Sunday, June 30, 2013
Overall, our situation as landowners is not very good. However, even though I feel the negative features outweigh the positive, we should bear in mind that there is some hope! I'd like to look at some of the stronger points - for and against us. We are at the mercy of a governor that I now have no confidence in at all. Under this clown the most positive thing that could happen to us would be for him to lift the moratorium. If he doesn't lift it totally - which I don't think he would - he could lift it "in the towns that want it." For most of the Southern Tier this would in theory open us up to drilling. We know that the majority of towns across the southern area of the Southern Tier support drilling. However, the key word there is "we", and that may not include the drilling companies. Which leads us to what in many ways may be our biggest problem. The Home Rule issue in our state may be a larger problem than our governor. As that issue now stands, through the first level of appellate courts, three votes on any town board can reverse any prior positive vote on drilling in a town. This probably scares the beejeebers out of a lot of drillers. Why should they invest millions in a town only to have it taken away by a vote of three town board members. I like to think there are some ways to work around this, but that is a huge area of discussion - not for us right now. For example: some sort of entirely different lease agreements; some sort of new commitment from towns; studies or surveys that show how dependably pro-drilling an area is, etc. This is actually a very broad subject area - leading to positives and negatives. On the positive side we know that the majority of our towns support drilling already. We also should be able to assume that that support is going to increase. I can say that, I think, because nationally the news on energy is almost totally positive on natural gas. As more and more residents realize that what they have been seeing in the local newspapers is flagrantly not true, they will become more and more supportive. So far, thanks to the total lack of objectivity in the local media, the environmentalists have had it all their way. Support for drilling grows steadily - and that should increase support for moratoriums. It's also safe to assume that once drilling starts anywhere in the Southern Tier, and people see the benefits, that support will grow - both with residents and the drillers. Another positive for us is the fact that New York stands alone in it's opposition to drilling. Again, as the "good news" soaks in more and more, we should see more and more support for our cause. Related to that, our governor, has to see that he stands almost totally alone on this issue! I don't know how long he can get away with putting more emphasis on Yoko Ono than the working stiffs of New York. Every other governor sitting on a shale play, including several liberals, are in strong support of fracking. Another positive: we are sitting on top of 20 to 30% of the Marcellus Shale, plus an unknown % of the Utica - but it should be significant. That asset is there for the indefinite future, and we still have a better infrastructure for gas drilling than Pa. - even after five years of drilling down there. This is not good news for those of us who need money now. But it is an asset and should play a role for future family generations, or for sale value for those of us who want to, or must, sell. A negative and positive: the low price of natural gas is killing us. However, there are a lot of reasons to believe that prices are going to continue going up. The market is totally flooded right now, and for the near future. This could also be called our biggest problem right now. But on this one there are several reasons to believe the situation will improve in our favor - just not very quickly. A probable positive: as the positive environmental effects of burning more and more natural gas, especially in place of coal, become more apparent, more and more rational environmentalists will back away from the radical positions. Now, a bunch of negatives: First and foremost is the basic political reality of New York - we are a totally, radically, hopelessly, liberal state! We have passed California!! "Old" liberals supported the working stiffs - the new liberals support the likes of Yoko Ono! Cuomo is obviously more concerned about the support of Yoko and her ilk than he is about us. The urban voters outnumber us by a huge margin in New York - at least 2 to 1. Someone in our group once pointed out that landowners of more than 10 acres are 2% of the population! As long as we are a democracy - one man, one vote - we are not just a minority, we hardly exist! We get to pay the bills, the urban voters get to tell us what those bills will be. Others already discussed: Low gas prices , flooded market, Home Rule, the appellate courts, state politics, our governor. For right now, and I stress right now, I would say the negatives outweigh the positives. Not good news for us. However, when you consider all the positives working in the background, I think we can still hope for a win - it just won't be very soon. For now, 3 to 5 years is probably as good a guess as any. And one "morbid" positive: In all probability, even if Cuomo lifted the moratorium tomorrow, and all the towns made it clear they wanted gas drilling, the drillers still wouldn't come, due to the market situation. So, in a morbid sense, you could say the moratorium and our wacko governor are not really hurting our interests. The proper response to that idea is that New York should have been drilling in 08 - like the rest of the world! Just think where we might be! WELCOME TO NEW YORK!!
