Sunday, April 29, 2012
Written by Dan Fitzsimmons and Bob Williams - What has been missed in the debate about the Ithaca-based Park Foundation's advocacy against natural gas development is the object of their opposition. The true targets of the Park Foundation are the people in Marcellus Shale communities of upstate New York. In March 2011, we met with Park Foundation leadership. We were on the hunt for foundations to support the important work of the Joint Landowners Coalition to identify best practices in natural gas development and arm landowners with the information they need to protect themselves and their land. Upstaters saddle their own horses. A self-reliant people, we crisscrossed interstates and back roads through New York and Pennsylvania, learning everything we could about natural gas development. Once confident we could both protect the environment and develop the natural resource below our feet, we informed our membership, made our recommendations to the SGEIS, and set out to clear up a few myths and misstatements guided more by bumper-sticker slogans than research studies. Our meeting with the Park Foundation was cordial, but we heard some things that stung like ice cold water poured down your back. We explained how we wanted to educate folks about environmental protections, water recycling, ways to reduce truck traffic and safe natural gas development practices. We explained how the ad valorem tax could save local schools and fund police. This discussion was a nonstarter. Since that meeting, we've noted artificial opposition from time to time — for example, when Helen and David Slottje toured around the state encouraging towns to ban gas development. Every time we researched an opposition campaign, inevitably the trail back led to a Park Foundation grant. Foundation officials explained that their wealthy patrons were reticent to allow their pristine land to be affected by drilling rigs. We replied by telling them we had thousands of farmers who shared the same affection for their land. We described how the farmers were at risk of losing it all to high taxes and costs hitting up against record low profits — and that these farmers wouldn't allow their farms to be developed unless drilling could be done safely. Noting that they understood the plight of farmers, they replied, "We are aware there will be collateral damage from stopping natural gas development." Thousands of upstaters who toiled all of their lives, some handing down their large or small farms generation to generation, were viewed merely as "collateral damage." And so, with the $3 million budget that the Park Foundation has put into motion to fight hydraulic fracturing, we ask ourselves as a volunteer organization run by farmers and landowners: Is this a fair fight? The JLC has spent thousands of hours researching best practices, understanding technology used by the industry, going to well sites and seeing for ourselves what can and cannot be done safely, and providing information that will enhance state regulations. We are limited by raising funds from our membership, so this is a David-and-Goliath situation. Only we, the people of upstate New York, are David. And Goliath is a multimillion-dollar foundation with one goal — to hang a virtual "do not disturb" sign around the elites. Fitzsimmons is president of the Joint Landowners Coalition of New York; Williams is a member of the JLCNY executive board and an environmental consultant with 40 years of experience on energy projects.
Thursday, April 26, 2012
Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) took to the Senate floor today to draw attention to a video of a top EPA official saying the EPA’s “philosophy” is to “crucify” and “make examples” of oil and gas companies - just as the Romans crucified random citizens in areas they conquered to ensure obedience. Inhofe quoted a little-watched video from 2010 of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) official, Region VI Administrator Al Armendariz, admitting that EPA’s “general philosophy” is to “crucify” and “make examples” of oil and gas companies. In the video, Administrator Armendariz says: “I was in a meeting once and I gave an analogy to my staff about my philosophy of enforcement, and I think it was probably a little crude and maybe not appropriate for the meeting, but I’ll go ahead and tell you what I said: “It was kind of like how the Romans used to, you know, conquer villages in the Mediterranean. They’d go in to a little Turkish town somewhere, they’d find the first five guys they saw and they’d crucify them. “Then, you know, that town was really easy to manage for the next few years.” “It’s a deterrent factor,” Armendariz said, explaining that the EPA is following the Romans’ philosophy for subjugating conquered villages. Soon after Armendariz touted the EPA’s “philosophy,” the EPA began smear campaigns against natural gas producers, Inhofe’s office noted in advance of today’s Senate speech: “Not long after Administrator Armendariz made these comments in 2010, EPA targeted US natural gas producers in Pennsylvania, Texas and Wyoming. “In all three of these cases, EPA initially made headline-grabbing statements either insinuating or proclaiming outright that the use of hydraulic fracturing by American energy producers was the cause of water contamination, but in each case their comments were premature at best – and despite their most valiant efforts, they have been unable to find any sound scientific evidence to make this link.” In his Senate speech, Sen. Inhofe said the video provides Americans with “a glimpse of the Obama administration’s true agenda.” That agenda, Inhofe said, is to “incite fear” in the public with unsubstantiated claims and “intimidate” oil and gas companies with threats of unjustified fines and penalties – then, quietly backtrack once the public’s perception has been firmly jaded against oil and natural gas
