is too dangerous for Tier to be N.Y. test area

The Ithaca Journal    9:37 PM, Aug. 27, 2012 
Written by  Dan Lamb
    My name is Dan Lamb, and I am running for Congress at the geographic epicenter of the debate over hydraulic fracturing. Our new 22nd Congressional District stretches from the Southern Tier to Utica and includes all or part of three of the five counties in which Gov. Andrew Cuomo may permit fracking without an independent assessment of the health, environmental and economic effects.
    This plan could have catastrophic consequences for the environment and well-being of upstate New York families, and that is why I have decided to take a strong stand against it moving forward. I firmly believe that the Southern Tier should not be used as the guinea pig for New York’s shale gas experiment. If shale gas extraction is not safe everywhere in New York, it is certainly not safe anywhere in New York.
    My opponent, on the other hand, has invested millions with large oil and gas companies, including some of those responsible for environmental contamination in Pennsylvania and elsewhere. Rep. Richard Hanna voted repeatedly to maintain subsidies for the oil and gas industry, but called investments in renewable energy “pathetic.” He has not signed on to the FRAC Act or made any effort to address the risks of hydraulic fracturing. We can’t trust him to take this issue seriously.
    The choice couldn’t be clearer. This is the first race in the country about hydraulic fracturing. It is a referendum on unsafe, unstudied drilling, and it’s a race we must win. The good news is that a strong majority of residents in our part of New York agree. In a recent poll of our congressional district, 57 percent of voters took a stand against hydrofracking, even though the region has been bombarded for years by millions of dollars in industry-funded advertising.
    We’ve seen the videos of families lighting their faucets on fire. We’ve read of blowouts, explosions and spills. We’ve heard of dead livestock and sick children, sullied water and noxious air. We’ve learned there are millions and millions of gallons of contaminated drilling waste with no safe place to go. But what we haven’t seen are enough leaders in government who are willing to act responsibly to protect public health and the environment before it’s too late.
    For the past 15 years, I have served as a senior aide to a national environmental champion, Rep. Maurice Hinchey. He had the foresight to oppose unregulated and unstudied hydraulic fracturing in New York’s Marcellus Shale, and now that he is retiring, I am ready to stand up to Albany, Washington and the shale gas industry to protect the health and safety of New York families, but I can’t do this alone. Please visit to learn what you can do to help.
    Lamb is a Democrat running for Congress in New York’s new 22nd District.
    Read More:|newswell|text|frontpage|s&pagerestricted=1
    __________________________________________________________________               OP-ED CONTRIBUTOR      New York Times

    Destroying Precious Land for Gas

    ON the northern tip of Delaware County, N.Y., where the Catskill Mountains curl up into little kitten hills, and Ouleout Creek slithers north into the Susquehanna River, there is a farm my parents bought before I was born. My earliest memories there are of skipping stones with my father and drinking unpasteurized milk. There are bald eagles and majestic pines, honeybees and raspberries. My mother even planted a ring of white birch trees around the property for protection.
    Lennon goes onto write:

    Though my father died when I was 5, I have always felt lucky to live on land he loved dearly; land in an area that is now on the verge of being destroyed. When the gas companies showed up in our backyard, I felt I needed to do some research. I looked into Pennsylvania, where hundreds of families have been left with ruined drinking water, toxic fumes in the air, industrialized landscapes, thousands of trucks and new roads crosshatching the wilderness, and a devastating and irreversible decline in property value.
    Natural gas has been sold as clean energy. But when the gas comes from fracturing bedrock with about five million gallons of toxic water per well, the word “clean” takes on a disturbingly Orwellian tone. Don’t be fooled. Fracking for shale gas is in truth dirty energy. It inevitably leaks toxic chemicals into the air and water. Industry studies show that 5 percent of wells can leak immediately, and 60 percent over 30 years. There is no such thing as pipes and concrete that won’t eventually break down. It releases a cocktail of chemicals from a menu of more than 600 toxic substances, climate-changing methane, radium and, of course, uranium.
    New York is lucky enough to have some of the best drinking water in the world. The well water on my family’s farm comes from the same watersheds that supply all the reservoirs in New York State. That means if our tap water gets dirty, so does New York City’s.
    Gas produced this way is not climate- friendly. Within the first 20 years, methane escaping from within and around the wells, pipelines and compressor stations is 105 times more powerful a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. With more than a tiny amount of methane leakage, this gas is as bad as coal is for the climate; and since over half the wells leak eventually, it is not a small amount. Even more important, shale gas contains one of the earth’s largest carbon reserves, many times more than our atmosphere can absorb. Burning more than a small fraction of it will render the climate unlivable, raise the price of food and make coastlines unstable for generations.
    Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, when speaking for “the voices in the sensible center,” seems to think the New York State Association of County Health Officials, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the New York State Nurses Association and the Medical Society of the State of New York, not to mention Dr. Anthony R. Ingraffea’s studies at Cornell University, are “loud voices at the extremes.” The mayor’s plan to “make sure that the gas is extracted carefully and in the right places” is akin to a smoker telling you, “Smoking lighter cigarettes in the right place at the right time makes it safe to smoke.”
    Few people are aware that America’s Natural Gas Alliance has spent $80 million in a publicity campaign that includes the services of Hill and Knowlton — the public relations firm that through most of the ’50s and ’60s told America that tobacco had no verifiable links to cancer. Natural gas is clean, and cigarettes are healthy — talk about disinformation. To try to counteract this, my mother and I have started a group called Artists Against Fracking.  Read More:

    _________________________________________________________        SUSAN ARBETTER'S BLOG

    Open Letter to Governor Cuomo: Signed by Ingraffea; Steingraber; Howarth; Barth & many others

