Wednesday, July 25, 2012
Gov. Cuomo’s rumored plan to begin horizontal hydraulic fracturing of shale for oil and gas (mostly gas) in New York State is an important issue that threatens to fracture the alliance of those of us on the pro-drilling side of the debate. Many people (including MDN) are rightly outraged that not all landowners in all areas of the state will be given the opportunity to participate in drilling—at lease initially (if you believe the rumors about the governor’s plan). But a highly placed source with knowledge of both the landowners’ plight and the governor’s thinking recently spoke to MDN to let us know we’re viewing this issue through the wrong end of the telescope and that landowners outside of select counties have not been left out. Let me explain… Background On June 13, the New York Times printed a story that Gov. Cuomo is considering a plan that will allow a limited experiment of fracking in the state (see this MDN story). The plan would grant an initial 50 or so permits for drilling, and those permits would only be granted in five counties: Broome, Chemung, Chenango, Steuben and Tioga. At the time everyone believed the “leak” of this plan came from either the governor himself or someone in his office as a trial balloon, to see how the public would react (and to see how freaked out his left-wing fringe base would become). The Times story had the effect of focusing everyone on those five counties, and according to MDN’s source, that’s precisely the wrong focus. Our source said, “It’s not about the counties, and it never was.” Why not? Because it’s “always been about the individual towns.” Both Cuomo and NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Joe Martens have said for months now that only communities (towns) that want fracking will get it. MDN’s source said the Times story, which has never been confirmed by Cuomo or Martens, has had the effect of creating a rift among landowners and landowner groups. Some believe they won’t see drilling for two years or more because they’re not in one of what MDN has called “The Lucky Five” counties, and so they feel abandoned by the pro-drilling movement. MDN asked the question: You mean towns outside of The Lucky Five who have voted to support (or at least allow) drilling may get permits? “Yes” was the startling answer. That was a revelation for MDN. And it also explains why there is such an effort under way to get towns across the state—anywhere within the Marcellus or Utica Shale region—to pass a resolution of neutrality that says, in essence, we agree to let the DEC finish its work and we’re not going to ban anything until it does. (A copy of the resolution as adopted by the Town of Windsor is embedded below. The language gets tweaked from town to town, but this is essentially what towns are adopting that vote to “support” drilling.) Explaining further, MDN’s source said, “Look, if you had only 50 to 75 permits to issue, would you issue a permit in, say, Ithaca? Of course not! They don’t support drilling and you’d have a lawsuit on your hands.” So it only makes sense that initially, the DEC is going to grant permits to those towns (not counties, but towns) that support drilling. And that’s why this issue, this political battle is and will be fought at the town level. And why it has nothing to do with counties. It just so happens that the five counties mentioned in the Times article are likely to have the best chances of striking rich deposits of Marcellus Shale gas. Home Rule But what about the home rule issue—the situation where towns are banning drilling, denying their citizens their Constitutional property rights? The home rule issue muddles the debate of county vs. towns. According to MDN’s source, Gov. Cuomo is not in favor of home rule or Sen. Jim Seward’s legislation granting townships home rule would have already been passed and signed into law. The source says Cuomo is the consummate politician—he knows that the courts will decide the home rule issue and he’s staying away from it until that happens. There are two pending court cases on the home rule issue working their way through New York courts now. Our source also says allowing towns home rule would have serious unintended consequences. For example, if home rule goes into effect granting towns the right to thwart the DEC, a township would be able to set their own season and limits for deer hunting, or bear hunting. In other words, home rule would gut the DEC’s authority and result in a crazy quilt of regulations across the state—something that Cuomo and Martens will not allow to happen. Action Plan for All NY Landowners So where does that leave us, as landowners and supporters of safe drilling? It means that a) forget about the artificial boundaries of The Lucky Five counties. It’s not about a specific geography. And b) the fight is now local, at the township level. Landowners need to pressure (respectfully, and with good manners, but also with firmness) their town boards to adopt a resolution of neutrality that they will not ban drilling ahead of the DEC’s release of the SGEIS drilling rules. In other words, landowners not in The Lucky Five are not victims, and they’re not helpless. They have tough work to do, but if they do it, they may see drilling much sooner than they though possible. Landowners outside The Lucky Five counties may get lucky themselves and receive a permit for drilling—this year. Also, if the pending court cases on home rule are resolved this year, or early next year, and if they are decided in favor of landowners (and against home rule), that will nullify all of the existing bans, paving the way for landowners in those towns to get drilling. Of course those towns that previously voted to ban drilling are still on record as “opposing” drilling, but a court ruling against home rule will make it easier for the DEC, down the road, to issue permits even in those towns if the courts say those landowners cannot be denied because of a town board vote. In the meantime, landowners in those towns with a ban need to work diligently to vote those board members out of office and vote in a board who will rescind the previous vote to ban. Bottom line: Landowners in every county are plenty to do on this issue and should not give up and play victim. Get out there and work! Stand up for your rights! The Multimillion Dollar Question And so finally, the question everyone always asks MDN: When will the DEC release their rules and when will drilling actually begin in New York? MDN asked our highly placed source. And that source would only say the DEC will release the new regulations, “Sometime this summer. That’s all I’m willing to say at this point