Sunday, April 15, 2012
SCLOC Political Action Committee Monday, April 9, 2012 - The meeting was called to order at 7:00 PM by Chairman Jeff Heller at the Blue Flame Room, Corning. Present: Jeff & Kathy Heller, Ken & LaVera Knowles, Dana Knowles, John Bloise, David & Karen Ballard, Neil Vitale, Gordon Foster, Elaine Swiler, Ellen Zver, Ed Heagle, Bill Lock, Peter Olausson, Mary Hickey, Fran & Jim Rising, Tim Olszowy, John Starzec, Jack & Betty Bossard. Jeff noted that basically all we can do is wait for Governor Cuomo to commit on drilling. He also pointed out that the low price of natural gas is hurting our cause, but this doesn't close the door on drilling activity. He also stressed that on the other side, the Utica shale keeps looking better and better. On some "points of interest": - received a letter from the town of Erwin stating emphatically they will not be passing a moratorium - Scott Cline sent out a second (very good ) letter to the town of Pulteney against their pending moratorium -there will be a Town Board meeting in Cameron at the Town Hall at 11AM on Saturday, April 21 about a moratorium - Attorney Slottje will be there to give a pro-moratorium presentation. Anyone in the coalition who can attend should do so. Kenny Knowles announced that we had a lease offer that is now on hold 'because the investors did not think New York was ready'. There was an extensive discussion of the pending "deal" in Tioga County involving natural gas hydraulic fracturing with liquid propane. The discussion included "pros and cons". This is a developing situation and we may know more by the next meeting. Neil Vitale ( our representative with the JLC) reported on news from the Joint Land Owners Coalition: - A pending presentation for some of the PAC members on the ad valorem tax benefits. Those members might then be called on to make presentations to the public. - The third annual JLC clambake is set for June 15, 2012 from 5 to 9 PM outside of Binghamton. This is a clambake and a fund raiser. Advance sale tickets are $42.00 per person. MORE INFO TO FOLLOW. The next PAC meeting was set for Monday, May 14 at 7PM at the Blue Flame Room, Corning. Respectfully Submitted, Jeff Heller
Wednesday, April 11, 2012
To the Editor: The March 27 edition of the Corning Leader included a front page article about a new anti-fracking group. This group, composed mainly of people outside our region and outside New York, managed to grab the top spot in the newspaper with its claims about how gas drilling will ruin our community. Meanwhile, landowners in the Southern Tier with a different view struggle to gain the attention of the Leader. Why is that? Well, we don’t make wild charges. We don’t try to scare people. We don’t try to tell others how to live their lives. We want just one thing: We want the ability to tap the natural resources on our property. And since it’s our land where our families live, we want to do it responsibly and safely. Unlike most members of the anti-drilling groups, we’re going to be here a year from now. This is our community, and we think responsible development of natural gas is a good thing. When we look across the border into Pennsylvania we see real prosperity and we want the same thing here. The “anti-drilling” groups aren’t thinking about creating jobs in the Southern Tier; they have other motivations, which I do not judge, except to the extent that they infringe on our rights to responsibly develop our property. My sentiments aren’t unique. My views are shared by the more than 70,000 members of the 38 individual landowner coalitions making up the Joint Landowners Coalition of New York (JLCNY.) The JLCNY has been holding educational forums throughout the Southern Tier that focus on protecting property rights, accessing accurate information on environmental impacts and providing unbiased facts to show how SAFE (Shale Assisted Fissure Extraction) drilling can have a positive effect on the local economy. These educational activities are accomplished solely through volunteers and their many hours of dedicated, unpaid work. The members of the JLCNY are real people who just want a say when it comes to their land and the economic viability of their communities. It’s too bad the Leader doesn’t write about their efforts on its front page. Sincerely, Neil Vitale JLCNY and Steuben County Landowners Coalition member Woodhull, NY