    August 09, 2012 at 8:44 am
    August 7, 2012
    Open Letter to Governor Cuomo
    Dear Governor Cuomo,
    We—the undersigned scientists, medical professionals, elected officials, business persons, and economists – protest the exclusion of qualified, independent experts from the decision-making process to permit or prohibit unconventional development of natural gas from shale formations in New York State.
    Letters we have sent to your office and to the Department of Environmental Conservation have received no replies. Requests for meetings with you have received no response. The failure to engage us in substantive discussions contradicts your repeated statement that science, facts, and information will form the basis of your decision.
    While our voices have been ignored, the Department of Environmental Conservation has rolled out the red carpet to representatives of the gas industry and engaged them in reciprocal conversation. Gas industry representatives have enjoyed meetings with high-level officials, sneak peaks at the draft environmental impact statement, and same-day responses to emailed requests, as revealed by the recent Environmental Working Group report based on FOIL documents.
    As the Albany Times Union reports this week that you are now moving actively to release the revised draft regulations and open parts of New York State to unconventional shale gas extraction via hydraulic fracturing, we write to express our complete loss of faith in the Department of Environmental Conservation. This agency has not only colluded with the gas industry in crafting regulations, its preparations to date are wholly inadequate to oversee the roll-out of an industry and practice as inherently dangerous, secretive, and accident-prone as spatially intensive, high-volume fracking.
    Furthermore, we call for the resignation of Bradley Field, the chief of the DEC’s Division of Mineral Resources. Mr. Field is directly responsible for the scientific integrity of the document on which your decision will rest. As a signatory to a petition that denies the demonstrable harm of climate change, Mr. Field has shown himself wholly unqualified for his position.
    Governor Cuomo, the “science, facts, and information” that will inform your decision to allow or disallow unconventional shale gas development in New York State is being supplied by a climate change contrarian who works within an agency whose senior officials openly collude with the gas industry and ignore the concerns of independent experts.
    You are being badly served.
    We believe that “safe” development of shale gas is not possible at this time using existing technologies. Were the DEC objective and inclusive of evidence and facts, it would come to the same conclusion. The best science shows that the moratorium on 2 unconventional development of natural gas from shale formations in New York State should be indefinitely extended. The process as we know it is simply too unpredictable and dangerous to be allowed to go forward in our state.
    By extending the moratorium, you have an opportunity to develop a sustainable energy policy in New York State, become an environmental champion, put yourself in harmony with public opinion, and demonstrate that you are making a sciencebased decision. You cannot claim to be listening to science while ignoring what independent scientists have to say. It's time to do the right thing.
    Lou Allstadt Former executive vice president, Mobil Oil Corporation
    Don Barber Town Supervisor of Caroline
    Larry Bennett Public relations and creative services manager, Brewery Ommegang
    Jannette Barth, PhD Pepacton Institute LLC
    Dominic Frongillo Deputy Town Supervisor of Caroline; founder, Elected Officials to Protect New York
    Robert Howarth, PhD David R. Atkinson Professor of Ecology and Environmental Biology Cornell University
    Anthony Ingraffea, PhD, PE Dwight C. Baum Professor of Engineering Cornell University
    Adam Law, MD Endocrinologist, Ithaca, New York; Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians of London
    Deborah Rogers Energy Policy Forum
    Matthew Ryan Mayor of Binghamton
    Sandra Steingraber, PhD Distinguished Scholar in Residence Ithaca College
    Read More:

    Letter to the Editor: Who will protect me?

    Who will protect me? I have received a lengthy letter from my insurance provider, Preferred Mutual Insurance, meant to “clarify policy language …” Coverage is still excluded for the “release, discharge, dispersal, seepage, migration, or escape of pollutants” This follows in the footsteps of Nationwide announcing that hydraulic fracturing operations are prohibited in relation to properties it insures. Other providers will undoubtedly follow.
    The federal government won’t protect me. Former VP Dick Cheney and unidentified captains of industry helped draft the 2005 Environment Protection Act which made natural gas industries exempt from following dictates of the safe drinking water act or the clean air or clean water acts. Corporate enemies can make my air un-breathable and my water undrinkable and it’s OK. In the latest iteration of the House of Representatives one of every five votes has either rolled back protections for public lands, clean air, clean water, or enriched the oil industry.

    State government won’t protect me. FOIL requests tell us that drillers were given exclusive access to NY drilling rules weeks before they were released. The DEC is preparing a generic environmental impact statement (sGEIS), thus treating the industry like a patron rather a regulated entity. If NY were serious they would repeal the Compulsory Integration law, a transfer of private property rights to the gas industry. Governor Cuomo says he will decide whether fracking is safe based upon science, and political science is involved in a politics-based deal with State Senator Libous who cares not for my property rights, to allow fracking in those places represented by the Senator. Why is my drinking water source not as important as the water source for New York City or Syracuse? Why is a health assessment survey not being considered?
    Using tax money, my county government has hired an un-credentialed natural gas consultant to work with local business, schools and leaseholders to welcome in the gas industry. The way is paved for industry to reap enormous profits. Even local townships may not protect me. Guided by well paid industry shills, a Landowners Coalition is succeeding in getting town boards to endorse acceptance of whatever plan our DEC comes up with concerning gas drilling. Shame on town boards thinking that the DEC knows their own towns better than they do.
    The natural gas industry is spending millions in newspaper and TV ads to make me believe that I don’t need protection from them, but experiences from other places proves them wrong. We are not protected.
    Earl Callahan     New Berlin


    Letters to the editor


    Editor, The Pocono Record:
    In response to a recent letter stating that "Gas drilling getting safer, is cleaner fuel;" I differ in opinion, based on personal experience.
    My husband and I purchased raw land for retirement purposes to operate a small tree farm. The land contained a cold-water fishery stream, a back field full of wild strawberries, and a front field of more than 100 pine trees. We purchased this land with mineral rights. One weekend we visited the property and when we pulled up we were stunned at the sight of a 36-foot-wide road going through the center of our property. More than 100 trees bulldozed over, our stream, and almost two acres of back fields destroyed.

    Posted at the front of the driveway was a Department of Environmental Protection permit for a natural gas well. We called the emergency number and were told by a gas company representative that we didn't own our mineral rights.

    Wrong! We did! The gas company notified the wrong landowner. We did own our mineral rights.

    It was only after I contacted the Army Corps of Engineers and filed a lawsuit that the DEP took notice and responded. Violations were issued for violations of the Clean Waters Act, failing to use best land management practice and more.

    The stream bed dried up after the fracking, strawberries were gone, and I felt like the Lorax.

    The state of Pennsylvania continues to hand out these permits like candy to selfish children. Gov. Corbett took close to $1 million in oil/gas related political contributions, which would explain how this industry has become rogue and uncontrollable in Pennsylvania.

    Thank you Gov. Corbett, you'll be remembered for being one of the biggest political sell-outs in Pennsylvania's history.


