Saturday, August 25, 2012

Mayor Bloomberg Backs Responsible Extraction of Natural Gas

Bloomberg Backs ‘Responsible’ Extraction of Gas and Pays to Help Set Up Rules. By MIREYA NAVARRO Published: August 24, 2012 After giving away a chunk of his personal fortune to the cause of eliminating coal-fired power plants, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg is opening his checkbook in support of “responsible” extraction of natural gas by hydraulic fracturing. . In an op-ed article in The Washington Post on Friday, the mayor came out strongly in favor of natural gas extraction through the controversial drilling process, known as fracking, as a way to lower utility bills, spur economic growth and reduce the nation’s dependence on coal. But the mayor said the drilling should take place under “common sense” regulations, to minimize environmental harm. To “jump start” that effort, Bloomberg Philanthropies announced Friday that it was giving a $6 million grant to the Environmental Defense Fund to help secure strong rules in 14 states that account for 85 percent of the gas reserves accessible through fracking. Mr. Bloomberg wrote the article with George P. Mitchell, the Texas gas producer who pioneered the technology of hydraulic fracturing of shale rock, combined with horizontal drilling, in the 1990s. They wrote that their intention was to promote “the sensible center” in the charged debate over fracking. But in doing so, Mr. Bloomberg has injected himself into the most polarizing environmental debate facing New York State, at a time when the administration of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo is deciding where and how to allow fracking. It is uncertain when a decision will be announced. The governor’s office did not respond to requests for comment on the mayor’s position. But the mayor’s words immediately drew a rebuke from environmentalists, who say no amount of regulation would make fracking safe and are seeking an outright ban on drilling. “He speaks for himself, not the upstate New Yorkers who would be most directly and most immediately affected by fracking,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food and Water Watch, one of the most active antifracking groups in the country. Mayor Bloomberg has long opposed fracturing in or near the city’s watershed in upstate New York, largely in the Catskills, which supplies drinking water to nine million people in the city and nearby counties. The city succeeded in getting the state to agree to a ban in the watershed if fracking is allowed. Deputy Mayor Caswell F. Holloway said the city had commissioned a study that showed there would be “serious risks” to the water supply if drilling were allowed in the watershed. He said Mr. Bloomberg is advocating that other water supplies be protected as well if they are found to be at similar risk. “When it comes to other water supplies, the mayor is calling for protection of groundwater and restrictions to protect those water supplies,” Mr. Holloway said. He has consistently supported more domestic use of natural gas as a way to reduce the country’s and the city’s greenhouse gas emissions. His administration is prodding buildings to switch to natural gas — which already supplies 57 percent of the city’s energy — by phasing out the dirtiest home-heating oils, and has backed construction of a just-approved interstate gas pipeline from Staten Island through New Jersey into the West Village in Manhattan. Last year, Mr. Bloomberg gave $50 million to a Sierra Club campaign to block new coal-fired power plants and eliminate existing ones. Mike Marinello, a spokesman for Bloomberg Philanthropies, said the mayor’s active support for natural gas was a next logical step. “Fracking for natural gas can be as good for our environment as it is for our economy and our wallets, but only if it’s done responsibly,” Mr. Bloomberg and Mr. Mitchell wrote. “The rapid expansion of fracking has invited legitimate concerns about its impact on water, air and climate — concerns that industry has attempted to gloss over.” The Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation has committed $1.6 million to this effort, with $400,000 going to the Environmental Defense Fund to help institute new or improved regulations in fracking states like Pennsylvania, Ohio and Texas, as well as in New York. Fred Krupp, president of the group, said t “the country is doing a lot of hydrofracking and we have an obligation to make sure that the neighbors and the environment are protected.” They outlined principles for safer extraction, including disclosing all chemicals used in fracking, minimizing water consumption and protecting groundwater, and reducing the impact on roads and ecosystems. Matthew T. Ryan, the mayor of Binghamton, N.Y., which is in Broome County, one of the areas of potential fracking in the state, said he would prefer that his colleague downstate use his money to lobby for a national energy policy that emphasizes renewable energy instead of more fossil fuels. “His water is protected,” he said of the mayor. “Ours isn’t