Monday, June 24, 2013 SCLOC Political Action Committee Minutes. The meeting was called to order at 7:00 p.m. by Chairman Jeff Heller at the Thurston Town Hall. Present: Jeff and Kathy Heller, Kenny and LaVera Knowles, David and Karen Ballard, Dana Knowles, Gordon Foster, Leo and Linda Knowles, Mary Hickey, Peter Olausson, Jim and Fran Rising, John Starzec, and Mariann Millan, guest. Jeff talked that it has been a long time since last meetings. (February 11, 2013 Movie night and September 23, 2012 regular meeting) Gov. Cuomo just keeps stalling….No real news to meet on yet…. The Hellers and Ballards are looking at another summer picnic like we had in 2011 :-) They are working on a date in September and will send an e-mail out when all is set. Signs: There are some left if anyone needs any. Please try to get out as many as possible. The more people see, the more positive thoughts in general on drilling. Contact Dana if you need any. Jeff talked about our situation in general. He handed out an outline and read his synopsis on that. (see attached) The news on energy is mostly positive. He feels support will grow with positive media. We are hoping for a win but don’t expect before 3-5 years. Due to market price of gas, if the moratoriums were lifted and the Governor ok’d drilling, the drillers would not come right away. The JLC lawsuit is in process. Sufficient funds were received to proceed, with a large portion of that coming from Steuben County. They continue to ask for funds as more is needed before litigation begins. Mary said JLC will be issuing a press release soon. Jeff talked on the future of SCLOC. We are continuing as a PAC. In May 2008 the concept was to help landowners. That evolved and is falling back to helping landowners with leasing. We need to do some work at the next town elections. Peter will get a listing of potential candidates. It’s not a Republican/Democrat thing but getting the right votes in the interest of the landowners vs. environmentalists. The movie, Frack Nation, is very effective. As soon as it is available we would like to have showings to the public. Mary said it should be out soon. Jeff said it is 1 hour 20 minutes long so we would need to get to bigger town halls, Rod & Gun clubs, and other public places. It is too long for local town meetings. Next meeting will be held when we have something serious to discuss. Jeff assured, the Coalition is alive and well and we are working on things. Kenny made some general comments. Ed Busick is still active. BTO is ready to move in a moment. Jeff will write a general positive update to SCLOC members and Mary will e-mail that out. This meeting ended at 8:15 p.m. Respectfully Submitted, Linda J. Knowles Secretary
Tuesday, June 18, 2013
To the Editor: Is it possible Abe Lincoln foresaw the ridiculous political situation in New York ? Could he have anticipated that 5% of the land mass of the state would have total control over the other 95% ? Could he have anticipated that demographically, under "one man, one vote", it would be impossible for that situation to improve for the minority ? Could he have foreseen that Ithaca, (even more than New York City !) , would consistently vote to the left of Moscow ? Could he have foreseen that a liberal/environmentalist coalition would take away the mineral rights of all the landowners in the state ? Even recognizing that Lincoln was one of our sharpest presidents (not bad for a second or third grade education !), he could not have been that sharp - could he ? " If, by the mere force of numbers, a majority should deprive a minority of any clearly written constitutional right, it might, in a moral point of view, justify revolution - certainly would, if such right were a vital one." - Lincoln's 1st inaugural address. I have not really researched the gory details of this speech. However, he could not have been referring to the right of secession from the Union - he was already committed to fighting a war to invalidate that right. I would assume he was more likely thinking about West Virginia. West Virginians were in the process of separating (seceding ?) from Virginia - that is state from state. Virginia (substitute liberal New York City) did not represent the interests of the people of western Virginia (substitute "upstate" New York). We should also be watching what's going on in Colorado - a fairly serious movement to create a northern state - separate from that part of the state that no longer represents the interests of the north. (Sound vaguely familiar ?) This in spite of the fact that Colorado is in excellent economic/fiscal shape, compared to New York. Even the political divide is not as severe as here. Ok, it's a little early to think about names for our new state - but what the heck! North &West New York - too verbal? Upstate New York - most accurate, but doesn't ring right. Second New York - nice play on the different philosophies on the Second Amendment, but really doesn't sound right. New Amsterdam - too historical, and it's been used before. Right New York - most descriptive, for political philosophy, economics, fiscal policies, common sense, etc. All kidding aside: some of us are very, very bitter about what the "down state" majority are doing to us. We have basically three choices - flight, statehood change, or acceptance. To those of us who have lost our mineral rights, and those of us who have lost our Second Amendment rights, our choices are getting more and more limited. For now, flight is the most realistic. Jeff Heller