    East Stroudsburg


    We can choose money, or clean air and water

    Posted Jun 02, 2012 @ 08:00 AM

    To the Editor,
    As a landowner with unleased mineral rights, who has the right to question development of my gas resources?
    My INTELLECT, from studies of harm being done in drilling areas.
    My CONSCIENCE, which knows that my well being is tied to the health of my community, neighbors and environment.
    My EXPERIENCE, from living near a DEC permitted waste facility.
    The gas industry is lying to the public regarding the safety of gas drilling. Ask yourself why, if Fracking is safe, did Dick Cheney of Haliburton, a central player in the industry, force through exemptions to the Clean Air and Water acts for gas hydrofracking? Toxic chemicals in millions of gallons of water per well are used in fracking and the well bores leak.
    Consider: 1) A few will get rich but many will be hurt, some in the short term and many more in the longterm. 2) Gas or oil produced in the US will go to the highest world market bidder- 
    prices are currently three times higher for gas in Asia so where will the gas and the profits go? 3) If you believe the NYDEC can regulate the massive amount of drilling proposed, you don't live near a DEC permitted sludge and industrial waste Corporation like we do in Cameron, Thurston and Bath where the regulatory rules, much of which are well written, are routinely ignored and meaningful enforcement of Corporate violations is non-existent. When DEC Region 8 cannot control the environmental abuses of one farm/waste disposal Corporation it begs credibility to believe that the much more powerful gas companies will operate in compliance with environmental safety regulations or be held accountable when they fail.
    Money sustains nothing in a damaged ecosystem; clean water and air sustain life! Think about it.
    Wayne Wells
    Cameron Mills, NY
    ______________________________________________________________________________________      OPINION

    Mark Ruffalo: Erie mothers battle to stop drilling

    POSTED:   05/19/2012 01:00:00 AM MDT
    By Mark Ruffalo

    Every day, mothers take hundreds of little actions to keep their children out of harm's way, from steering them away from traffic to keeping toxic household cleaners out of reach. When you add it all up, it's a heroic body of work.
    But every once in awhile, mothers will do something so extraordinary to ensure the safety of their children that it alters the way we think about our world. Four mothers in Erie, Colo., are attempting to accomplish just that, and in doing so they will help expose the truth about natural gas.
    April Beach considers herself a typical suburban mom, but her story has the makings of a Hollywood movie. It started when a controversial gas drilling method — hydraulic fracturing, or fracking — arrived in her backyard.
    Shortly after the gas and oil wells began operating nearby, the Beach family began experiencing a variety of health issues. April was inexplicably sick for months. One of her three boys developed asthma, and her husband's childhood asthma resurfaced. Nosebleeds, migraines and dizziness became everyday occurrences for the family.
    Every day, the Beach children would walk out their door and see a smokestack venting an ominous vapor. Encana Oil & Gas, the company that owned the wells, told the family the emissions cloud was excess gas being burned off. However, April began her own investigation, and discovered that it contained a toxic mix of carcinogens, volatile organic compounds, and excess fracking fluid.
    Several months later, Encana was permitted to drill eight new wells next to the town's two elementary schools, its middle school and one of its preschools. This fracking activity would not only subject children to dangerous cancer-causing toxins, it also would mean thousands more trucks passing right outside the school doors transporting chemicals, equipment and radioactive flowback water on the only road that leads to the well pad.
    Read More:
    May 26, 2012

    Letters to the Editor: May 26, 2012

    Fracking fight starts between neighbors
    The fracking has started! By that I mean it has pitted neighbor against neighbor. But the first real fracking will occur long before the first wells are drilled. Land coalitions promise to negotiate lucrative -- and environmentally sound -- leases for their members. When, and if, the price of natural gas rises, my bet is that the gas companies will first frack these coalitions. Desperate members will defect from these coalitions at the first scent of money. The companies will make deals with individuals rather than coalitions. Many people have already shown their willingness to sign the first lease that comes along. If you are relying on a coalition to protect your land and your town, you are sorely mistaken. These companies did not seek and obtain exemptions from the Clean Air and Water Act for nothing. If you believe the woefully understaffed DEC will watch over your interests, then why are these exemptions necessary? Every other industry is subjected to these laws. And why does the oil and gas industry have exemptions from traffic safety rules? The industry's fatality rate is seven times the national average because workers are pressured into working longer hours than most other industries allow. The National Traffic and Safety Board has strongly condemned these exemptions.So the fracking has started, and towns better prepare using moratoriums or bans as their residents see fit. These companies, with their absurd exemptions, will get the cheapest leased land they can and cut all the corners they can get away with. They should be able to get away with a lot given that they have their own special rules!
    Peter Regan,  New Berlin
    Pam Judy's Story: Compressor Station Emissions 
    A letter written by Pam Judy (of Greene County, Pa) about her family's experiences with a compressor station that was built near their new home. She presented her letter to Murrysville, Pa council during one of their public hearings. 
    Pam Judy's July 20, 2011 letter: 
    Dear Council: Thank you for the opportunity to share with you my family's personal story as it relates to various health issues we have been experiencing after a Marcellus Shale compressor station was built near our home. My name is Pam Judy. I am a resident of Carmichaels in Greene County. In April 2006 we built a new home on property originally belonging to great grandparents and a part of the family farm. For three years my family enjoyed the peace and quiet of living in the country. However, in the spring of 2009, that quiet way of life abruptly came to an end when a compressor station was built 780 feet from our home on an adjoining landowner's property. Due to the noise and the fumes from the engines and dehydration unit that settle in our yard we can no longer spend time outdoors. Shortly after operations began, we started to experience extreme headaches, runny noses, sore/scratchy throats, muscle aches and a constant feeling of fatigue. Both of our children are experiencing nose bleeds and I've had dizziness, vomiting and vertigo to the point that I couldn't stand and was taken to an emergency room. Our daughter has commented that she feels as though she has cement in her bones. In November of last year our son was out on our property scouting for deer in preparation for the opening day of the season. Some of these areas were in close proximity to the compressor site. Within one day of being out, he developed blisters in his mouth and throat, had extreme difficulty swallowing, and on Thanksgiving morning he went to the emergency room of a nearby hospital. After conducting research regarding possible emissions from facilities such as this, and the associated illnesses, I contacted Calvin Tillman, Mayor of Dish Texas. Dish residents had experienced a similar problem a few years ago when drilling was done into the Barnett Shale. Mayor Tillman provided me with a list of blood and urine tests which could be done to determine exposure. In May 2010 I had those tests performed and the results revealed my body contained measurable levels of benzene and phenol. This prompted me to become even more vigilant in determining what we were being exposed to. In June 2010, I was able to convince the PA DEP to conduct an air quality study which focused on concentrations of volatile organic compounds typically found in petroleum products. The study consisted of a 24 hour canister air sampling in my yard and 4 days of monitoring at the site where an infrared camera was used. The results of the 24 hour canister sampling revealed 16 chemicals including benzene, styrene, toluene, xylene, hexane, heptane, acetone, acrolein, propene, carbon tetrachloride and chloromethane to name a few. Most, if not all, of the aforementioned compounds are known carcinogens and, if exposed, carry with them the very symptoms my family and I have been experiencing. Benzene has been directly linked to various blood cancers including leukemia and Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma. In November 2010 the DEP released their final report regarding findings at this site as well as four additional locations. That report states the department could find no emission levels that would constitute a concern to the health of residents living near Marcellus operations and that the sampling results were used to characterize the acute non-cancer health risks associated with industry emissions. The report further states that they did not address the cumulative or long-term impact of air emissions or the lifetime cancer risks because this was a short- term study. Given the health issues we have been experiencing since this facility began operations, I am extremely concerned that as a result of prolonged exposure to the previously mentioned chemicals, we will develop even 
    more serious health issues including cancer. Yet this report focused on the non-cancerous health risks.
    As the Marcellus industry continues to grow so does the number of compressor sites required. With every compressor site comes increased atmospheric hydrocarbon emissions that will, in my opinion, and in the opinion of former DEP Secretary John Hanger, have a huge cumulative impact on air quality in PA.
    As a local governing body you have the authority to impose restrictions on companies wanting to do business in your community. I would implore you to exercise that authority and establish set-backs so that compressor sites cannot be built 780 feet from a residence. I realize that such facilities are a necessary evil of this industry. However, they should be built in more desolate areas with the least amount of impact.
    I have likened the Marcellus industry to that of the asbestos industry years ago. Both our government, and the asbestos industry, through very elaborate public relations schemes led us to believe there was no harm in being exposed to asbestos. Only to find out years later the true cancer risks. I truly believe we could be facing a similar situation as a result of the Marcellus industry. And for those of who have been exposed it could be too late.
    For this reason, I would ask that you take every precaution to protect the residents of your community. It is your duty as elected officials to insure their welfare and safety. A charge you should not take lightly.