Monday, August 20, 2012

New York State to Allow Fracking

August 19, 2012 7:19 PM PrintText New York State to allow fracking ByJeff Glor (CBS News) The method of extracting natural gas from deep in the earth known as "fracking" has dramatically changed the U.S. energy industry, but as more wells are drilled, protests have continued. The latest flashpoint is New York State, which has been a fracking holdout. CBS News has learned that New York is about to okay fracking, and will issue guidelines after Labor Day. As this happens, the debate continues. The days are long and grueling for upstate New York dairy farmers John and Teresa Lyons. Lyons Hill Farm -- in the family for over 150 years -- is struggling. A 2009 barn fire put the family into debt, and recently milk prices have sunk. The Lyons say they are losing $7000 per month "The way the economy is there would be a great chance to lose the entire farm," Teresa said. The Lyons are relying on one hope: that New York State makes a decision soon that would allow gas drilling on their farm. "The money would be a great blessing," John Lyons said. The Lyons' farm sits on top of the Marcellus Shale Formation containing natural gas deep underground that stretches from Tennessee to New York. The gas is extracted by way of hydraulic fracturing or "fracking", which involves millions of gallons of sand, water and potentially toxic chemicals blasted deep into the earth, shattering underground shale and freeing natural gas for collection. On the Pennsylvania side, property owners are expected to make more than $2 billion this year leasing land to the gas drilling companies. But in New York, fracking has been on hold for four years. "When I think about the money I'm standing on, it would be like someone standing on the bank knowing they have million dollars in it and no access to it," Teresa Lyons said. Environmental concerns have led to closer scrutiny of fracking. In Albany, New York's Department of Environmental Conservation -- responsible for writing the regulations - says if high-volume hydraulic fracturing moves forward in New York, it will do so with the strictest standards in the nation. Many New Yorkers, however, are saying not-so-fast. Sandra Steingraber, an environmental scientist, said that anyone -- even the Energy Secretary, the president and the EPA -- who says fracking can be done safely is wrong. "When you shatter the bedrock, it's not only full of methane, it's full of benzene, it's full of tylulene, its full of a lot of poisonous hydrocarbons. You blow that up and you put cocktail straws down into the ground to try to get the methane up, you create portals of contamination for other chemicals to come up into our ground water, aquifers and into air," Steingraber said. But the Lyons said they've seen safe drilling across the border and they'll take their chances to save the farm. "I drive to Pennsylvania and do not see a difference in the hay crop or the corn crop growing over there, just that they have a new tractor," John Lyons said.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

SCLOC-PAC-Minutes-August Meeting

The meeting was called to order at 7:00 p.m. by Chairman Jeff Heller at the Corning Natural Gas Blue Flame Room, Corning, N.Y. Present: Ken and LaVera Knowles, Dana Knowles, John Bloise, Jeff and Kathy Heller, Neil Vitale, Gordon Foster, Leo and Linda Knowles, Ellen Zver, Alice Gerow, Elaine and Bob Swiler, Rita Petras, Ed Heagle, Jim and Fran Rising, John Starzec, and Tim Olszowy. Neil had extra copies of the DVD "Truthland" for anyone to take that hadn't seen it or wanted to show to others. There were 87 people present at the showing of Truthland and panel discussion at the Corning American Legion on July 31st. Jeff talked of our presenters tonight from Syracuse University. Doctor Don Seigel discussed, fairly extensively, a pending water testing program. This was well received by the PAC members present and discussion continued until about 9:00 p.m. Next meeting was not scheduled. We will notify PAC members of that future date and location Respectfully Submitted, Linda J. Knowles

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Case for Natural Gas Exports