Friday, June 7, 2013
What the heck just happened in New York State ? Here we sit on top of one or two of the richest shale plays in the world, and all we're doing is watching all the other states (roughly thirty !) take advantage of their opportunities. You can't even pretend that the explanation for New York's plight is scientific, or based on history in the other states. That history proves , beyond any shadow of a doubt, that hydraulic fracturing is safe. "Safe" defined here as safe enough that it is idiotic to define it otherwise. Much the same as driving a car is "safe", that does not mean that it is totally risk free. It means that the benefits outweigh the risks. It would be idiotic to refuse to take a job that would provide a much better living for your family only because you felt driving to work was not "safe". In effect, this is exactly what the "environmentalists" and liberal politicians are doing on natural gas drilling in New York. Why is New York the only state that is not taking advantage of its shale play ? Is New York the only place in the country where, for some special reason, it is unsafe to drill?Are we to believe that all the other states that are drilling have no concern for the environment ? The "environmentalists" would have you believe that all those states are experiencing massive devastation. There is no evidence to support those charges from any state environmental agency, or the EPA ! We all know the "environmentalists" live on half-truths or flagrant non-truths ( some less politically correct would say lies ). The ultimate proof of this is what they have managed to do to make "Fracking" the new ultimate curse word . This has been an extremely effective campaign - and all with no responsible scientific proof or objective historic evidence. In fact, or in truth, hydraulic fracturing has never , repeat never, been verified as a cause of any form of water pollution. Even the EPA , which has tried valiantly to prove it has, has had to back off in its three attempts to associate fracturing with water pollution. The behavior of the "environmentalists", the media, and the liberal politicians on this subject has been nothing short of sickening ! For those of us who are "recovering environmentalists" their behavior has been criminal - they have stolen our best chance for a fairly rapid economic recovery here in the Southern Tier. The motivation of the "environmentalists" you can, at least to some degree, understand. They intend to protect Mother Earth from the ultimate villain - MAN! These are the folks who believe Al Gore is a scientist and Yoko Ono is an artist ! The liberal politicians are a little harder to explain - but only a little. Their ultimate goal in their political career is to get reelected. ( You probably thought it was "public service"!) In New York, unlike even California and Illinois, liberals are convinced the votes and the money are with the "environmentalists". By tradition liberals are supposed to represent the working man - and woman ! Gas drilling would bring thousands of jobs, tax revenue to support entitlement programs, tax revenue for other tax burdens (schools, roads, services,etc.) cheaper energy for lowering heating costs, and lower energy costs to encourage the growth of industry and industrial jobs in our area - all of this well proven as close as Pennsylvania . Thousands of New Yorkers can literally see that prosperity from their front porches. But our liberal politicians who are supposed to represent the interests of those working New Yorkers are choosing instead to support the likes of Yoko Ono ! Natural gas from the Marcellus Shale has the potential to lower heating costs in New York City significantly - a huge savings for every single person who has to heat something! So why in the world are these liberal politicians more concerned about Yoko Ono than New York's working stiffs ? The answer to that is that todays New York Democratic Party is not the Democratic Party of a few decades ago. They still pay lip service to the working class, but when they have to choose between jobs and Yoko Ono it's all over! How sad is that? For the blue collar worker, how infuriating is that? It should be enough to create a whole new wave of what was once called "Reagan Democrats." In fact, in view of all the damage these "environmentalists" and their liberal supporters are doing to our state, it should create a tidal wave! The Manhattan Institute has just released a report (5/13) stating that the moratorium in New York has, or will, cost the Southern Tier counties as much as $8 Billion (yes that's a "B") in four years. Those numbers actually seem conservative. With New York's infrastructure (Roads, Railroads, Pipelines) so much better than northern Pennsylvania's it's fairly safe to assume that had New York started drilling in 08, when Pa. did, we would have experienced at least as much economic activity as Pa. has over the last five years. In fact, with our Title V in our tax code, and nothing like it in Pennsylvania, our counties, towns, and school districts would have benefited even more than Pa.'s have! Some state propaganda agency is currently running commercials on TV saying how great the business climate is in New York. 