    Petro Plutocracy, 
    Robert F. Kennedy Jr. 
    Posted: 05/08/2012 8:34 am
    Last week, the world got a preview of America's new postCitizens United petro plutocracy with the oil lords flexing their political muscles like oil soaked body builders pumped up on a steroid drip of campaign dollars. It was all about fracking. The petro tycoons first orchestratedthe forced resignation of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) top frack patch enforcer, then adeptly forced the same cowed agency to stall its release of a damaging scientific study on fracking and finally strong armed the Interior Department to open America's public lands to gas companies without prior disclosure of their frack chemicals.
    On Monday, the oil industry showcased its political muscle by forcing the resignation of EPA's popular environmental enforcement chief for the Gulf region, Dr. Al Armendariz. Dr. Al was beloved by environmentalists, civic leaders, and poor and minority communities across five states for his willingness to strictly enforce environmental rules regardless of the lawbreakers' political clout. But Armendariz's courage won him powerful enemies as well. He was steadfastly undeterred by relentless pressure from polluters and their allies including political intrigue, hamstringing budget cuts, and even death threats directed at him and his family. But this week, the world's most powerful cartel -- an international syndicate feared even by the Obama Administration -- finally brought Dr. Armendariz down. Armendariz's mistake was promising to enforce the law against Big Oil in the shale gas fields.
    Read More:
    Fracking hazardous to New Yorkers' health


    Published 11:13 p.m., Tuesday, April 24, 2012

    The state Senate Democrats are holding a forum today on the health effects and other consequences of hydrofracking. That's important, because the science is clear. Fracking will cause serious health issues for New Yorkers.   The commentary goes on to say:                                                                                                                                                                                                           

    In the last few months alone, multiple studies revealed the risks that come with air pollution.

    First came a study in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health showing how exposure to smog in early pregnancy increases the risk of premature birth — just like cigarette smoking. (Pre-term birth is the leading cause of disability in the United States.)

    Next, studies in Archives of Internal Medicine and Journal of the American Medical Association revealed that exposure to roadway pollutants triggers heart attack and stroke and accelerates memory loss among older women. In essence, breathing crummy air is the equivalent of aging your brain by two years.

    Paul Gallay, President, Hudson Riverkeeper
    The gas IndustrySpin Can't Cover Up Air, Water Problems Caused by Fracking

    It's like some in the gas industry are living in a different universe from the rest of us, when it comes to the risks from shale gas extraction via fracking. Call it the "Spin Zone."                                                                                           At a Wall Street Journal conference last week, Chesapeake Energy CEO Aubrey McClendon told attendees he's unaware of any problems resulting from the thousands of fracking wells drilled in Fort Worth, Texas in recent years. McClendon peevishly referred to the fracking-related air pollution concerns I raised at the conference as "environmental nonsense."                                                                                                                           The article goes on to say:                                                                                                                     Most drillers remain in deep denial, routinely choosing to circle the wagons rather than acknowledge environmental and public health problems. As one Wall Street Journal conference blogger pointedly observed, after I suggested that the gas companies deny problems and demonize critics, McClendon's next move was, well, to deny and demonize. To be fair, other pro-fracking conference panelists like former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell were somewhat more critical of the industry, arguing that the gas companies must accept blame for rushing fracking and relying on "cowboy" drillers.

    Read the entire article: 


    _We need proof that gas production is safe


    Letter to the Editor   The Daily Star  April 18, 2012

    Enacting a natural gas drilling ban is a reasonable precaution for some towns _ considering what is known.

  The industry has not produced a single peer-reviewed study proving that the exploration and production of this gas has been done safely.

  That would be a study sampling water wells for the existing subterranean chemicals and the soon-to-be-introduced man-made chemicals before and repeatedly after drilling and fracking.  

Regulations in New York are not the world's strictest. For example, the setback of wells head from homes (100 feet) is among the least strict in the United States.  Put not your faith in SGEIS regulations.  The earlier SGEIS (1992), with the first guidelines for environmentally safe drilling in NYS, was never codified into regulations _ despite repeated attempts.

Only a dozen or so pages of new regulations for DMR have been proposed from the SGEIS (6 NYCRR Part 560), and those were written before the guidelines were even finalized.

  And then there is the SGEIS itself, with several topics incompletely or incorrectly covered and some not covered at all.

  The Division of Mineral Resources, with the prime responsibility for monitoring and enforcement, has been starved of staff and funding since it was formed, leading to repeated failures.

  Given these shortcomings, it is understandable that first the citizens in some towns would wish to see the results of a few years of drilling elsewhere in New York.  Badly done, the harm could last for decades and be punishingly expensive to clean up.  Once there is such a record, citizens can judge the safety of drilling and fracking and weigh the costs vs. benefits for their town.

Then they can decide whether to repeal their ban.