Friday, July 20, 2012
July 19, 2012 By Dorothy Davis With natural gas prices hitting decade-low prices earlier this year, General Electric (NYSE: GE), in partnership with Chart Industries and scientists at the University of Missouri, announced plans to develop a system for rapidly refueling natural gas-powered cars in the home. GE plans to develop a system that will attach to domestic natural gas lines to compress gas and refuel a tank in less than an hour. Ideally, the device would ultimately cost no more than $500, or around one-tenth of the price of current technology. “The goal of our project is to design an at-home refueling station that is much simpler in design, more cost effective and reduces re-fueling times to under an hour. By reducing the time and cost of re-fueling, we can break down the barriers that are preventing more widespread adoption of NG (Natural Gas) vehicles" said Anna Lis Laursen, project leader and chemical engineer at GE Global Research. "If we can meet our cost targets, the price of a home refueling station would be less than typical appliances in the home such as a dishwasher or stove.” Total cost of program will be approximately $2.3 million, which will be shared by GE and the Department of Energy's Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy (ARPA-E) . Researchers from GE will focus on overall system design integration, while it's partners Chart Industries and University of Missouri will address the detailed engineering, cost and manufacturability of the key system components. Consumers have been slow to adopt alternative energy vehicles, in large part because the country already boasts extensive infrastructure to support gasoline-powered vehicles. However, the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics reports that the amount of natural gas fuel being consumed by highway-rated vehicles rose from 86.5 million gasoline-equivalent gallons in 2000 to nearly 200 million gasoline-equivalent gallons in 2009. In line with its goals to accelerate the adoption of natural gas as a transportation fuel, GE has also recently introduced its CNG In A Box™ technology, which takes natural gas from a pipeline and compresses it on-site at an industrial location or a traditional automotive refilling station.
Wednesday, July 18, 2012
In the latest issue of National Review there is an essay, semi-serious, semi-humorous, that discusses the differences between "bull...ters" and liars. The former being much less harmful than the latter. The essay is centered on a 1986 essay by Princeton philosopher Harry Frankfurt and discusses what makes bull...t different from "balderdash", "claptrap", "hokum", "drivel", and "quackery". We are reminded of all these terms when we try to analyze what the anti-gas drilling environmentalists are up to when we listen to most of their statements. In honor of Dale Carnegie we have to acknowledge that they are generally sincere - that they generally believe what they are saying. It just becomes a colossal challenge to believe that they are being totally honest with us. They are environmentalists. For some this becomes virtually a religion. "Thou shall not harm Mother Earth". We are conservationists. We are concerned about protecting our environment while maintaining "progress". Hence, we live in a country where we know our air and water are steadily getting cleaner, but we believe they're getting dirtier. In the name of civility, when the anits make their statements that are not entirely true, we have to hesitate to call them liars or ..., the other. When Josh Fox was confronted about all the material in "Gasland" that was, shall we say, "untrue", he responded that "the truth is irrelevant". It seems more and more that "the truth" is irrelevant to all the antis. The antis often use what we can semi-humorously describe as the Bikini presentation. (This analogy may have been used by this writer before, but it's just too good to let go.) That is - revealing points of interest, but concealing all the vitals. There are scores of examples of this, but let's look at just a few. "There's radiation in the Marcellus Shale" - certainly a point of interest. The concentrations are totally insignificant - certainly a vital point. Hydrofracking could pollute a water source - point of interest. It's just that after about 1.5 million uses in general and about 50,000 high volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing operations, it never has! - a vital point. The Marcellus Watch column, which would be more accurately titled the Marcellus Mash column, is full of these half-truths. The Wheeler board members voted entirely legally, and probably in the interests of the majority of their residents. At least there are far, far, more members in the land owners coalition than the 30 "residents" who signed the referred to letter. Mr. Mantius cites on Amish man as if he represented all Amish farmers. (point of interest). There were dozens of Amish at Coalition meetings over the last four years. (vital point!) You have to wonder why he ignores the Freemont town meeting - where an overwhelming majority of town residents is a show of hands said they would sue if the town passed a moratorium - and with Mr. Slotje in attendance! So, those of us who have been fighting the antis, and all their half truths, for four years, continue to search for a term to describe our friends in the Anti-movement. In the name of civility we should probably not use any of the terms cited in the lead paragraph - and yet come of them are soooo tempting. Certainly "bikini-ists" doesn't do it. Maybe, in a show of respect to the Plains Indians, "buffalo chipsters". Even that probably doesn't do it. We'll just have to keep looking for that "perfect" descriptive word. Maybe we can get beyond the negative "Anti"; after all, "anti" just reveals a point of interest. Jeff Heller Chairman SCLOC - PAC