By MICHAEL A. LEVI Published: August 15, 2012 NEW data released last month signaled a milestone for American energy: natural gas joined coal as the top source of electric power. Gas production has boomed on the back of abundant supplies. That has spurred debates over hydraulic fracturing, a method to extract gas from shale. Times Topic: Natural Gas (Fracking) . A related political and economic debate has emerged. A string of companies have applied for permission to export liquefied natural gas, or L.N.G., to countries that don’t have special free-trade agreements with the United States. Under federal law, the Energy Department has to find such exports to be consistent with the “national interest” before they can occur, though the term isn’t clearly defined. Last week, more than 40 members of Congress urged President Obama to move forward with approval, citing the benefits of free trade and the prospect of creating more jobs as demand for exports leads to growth in gas production. Critics pose a contrary set of arguments. They fear that demand for gas exports might encourage hydraulic fracturing, threatening water supplies, and they worry that siphoning off domestic gas for export will raise costs for domestic consumers and disadvantage American manufacturers that benefit from low-cost fuel. There are also national security concerns. Some see an opportunity to frustrate the two biggest holders of natural gas reserves: Russia and Iran. Critics would prefer that natural gas be used to replace oil in American automobiles. In a recent study I estimated that American firms could make up to $3 billion per year by producing and exporting liquefied natural gas. It’s true that gas-dependent industries would have to pay more because of higher gas prices, but those costs would be substantially smaller than the benefits. But there are bigger stakes involved than just money. A decision to constrain natural-gas exports could have dangerous reverberations for American trade. For example, the United States has filed with the World Trade Organization a challenge to Chinese restrictions on exports of so-called rare earth minerals, which are crucial for new technologies like wind turbines, missiles and smartphones. If Washington hypocritically limits gas exports, it might as well write the Chinese brief. There are other problems with the opponents’ arguments. To truly keep America’s natural gas within our borders would require restrictions on exports to our big trade partners Canada and Mexico, and that would put the North American Free Trade Agreement at risk. Forswearing exports would also eliminate a valuable tool for American trade negotiators: countries like Japan want privileged access to United States gas, and American negotiators can seek concessions in return. At the same time, exports would likely reduce global greenhouse gas emissions. Moreover, the small price increases that would result from allowing exports would have at most a marginal impact on the use of natural gas as fuel for cars and trucks. Blocking exports wouldn’t push natural gas into automobiles — it would mostly keep it in the ground, because there would be less incentive to extract it. But the critics are right to point out that exporting natural gas could increase environmental risks to communities where natural gas is extracted. Even so, a recent report from the International Energy Agency makes clear that inexpensive steps could substantially mitigate those dangers. It will take years before any export terminals are up and running — in the meantime, producers and regulators should strengthen safeguards so that gas is extracted safely. Exports would also raise natural gas prices a bit, adding as much as $50 to the annual electric bills for the poorest American households by the end of the decade. But the federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program could help shield the most vulnerable as long as its financing is protected. The United States, which has imported natural gas for many years, has long benefited from a relatively open system for global trade in energy. Allowing natural-gas exports while protecting the environment and low-income consumers is the right way to go. Michael A. Levi is a senior fellow for energy and the environment at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Congressman Tom Reed, Nate Shinagawa Disagree on Fracking

By Devin Demarco and Christine Loman Evening Tribune Albany, NY — Congressman Tom Reed (R-C, Big Flats) and his opponent Nate Shinagawa differed sharply Monday on hydrofracking and its potential to create jobs in the area. Reed said in a conference call that he supports the growth of Marcellus Shale industry in upstate New York, because he believes it will lead to an influx of new jobs. "The Marcellus Shale development in our area, and in the Northern Tier of Pennsylvania, requires and demands local labor," said Reed. Reed said that the gas industry will need to hire local workers because they are running out of their own workers to bring into the area. Shinagawa said he doesn't think the focus should be on the gas industry specifically when trying to create jobs. "Fracking shouldn't create blinders to other, safer industries in New York," Shinagawa said. Shinagawa said the focus should be on incentivizing manufacturing, as well as investing in renewable energy. Increasing the funding of local schools and community colleges could positively affect the job market, he said. Reed, however, was clear in welcoming fracking to the area. "We want to make sure that we position ourselves to be in the best position to take advantage of the development of this resource as it develops in the northern tier of Pennsylvania, as well as potentially here in upstate New York," he said.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Driller to NY : Stop the Local Fracking Bans or We'll Sue