                                                                                                         The gas will still be there.
    Brian Brock

     Franklin, NY                              ______________________________________

    Banning Fracking at the Local Level

    The Daily Star,     Letter to the Editor      April 16.2012

    I recently attended a workshop for activists on working with the media.  It was great and gave us some preliminaries everyone could benefit from when speaking with media: how to get your message across, how to deflect question traps, remembering to keep eye contact, how to write a media advisory and when a press release should be sent out.  The presenters were enthusiastic, clever, smart, experienced and well-trained.
    Toward the end of the training, one of the trainers asked for some of our really tough situations.  To a person, everyone spoke about interactions with their town board.  How do we respond to bullying by town board members, or being told “yes, we are listening to you,” when we know they are not, or finding that town board members believe the industry and think we are the ones telling lies.  In the most recent town board meeting I attended, my group was made fun of for going door to door and the insinuation was made that we are scaring people at the door and that is why they are signing our petition to ban gas drilling in Vestal.
    In Vestal, our town supervisor cancelled a public information session after conferring with his campaign manager, who is on the board of the landowners coalition.  We called him out on this at the board meeting and tried to get press coverage on this – without any effect: the press except for YNN didn’t cover the story and the supervisor was unresponsive when questioned on this directly at our board meeting.  A short and simple letter to the editor, however, got board members concerned about the issue and one board member then said publicly that he is for the town holding a public information session.
    So how do things work at the local level?  Differently from at the state or national level.  We’re learning, but time is not on our side.  What can we do to learn faster?  How can activists share what they are learning so that everyone gets these skills – and fast so that each local effort isn’t starting from scratch?
    All the activists in the room are struggling with our local elected officials.  This is significant since it is they who will pass or not pass bills that will ban fracking.  Local press coverage of board meetings is crucial to our being able to get the word out to the local poplulation and thereby mount pressure on the board to pass legislation.  More than one person stated his frustration that he couldn’t get local media to cover board meetings.  This is where the action is and this is where the local decisions on fracking are being made–bu they receive no media attention and certainly no state or national attention.
    Since we are trying to defeat gas drilling by locally banning it out, involvement with our fight at the local level is critical.  Dispute resolution, turning a negative into a positive, understanding how to get our message across to town board members who have spent years being talked to by industry reps, getting press coverage on local town board meetings–this is what we really need help with.
    We need to develop relationships with town board members, get coverage by local media, get more residents to speak at board meetings – we need credibility.  Some towns have the luxury of electing new board members–this is a crucial step for those that can.  We currently are not in a strong position to do this.  We are dealing with decades of entrenched local politics, it can’t be changed quickly or easily.  In our case, it has taken almost a year of attending bi-weekly board meetings to begin to get somerespect from some board members–but not much. They are suspicious and afraid of us.
    We see the local TV station come to film a new police officer being sworn in – but they don’t stay to cover the privilege of the floor discussion on whether to impose a moratorium on gas drilling in Vestal.
    A letter to the editor reporting a town board meeting or calling out a local elected official got more response from my town board than any piece that aired on television or was written up in the newspaper on a job fair held by industry or propane fracking.
    Working at the local level involves understanding politics at the local level and it is a different beast from politics at any other level.  Each town board is unique but many seem to share many characteristics: old boy networks who don’t want any new faces; new faces seen as a threat rather than a welcome addition.  Employing bullying tactics, shutting people down, limiting remarks from the floor–these are situations most of us face in trying to get a ban or moratorium at the local level.
    Sue Rapp, Vestal NY

    Fracking decisions should be local ones


    Written by
    David Cingranelli 

    Because fracking will degrade our home values, health and quality of life, New Yorkers living in the Marcellus Shale region should demand local bans or moratoria.
    At the very least, our local representatives should pass laws to control traffic flows for fracking waste and dangerous chemicals, to limit noise levels at drilling sites, and to prevent the overuse of local fresh water supplies. Every municipal water supply should be tested now to establish baseline levels of chemicals that will be used in the fracking process, and gas drilling companies using hazardous chemicals in those watersheds should pay for baseline testing and for periodic testing afterwards.
    If we do nothing, we are deciding to trust our state government to take care of us once the current statewide moratorium on fracking ends. But be afraid. More than half of the people of New York already are protected from harm, because the state has permanently prohibited fracking in the watersheds for Syracuse and New York City. Those who are already protected surely are less interested in what comes next than the rest of us, who are not so lucky. They get the benefits and we pay the costs.
    The state Department of Environmental Conservation will soon issue regulations on fracking for the rest of us. If we leave it to them, we may have regrets later. If we act locally now and later change our minds, then we can repeal our local ordinances, and no harm will be done.
    But we don't have much time. Once the state issues its regulations, it also will issue fracking permits. The legal rights of permit-holders under civil law will effectively eliminate the potential for later, more restrictive local regulation. In other words, we act now, or we turn our fates over to the DEC and the gas companies.
    Local legislators, like my own, who tell you that we have lots of time are wrong and they know it. If they tell you, like mine did, that local governments are powerless in these matters, don't believe them. Where the health and safety of citizens are at stake, the state has traditionally respected the home rule powers of local governments preferring to enact local protections more stringent than those required by the state.
    The City of Binghamton and at least 76 other New York municipalities in the Marcellus Shale region have already enacted bans. So far, the state courts have supported these local efforts. Dryden and Middlefield recently won state court rulings saying they could prohibit fracking as part of their zoning ordinances. The oil and gas industry may appeal these rulings, but, at least for now, local bans, moratoria and even some other regulations are viable options.
    Inform yourself on these issues. Attend local government meetings. Speak up. Ask for action. In November, remember what your representatives did and didn't do to protect you. That's how democracy is supposed to work.
    Cingranelli, a professor of political science at Binghamton University, is a Vestal resident.

    Times Union

    Time is on our side in hydrofracking fight

    Published 08:01 p.m., Saturday, March 3, 2012

    In the most dramatic turnaround I've witnessed in nearly a half century of pushing words into print, there's a growing possibility that hydraulic hydrofracking for natural gas across a wide expanse of the western Catskills and Southern Tier may not happen at all.

    At least not for the foreseeable future, and that is about the best news imaginable for the majority of New Yorkers who live there and are opposed to it.