'We're adding tens of thousands of jobs and new businesses.' 'The Yogurt industry is going to pull the Southern Tier out of it's poor economic state' - that last one from our Governor! Here in Steuben County our unemployment rate is "down" to 12% - and still climbing! Is there really anybody out there who believes this kind of hogwash ( no insult intended to hogs) from our state leaders? A recent national poll of businessmen placed New York last (that's 50th) as a location for business. Is it possible that businessmen from around the country see something our Governor is not seeing? It's hard to say how much these "environmentalists" and liberal politicians have really cost us here in New York. Besides all of the lost revenue since 08 we have to consider the long range harm they have done. There is a line of thinking that the gas companies now have very little interest in New York State. The political atmosphere here is worse than in any other state- even worse then California! This represents an absolutely amazing situation. In many ways New York is the worst state in the Union. The "environmentalists" are excited about this! They wear it on their sleeves like a badge of honor! They are absolutely giddy about being the cause of so much misery for so many people! Is there any hope for improvement in the situation here in New York - especially here in the Southern Tier? As long as we live under the principal of " one man, one vote", we are probably in a hopeless political reality. The five percent or so of the state's land mass that includes New York city, will always outvote, and therefore control, the 95% or so of the rest of the state. Secession is almost certainly out of the question, and that would be the only realistic way for upstate residents to get out from under the domination of the urban liberals. In a very real political sense they are from Mars and we are from Venus. On a state - wide level there could be some hope that the Democratic Party could move far enough left that they lose more and more of their "working stiff" base. The Democratic Party has always been perceived as the party of labor - and it still fundamentally is today. Today however, many of those liberals will side with the " environmentalists" over labor every time. The Keystone Pipeline on the national level, and gas drilling in New York state, are prefect examples of this. As more and more evidence accumulates on the benefits of gas drilling in other states more and more blue collar Democrats are going to convert to the other side. It is possible the Democratic Party could move back towards the center - much as it did under the DLC and Bill Clinton. However, there is really no sign of that happening now - especially here in New York. Cuomo now stands totally alone among Democratic leaders nationally in his opposition to hydraulic fracturing. We can only conclude that Governor Cuomo prefers to sacrifice a huge section of his state for the support of Yoko Ono! The most effective area where the residents of the Southern Tier, and upstate in general, can have some effect on their destiny is in local elections. In the county and town level elections we must, repeat must, learn to vote in our own interests. These are the elections that traditionally get the smallest turn-outs. This must change! These low turn-out rates enable the "environmentalists" to win elections they really should not be winning. Too many of our "working stiffs" feel they don't have the time to vote, or that their votes are not important. This is fatal to our, or their, interests. You must get out to vote. You must work on everyone you know who shares your values, to get out to vote. Local elections are often won or lost by very small margins - sometimes by a dozen or fewer votes. For the lack of a very few votes in your local elections you can lose your hopes for economic improvement! It' s that simple. You must vote for your interests. It takes as few as three votes ( yes 3 votes!) on a town board to destroy your hopes - and your rights. If you are a land owner and three board members vote for a ban or a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing, you just lost all your mineral rights! Three "environmentalists" just took away all your mineral rights. If it comes down to New York saying they are going to allow drilling, but only in the towns that want it, your local town elections become critical. So far there is a tendency for the bans and moratoriums to be outside the area where drilling would occur. However, every town that passes a ban or moratorium in an area surrounded by towns that favor gas drilling has an effect on those other towns - and it's not good! Previously state law prevented towns from interfering with any gas extraction approved by the state. However, recent judicial decisions appear to be overturning state law. New York may soon be the only state in the Union allowing a small minority of towns to destroy the economic opportunities of all their neighbors. "Welcome to New York!" Jeff Heller - President SCLOC Steuben County Land Owners Coalition