12:25 PM, Jul. 31, 2012 Written by MARY ESCH in Associated Press A natural gas drilling company is taking a new tack in the industry’s fight against local drilling bans: It’s threatening to sue if New York regulators don’t step in and extinguish the prohibitions. John Holko, president of Lenape Resources, sent a letter Thursday to state Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens saying a moratorium prohibiting natural gas development in the Livingston County town of Avon forced his company to shut down its wells there. The state enacted a drilling moratorium in 2008 when DEC began an environmental review of horizontal drilling and high-volume hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.” Lenape’s wells in Avon, however, are vertical wells that were not subject to that moratorium. The town law doesn’t distinguish between types of wells, but Town Supervisor David LeFeber said it was worded to protect Lenape’s existing wells. Regardless, Holko said Avon’s moratorium and others like it violate a 1981 law that says state rules supersede local ordinances in the regulation of gas development. “Lenape is trying to make it clear to DEC that the agency has a legal duty to carry out state law,” Michael Joy, Lenape’s lawyer, said on Monday. “That duty includes informing local municipal governments that they don’t have the authority to regulate the oil and gas industry.” In the past, DEC has sent letters to towns that enacted laws regulating oil and gas development, telling them they didn’t have the authority to do so. In its letter to Martens, Lenape attached one such correspondence, sent to the city of Olean in 1984. David Slottje, an Ithaca lawyer who helps towns draft moratoriums or bans on gas drilling, said in a letter to Martens on Tuesday that since two courts have upheld local bans, DEC doesn’t have to tell the towns to repeal them. More than 30 municipalities in upstate New York have passed bans on gas drilling and more than 80 have enacted moratoriums in anticipation of DEC completing its environmental review and lifting the 4-year-old state moratorium. The actions are in response to fears that fracking, which frees gas by injecting a well with chemically treated water at high pressure to crack rock deep underground, could contaminate water supplies or cause other harm. Drillers and DEC say state regulations and standard industry safeguards protect against harm from drilling and fracking. Martens has said that local ordinances will be taken into consideration when the agency approves permits for shale gas wells. Denver-based Anschutz Resources took the town of Dryden to court over its ban and a Middlefield landowner sued over that town’s ban. Both laws were upheld by judges who said bans are not regulation, so the state law against local regulation of gas development didn’t apply. Albany lawyer Tom West has said the decisions will be appealed. Local control over gas drilling has also been an issue in other states in the Marcellus Shale region, which includes southern New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia. The gas industry says local laws create a patchwork of regulation that thwarts development. A Pennsylvania court last week ruled that the state can’t restrict localities from using zoning laws to regulate oil and gas drilling within their borders. Ohio townships were stripped of regulatory authority over gas drilling under a law passed in 2004. Ordinances enacted by a handful of West Virginia communities to ban gas drilling were overturned last year by a judge who said the state has sole authority to regulate the industry. Morgantown, W. Va., enacted new zoning ordinances recently that restrict drilling to designated industrial zones; an industry group has said it may challenge that in court. Deborah Goldberg, an attorney for the environmental group Earthjustice who represents Dryden, said Lenape is wrong in saying DEC has an obligation to take enforcement action against towns that ban drilling. “To the contrary, the statute plainly gives the agency discretion over enforcement,” Goldberg said via email. “Under the circumstances, it would be a waste of scarce resources if DEC were to take action before the appellate courts resolve the pre-emption claims.” DEC apparently agrees. “The scope of the pre-emption must be left to the courts,” DEC spokeswoman Emily DeSantis said by email. Lenape said if DEC doesn’t take action against the town of Avon, the company will do so and will name DEC as a party in the lawsuit. Lenape’s broader goal is to send a message to other municipalities that they don’t have the authority to enact gas development bans or moratoriums, Joy said.