    Two years ago, hydrofracking storming into New York seemed inevitable, and was treated that way by the highest levels of state government. Today, I would say the odds have slipped against it, and government is taking a step back. Primarily that's due to changing economics.
    Read more:                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    

    _______________________________________________________________________________Times Union

    Letter: Hydrofracking not worth risks

    Published 08:29 p.m., Tuesday, February 28, 2012
    Brad Gill, the Independent Oil & Gas Association of New York's executive director, offers the most recent statement by an extraction industry representative suggesting both that "science" should be relied upon "to determine the actual and relevant risks" of high-volume horizontal hydrofracking for natural gas in New York.
    Those industry representatives already "know" that "expanded natural gas development can be done safely," Gill says. ("Let science be deciding factor," Feb. 23) Yet he avoids actually naming the process he is promoting.
    In their 2011 statement regarding hydrofracking, the staff of the state Department of Environmental Conservation suggested that, due to their unfiltered water supplies, New York City and Syracuse watersheds should be off-limits to surface drilling for natural gas using high-volume hydraulic fracturing technology.
    Clearly, DEC staff recognize that mishaps related to hydrofracking could be of devastating magnitude. I would suggest that the potential benefits of fracking do not outweigh the risks to the welfare of the citizenry in any part of the state.
    In his 1962 book, "Night Comes to the Cumberlands," Harry Caudill deals with the predatory practices of the Kentucky coal industry. Writing when coal production had been nominally under federal and state regulation for decades, Caudill still could warn:
    "And we just can't afford to sit back and watch all that (land) be destroyed so a few people can get rich now. One of these days the dear old federal government is going to have to come in and spend billions of dollars just to repair the damage that's already been done. And guess who will have the machines and the workmen to do the job? The same coal operators who made the mess in the first place will be hired to fix it back, and the taxpayers will bear the cost."
    Just substitute "gas" for "coal" and New York's Southern Tier for Caudill's Cumberland Mountains.
    Leo S. Levy
    Read more: 
    How Many More Dimocks?

    BY JOHN QUIGLEY , November, 23 2011                                                                                                                                    An article this week in the Scranton Times-Tribune describes alleged “reckless practices, unreported spills and buried problems” by Cabot Oil and Gas Corporation in Dimock Township, Pennsylvania -- a community that epitomizes the continuing controversies around Marcellus Shale natural gas drilling. Cabot employee Scott Ely tells the paper that he has observed five diesel fuel spills and efforts by the company to conceal them from inspectors. Plus he reports leaking containment pits, carelessly torn liners, bulldozers pushing contaminated soil over a bank, and well casing and control problems. Ely is quoted as saying that companies working on the drilling sites "had no care for what spilled anywhere. It was the most reckless industry I've ever seen in my life."

    The article is chilling reading, and the allegations, if true (read the responses of the Cabot spokesman in the article), are damning of Cabot’s practices and those of their hired contractors.
    Cabot insists that “none of the areas laid out in the accusations exceeded the cleanup standards or were outside the norms of protective health and safety." A report to the Department of Environmental Protection is due soon.
    Whether outside the norms or just the norm for Cabot, the company’s enforcement record appears to be no better. The same Times-Tribune article reports that Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection issued notices of violations at Cabot sites for at least 51 separate spill-related incidents between 2008 and 2010. And between June 2008 and May 2011, Cabot reported to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency 19 spills and releases of hazardous substances or wastewater at its Susquehanna County well sites and 14 additional spills "where Cabot does not have sufficient information to confirm that a release of a hazardous substance ... occurred."
    What is known is that improper drilling practices have contaminated 19 private water wells in Dimock. The community is torn over concerns about public health dangers and the jobs and income that drilling has brought to the community. Whether other long-term dangers to public health and the environment lurk in the ground and water supply of Dimock Township remains to be seen.
    No form of energy extraction is environmentally benign. Accidents are inevitable, even with the best procedures in place. But shale gas exploration is a heavy industrial activity and needs to be regulated and monitored as such. Corner cutting, concealment, and failures of execution by drillers or the companies that they hire are inexcusable and cannot be tolerated. The industry must step up and perform. Ely himself is quoted as saying that "I know they can do this in a safe manner" and that he has seen improvements in company practices. That improvement must be continuous.
    How many more Dimocks will there be as Pennsylvania’s natural gas boom goes on? That is up to government, the industry, and the citizens of Pennsylvania.

    Read More: By John Quigley


    Md. lawmakers warned of natural gas drilling woes in Pa.

    Former state official cites spills, well contamination, urges caution

    February 09, 2011|By Timothy B. Wheeler, The Baltimore Sun
    A former top Pennsylvania official warned Maryland lawmakers to go slow in allowing drilling for natural gas in Marcellus shale deposits underlying the state's western mountains or risk the environmental and social problems his state is now experiencing from a poorly regulated wave of energy exploration.
    John Quigley, who until two months ago was secretary of Pennsylvania's Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, urged members of the House Environmental Matters Committee to "take a deep breath" and require more study of the immediate and long-term consequences of opening Western Maryland to drilling for natural gas using a controversial technique known as hydraulic fracturing. The method, also known as "fracking," involves injecting water and lubricating chemicals thousands of feet underground to fracture rock layers and release gas trapped there.


    The Daily Star, Oneonta, NY 

    November 5, 2011
    Lou Allstadt
    Some recent letters in The Daily Star and other local papers have implied that supporters of candidates for town and county offices who oppose gas drilling are fear-mongering, or that we can rely on the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to protect us.
    Based on many years working in the industry, I believe there is legitimate reason for concern, and I do not believe the DEC’s proposed regulations will protect us. Just a few examples:

    • The DEC’s draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SGEIS) indicates two major geological faults running through the middle of Otsego County. Its map (fig. 4.13), based on 1977 data, shows these to be among the largest in any of the likely drilling areas, yet it proposes no limitations to drilling close to these faults. Such faults can provide open channels to the surface for any nearby drilling and fracking even without new earthquakes. Actually, more recent data show many more faults, but the DEC has ignored these.