Tuesday, July 10, 2012
] A A Written by Jon Campbell Albany Bureau ALBANY -- Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday expressed support for "home rule" when it comes to natural-gas drilling, saying that a municipality’s support or opposition should factor into the decision-making process. In an interview on New York Public Radio, Cuomo addressed the issue because it has been the subject of two lawsuits and speculation as to whether local decision-making would play a role in whether drilling goes forward in a community. “I think it’s inarguable that one should take into consideration home rule, and if you have communities that have an expressed desire to proceed, I think that should be taken into consideration if you decide to go down this road at all,” Cuomo said. “Obviously, if a community says that they oppose it, that should be taken into consideration.” Cuomo’s comments come after state Department of Environmental Conservation officials have hinted in recent months that a community’s position on hydrofracking would be taken into account when deciding where to issue permits for the technique. High-volume hydrofracking permits have been on hold in New York until the DEC completes an environmental and regulatory review of the process, which involves the use of water, sand and chemicals injected into underground shale formations to release natural gas. Cuomo said that review should be completed “later this summer.” The debate over home rule has led to the passage of more than 100 municipal bans or moratoriums on hydrofracking or gas drilling, most of which are in the central New York and Finger Lakes region. Meanwhile, landowner coalitions have urged town boards to pass resolutions in support of gas drilling, focusing on towns in the deepest part of the Marcellus Shale region near the Pennsylvania border. In the end, whether municipal bans hold up could come down to the courts. A pair of state Supreme Court judges ruled that state law allows towns to ban the practice; both decisions are currently being appealed. Cuomo is believed to be considering allowing a limited amount of high-volume hydrofracking permits in five counties along the Southern Tier in the gas-rich Marcellus Shale -- Broome, Tioga, Chemung, Chenango and Steuben. And the state may place the permits only in municipalities that favor the drilling. Cuomo, a first-term Democrat, stressed that no final decisions have been made when it comes to whether allow hydrofracking at all. “I know (DEC is) working very hard, but I want them to do it on a professional timetable and not a political timetable,” Cuomo said.
Tuesday, July 3, 2012
STATEMENT CLARIFYING JLCNY INTERPRETION OF THE POTENTIAL FINAL SGEIS & PLAN FOR PERMITTING As you may know, the Cuomo Administration signaled its support for a natural gas development plan that would allow gas drilling to begin in a handful of New York counties in the Southern Tier. The announcement, which was first described in broad strokes by a published report in The New York Times (“Cuomo Proposal Would Restrict Gas Drilling to a Struggling Area,” 6/13/12), is an encouraging development for landowners who believe drilling provides a pathway to clean economic growth. People in New York State need to see development activity safely underway before reasonably extending it to other regions. Since the announcement contained some ambiguity, it also produced uncertainty and confusion over exactly what this plan means for future natural gas production in New York State. Ultimately only the Governor can provide additional clarity around his proposal; however, as far as the Joint Landowners Coalition of New York (JLCNY) is concerned, we believe the Governor’s announcement makes clear that development is coming. More specifically, we believe: The state, not local communities, will remain in control of setting standards for development. As we’ve said in the past, and that has been reinforced in many local government resolutions, municipalities lack the expertise and resources to conduct the comprehensive regulatory supervision that natural gas development requires. Only the state, and specifically, the Department of Environmental Conservation, has the adequate know‐how to oversee natural gas production. We remain confident that the Governor will authorize responsible state led regulation and permitting of natural gas development. The authority of local bans and moratoria will be determined by the judicial branch. Local bans or moratoria will hold no power over the state’s permitting decisions, unless the courts grant communities that right. The DEC will treat all permits equally, and in accordance with the law. While the Governor’s Administration may focus initial permitting to those areas that have vocalized support for clear state led safeguards, it does not mean state agencies will prohibit permitting where the law and its guidelines allow mineral resource development. The JLCNY is hopeful that the polarized debate over natural gas development is finally being dictated by facts and moving toward clear definitive action – rather than prolonged inaction – by the state. It’s very clear to us that momentum at the local level is shifting in favor of development, as more and more local municipalities pass resolutions in support of state control over gas drilling. And it’s very clear to us that the Governor has taken note and is taking steps to bring responsible energy and related job development to upstate New York. The 70,000 members of the JLCNY remain committed to responsible natural gas development in New York, and we are confident that the State of New York under Governor Cuomo’s leadership is moving toward implementing guidelines under the fundamentals outlined above.