    Lou Allstadt is a retired Executive Vice President of Mobil Oil Corporation who now lives in Otsego County. He was in charge of Mobil’s oil and gas drilling in the US, Canada and Latin America. He was also on the board of the US Oil and Gas Association. He is presently a member of the Otsego County Natural Gas Advisory Committee.
    Read More:

    People ARE getting sick!
    Following an alarming set of experiences with health problems that put this 30 year old woman on the threshold of death, she finally figured out what the core of her problem was -- contaminated well water.
    Jaime Frederick
    Ohio Statehouse Rally     January 10, 2012
    My name is Jaime Frederick and I’m from Coitsville, Ohio. Shortly after moving into my home in Coitsville outside of Youngstown, Ohio, 3 years ago, I began to get seriously ill. I started vomiting on a regular basis and had intense abdominal pains everyday. After numerous trips to six different doctors, and several emergency room visits, test revealed that my gall bladder had completely failed. No gallstones, it had just stopped working, and no one could tell me why. I had my gall bladder taken out but continue to have what seems to be a never ending intestinal flu. It became so bad, that I soon developed an infection in my intestine, as large as a grapefruit, that ate through to the outside of my skin.
    When I was finally admitted to the hospital, doctors said that I would have been dead in a few days if I had not come in when I did. They were baffled, and could only tell me this should not be happening to a healthy 30-year-old woman, and that this condition is typically only found in third world countries. Over the course of the next two years, I underwent a series of five more surgeries in an attempt to repair the damage that had been caused by the infection. I continued to get violently ill, and had elevated kidney and liver numbers, kidney infections, pain throughout my body, trouble breathing, rapid heartbeat, and many other unexplained symptoms.
    I continue to search for answers, seeing 18 different doctors in total, who continue to misdiagnose and scratch their heads. Some told me that I was just stressed out, and that when you are stressed out you dehydrate and that I should drink as much water as possible. I know now that this advice nearly killed me. As we burned through our savings with thousands of dollars of medical bills, the answers never came as to why this was happening to me.
    It wasn’t until a few months ago when the convoys of trucks and drilling equipment began rolling down our once lonely, quiet road, did the answers to my medical mystery unfold. The neighboring property owner, who lives out of town, had signed a gas lease before we even moved there, and never bothered to tell us. Out of the 62 acres signed off by my neighbor, that the best place to drill would be right by my home, about as close as the law would allow them.
    As we scrambled to learn all that we could about what was happening to us, what rights we had, or didn’t, and how to stop it, we discovered that a special type of water test, a tier 3 test, would have to be done to establish a baseline before the drilling began, and that we would have to pay for it ourselves. The cheapest test offered was $500. We managed to get the test done only two days before they started drilling. Our baseline tests revealed high levels of contaminants that are a result of the hydraulic fracturing and drilling process, such as high levels of barium, strontium, toluene and several others that I will not try to pronounce. The mystery was now solved. This was why I had been so sick for so long, and my dogs as well. At the time when I was most sick, I was drinking over 2 gallons of this water unfiltered each day.
    As we dug deeper, we discovered that several wells had already been drilled and were tucked quietly away in the woods that surrounded our home and other properties. This was never disclosed to us when we bought the house. My husband never got sick because he hardly ever drank the water at home. I always bugged him to drink more water, and I’m glad now that like most husbands, he never listened to me. It’s hard to say which one of the 10 wells within a half-mile, 15 within a mile, actually caused the contamination. It only takes one bad well to poison a water table that can sometimes stretch out for over a mile. In some places that’s a lot of homes. As bad as this all sounds, the worst has yet to come.
    Living through the drilling and fracking phase of the most recent well was a truly terrifying experience. We were given no notice whatsoever as to what was about to happen to us, and had no where to evacuate to with our 3 dogs and cats. We felt like we were trapped in someone’s idea of a sick joke. 24-7 nonstop, we were subjected to such unbelievable levels of noise that you can only understand if you’ve heard it for yourself. It would have been more peaceful to live on an airport runway. We couldn’t sleep for days at a time, and when we did it was only short naps in between explosions. We tried using earplugs, covered by these headphones, while listening to the radio, and could still plainly hear it. Worse yet, we could feel it, as a constant vibration through the house. That was just the drilling. The actual fracking lasted about 3 days. Now that I get to live through Youngstown’s injection well earthquakes, I can tell you that is what it is similar to. Dishes rattling in the cupboards, pictures falling off the wall, cracking sounds in the basement. Like so many of you, I’m sure, I love my dogs with all my heart. I’ve never seen them so terrified, and hope I never will again. They cowered together in a corner, shaking uncontrollably for days. They would not go outside and they would not eat. I was unable to do anything to help them other than put a radio near them in hopes of masking the noise and calming them down.
    The gas storage tanks, and radioactive toxic waste tanks… I refuse to call it brine, I’m sorry, because that was just a lie, that is not what it is. These tanks have been placed closer to my home than the well itself. They are right outside my bedroom window and just uphill from a fresh artesian spring on my property. The overflow hose that comes out of the radioactive toxic waste tank goes directly onto the ground and this is permitted because they get to lie and call it brine. I would not soak my pickles or my turkey in this. They are also permitted to bury to toxic wastewater pit on my neighbor’s property, just uphill from our home.
    The gas storage tank is now hooked up and under high pressure. It regularly releases the pressure, putting the toxic fumes into the air and makes a lot of noise. It will do this for at least 6 more months. A smell similar to rotten eggs and diesel fumes hangs heavy in the air. ODNR tells me it is perfectly safe, and that I am in more danger breathing in the air in a parking lot. First of all, I don’t live in a parking lot. And secondly, when I do park my car in a parking lot it is not covered in an oily mist like now falls over our property and is seen easily on our house and car windows. I’m sure this is perfectly safe too, right ODNR?
    Everyone asks me why I am not more upset with my neighbor and why I don’t sue him. I tell them because not only do we have no rights, but that I feel that he was taken advantage of by BoCor gas. They forced him to sign a lease when he was intoxicated, with no notary present. And they told him it would be no bigger operation than drilling a water well, and that the only thing left behind would be the size of a garbage can and surrounded by trees that they would plant. All lies, and there are still no trees. They also buried the radioactive toxic waste pit in the exact location where he told them he planning to build a home to retire in. BoCor also managed to rip him off to the tune of $300,000 in acreage payments. He said that if he knew then what he knows now, that he never would have signed and that he is very sorry. They have already destroyed the land that has been in his family for generations, dating back to the early 1800’s, and they are just getting started.
    Our little house, in the middle of the woods, will soon be in the middle of a toxic wasteland, as they prepare to cut down the remaining trees to put in the pipelines and compressor stations that will eventually connect the wells. Our property value has been reduced from $125,000 to nothing, overnight. 47 wells, including injection wells, already cover the 12 square miles that is Coitsville, even surrounding the wildlife preserve.
    We have already had a blowout of at least one well, a chemical spill, and a tear in a waste pit liner. And again, they are only getting started. I haven’t retested the water since the last well was drilled, but I have a feeling it didn’t make it cleaner. Even if I wanted to have it retested, we have nothing left, having spent every penny on water testing, water filtration equipment, medical bills, and renovating a home we thought we were going to raise a family in. We now check our faucets daily with a lighter, and we’re still hopeful because it hasn’t ignited, yet. I am feeling much better these days, and so are my dogs since we stopped drinking the water. My liver and kidney numbers have improved, though much damage has been done. I have developed kinetic tremors in my hands as a result of the neurological side effects of some of the chemicals.
    But the worst side effect caused by the damage is my inability to safely carry a child, without the risk of hemorrhage or even death. Even if I could somehow still give birth, knowing the high risk of birth defects caused by the chemicals I drank. I will never take that risk. At the time when I was most sick, drinking the most water, I lay on the bathroom floor, night after night, thinking I would surely be dead soon. Throwing up until the blood vessels in my eyes and cheeks were burst. At that time, I did not know what fracking was, or that I was being deliberately poisoned. But I do now.
    And I have a message for you Governor Kasic, and you Mr. Gasman, you may have taken my safety and my property value, you may have taken my gall bladder, and you may have taken my ability to have children, but you will not take my voice. And I will not stop until you stop. We will not stop until you stop.
    Thank you.  Jamie Frederick

    A letter from Libby Foust, published in the Ithaca Journal:

    Our family farm is in Bradford County, Pa. Our farm was one of the first well sites chosen and is now one of hundreds, soon to be thousands. When the folks in Pennsylvania first heard of the wells coming, they were excited. No one had ever experienced the drilling business, so there was nothing to fear. They had toiled their whole lives just to make ends meet, and maybe this was the road to a better life.

    Then they came. Trucks by the hundreds, tankers, dump trucks, drilling rigs, fracking rigs. Five-acre drilling pads were bulldozed in the middle of farmers' best fields, million-gallon ponds were installed, roads were built, woods and fields were trenched and bulldozed for tie lines. Drilling rigs went up at an unbelievable rate. From one spot on our farm, I counted eight rigs.

    Then the generators started. You could hear them a half-mile away. Then the pumping stations — small, industrial sites with buildings and pipes sticking up out of the ground. They put one of these at the end of our little dirt road. Now the woods are gone and the dirt road is a main thoroughfare. One entire field is a pumping station. When I first saw this, I cried.

    This industry is like a swarm of locusts, leaving destruction and a lasting impact on the environment. But it goes much deeper than this. It creates greed and pits neighbor against neighbor, even dividing families. Back home, all rental properties now house gas people, as the landlords raised the rents so high that longtime tenants were forced to move. Every parking area is lined with pipes and equipment associated with the gas business. Roads have been destroyed and are barely passable. Motorists are being forced off the road by a steady stream of big rigs and trucks.

    People who are used to a few cars going by their house now have to endure 100 tractor trailers a day. I went up to our well site and counted 80 tankers lined up so closely that you couldn’t fit between them.

    The gas companies do put on a good show. They have a nice booth at the fair. They buy bicycle helmets for the kids. They pay to have the walkways at the fairgrounds paved. They are always presenting a check for this and a check for that. Their pictures are always in the paper doing good deeds. What a joke. That’s Bradford County.

    The Finger Lakes area has been blessed with so much natural beauty — the gorges, the lakes, the vineyards. We have so much to protect. We want our fields to be green so our children can walk through them. We need our water to be clean, not only for ourselves but for our livestock and marine life.

    If they start drilling, what's going to happen to the water in our lakes? What's going to happen if there is a drilling accident and people's homes start filling up with methane gas? Don't think it can happen? In northern Pennsylvania, it already has.

    I urge you to protect this area, its residents, its natural beauty and our way of life from the ravages of the gas industry.

    This statement was written by a woman who recently moved from Troy, PA, to Trumansburg, NY, presented to the Schuyler Legislature on August 12, 2011 and later published in the Ithaca Journal.

    Hydrofracking sure to contaminate water

    TUESDAY, DECEMBER 13, 2011
    As an environmental engineering technician with NYSDEC Region 5, I managed scores of groundwater remediation projects in the 1990s. I’ve reviewed countless hydrogeologic reports and seen thousands of lab results from contaminated wells. I’m familiar with the fate and transport of contaminants in fractured media, and let me be clear:
    Hydraulic fracturing as it’s practiced today will contaminate our aquifers.
    Not might contaminate our aquifers. Hydraulic fracturing will contaminate New York’s aquifers. If you were looking for a way to poison the drinking water supply, here in the Northeast you couldn’t find a more chillingly effective and thorough method of doing so than with hydraulic fracturing.
    My experience investigating and remediating contaminated groundwater taught me some lessons. There’s no such thing as a perfect well seal. Occasionally sooner, often later, well seals can and do fail, period.
    No confining layer is completely competent; all geologic strata leak to some extent. The fact that a less-transmissive layer lies between the drill zone and a well does not protect the well from contamination.
    A drinking water well is never in “solid” rock. If it were, it would be a dry hole in the ground. As water moves through joints, fissures and bedding planes into a well, so do contaminants. In fractured media such as shale, water follows preferential pathways, moving fast and far, miles per week in some cases.
    In the absence of oxygen (such as under the ground), organic compounds break down infinitesimally slowly. Chemicals injected into the aquifer will persist for many lifetimes.
    When contamination occurs—and it will occur— we will all pay for it, regardless of where we live. Proving responsibility for groundwater contamination is difficult, costly and time-consuming, and while corporate lawyers drag out proceedings for years, everyone’s taxes will pay for the subsurface investigations, the whole-house filtration systems, the unending lab analyses.
    I’d love to see hundreds more jobs created. But not if it means hundreds of thousands using well water will be at a high risk of contamination. Not if it means every New Yorker will be on the hook for the cost for cleanup and for creating alternate water supplies. If your well goes bad, neither you, nor your children, nor their children will ever be able to get safe, clean water back. That’s too high a price.
    Drill for gas, absolutely, but develop safe technologies first.
    Paul Hetzler

    Invasion of the Marcellus men
    A helicopter dropped sacks near the pond, then strange men showed up, reports DARYLN BREWER HOFFSTOT from Westmoreland County
    Sunday, November 27, 2011
    On a beautiful Friday this month, I was working in my vegetable garden when I saw a helicopter fly very low over my house. Attached to it was a long wire carrying multiple orange sacks. The helicopter lowered just beyond my pond and dropped some of the sacks. About a half-hour later it flew over again, repeating the procedure.
    The next day, I located two of the sacks and met a fellow who said he worked for Geokinetics, a seismic testing company. Armed with a GPS device, he was trying to locate all of the testing materials, which, he said, comprised two stations of dynamite and 23 recording devices.
    This was on the property of a neighbor, who had permitted the blasting. My concern was that the dynamite might be near the trails where we ride horses and walk, or -- if the testing company was inexact -- near our spring, from which we drink.

    Daryln Brewer Hoffstot is a freelance writer who has written for many publications, including The New York Times ( She also is a former editor of Poets & Writers Magazine.