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11/30/2009
NYSEG gets $29M for advanced energy storage project
Four New York advanced energy projects, including one in Watkins Glen, will receive $88 million in funding to support smart-grid and energy storage projects.

The funding is part of the federal economic stimulus program, formally known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

New York State Electric and Gas Corp. received $29.6 million for one of 16 awards nationwide to help fund energy storage projects that will enhance reliability and efficiency of the grid, while reducing the need for new electricity plants, according to the office of Gov. David Paterson.

NYSEG’s award will help the advanced 150-megawatt facility that utilizes an underground salt cavern to store compressed air.

This demonstration site at Watkins Glen, Schuyler County, combines with a smart-grid control system that will improve grid reliability and provide a resource to accept wind-generated power, Paterson’s office said.
GOVERNOR PATERSON ANNOUNCES $88 MILLION IN FEDERAL FUNDING FOR FOUR NEW YORK ADVANCED ENERGY PROJECTS
Governor David A. Paterson today announced that four New York advanced-energy projects will receive more than $88 million in funding to support Smart Grid demonstration and energy storage projects through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. These projects were competitively selected with 28 other projects funded nationwide to help build a smarter, more efficient and more resilient electrical grid.

New York strengthened the applications by pledging a 10 percent match or $8.8 million from New York’s Innovation Economy Matching Grants Program. In total, the awards of $620 million announced Tuesday by U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu will be leveraged with $1 billion in funds from the private sector to support more than $1.6 billion in total Smart Grid projects nationally.

“The fact that our State is well represented among the states in receiving these funds is testament to New York’s position as leader in the New Economy. Smart Grid and energy storage efforts are critical pieces of my ‘45 by 15’ energy efficiency and renewable energy goals, and continue our path to creating a stronger clean energy economy and a cleaner environment for all New Yorkers,” Governor Paterson said. “Three State authorities, including NYSERDA, LIPA and NYPA, are actively involved in these projects, and we are proud of the recognition they have received. I applaud President Obama, Energy Secretary Steven Chu and our entire Congressional Delegation for their work to secure these critical funds that promote economic recovery, development and environmental stewardship.”

The funding awards are divided into two topic areas. In the first group, New York received three out of 16 awards nationwide to support fully integrated, regional Smart Grid demonstrations. These included:

(Click to read the entire article)
11/28/2009
Many stakeholders to gather for Marcellus Shale summit Monday
It's hard to get environmental advocates and natural gas industry officials together in one room, let alone on the same panel.

Both of those things are scheduled to happen Monday, when Cornell Cooperative Extension holds a summit on Marcellus Shale development in the Southern Tier. The massive geological formation, running under the Southern Tier and throughout Pennsylvania, holds the largest natural gas resource in the country. Its full-scaled development carries the prospects of significant changes to the region's landscape and economy.

Regulators, geologists, lawyers, emergency responders, landowners, municipal officials, economic developers and other stakeholders are scheduled to meet at the Owego Treadway Inn for a day-long summit on the impact of Marcellus development. The event, open to the public, begins at 9 a.m., with registration at 8:15 a.m.

"There are many different perspectives to this, and we are trying to present them all," said Andy Fagan, director of Cornell Cooperative Extension offices covering Tioga and Chemung counties.

(Click to read the entire article)
Seneca Falls Power Co. loses appeal on Seneca Lake water level
A federal agency has sided with Seneca Lake residents and landowners against a power company found to be drawing too much water from the lake for its hydroelectric operations, two congressman announced Wednesday.

According to U.S. Reps. Michael Arcuri, D-Utica, and Eric Massa, D-Corning, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) denied an appeal by Seneca Falls Power Co. of a previous ruling that the company drained more water than allowed in its permit.

Residents around Seneca Lake complained in 2008 to Arcuri and Massa about lower-than-normal water levels in the lake, making it difficult to move boats in and out of marinas and hoists, among other difficulties.

FERC investigated in April and issued a compliance order July 16 that the company had been draining more water than allowed from Seneca Lake to operate its hydropower operations at the lake's northern end.

(Click to read the entire article)
Local governments might not bear financial burden of gas drilling oversight
Who's going to pay to ensure local water wells are not polluted by Marcellus Shale drilling?

State officials say they are still trying to figure that out, but area counties may be off the hook.

The state's proposal that would require local health departments to oversee gas drilling is being reconsidered in light of an order by Gov. David Paterson.

That order, signed in April, prohibits state mandates on municipalities without assessing their full economic impact, including costs and benefits.

Claudia Hutton, head of public affairs for the state Department of Health, said the governor's policy has led to rethinking a regulatory proposal by the DEC that would leave oversight of water quality testing in drilling zones to local health departments.

(Click to read the entire article)
11/27/2009
Report Outlines Best Practices for Connecting Renewables to the Grid
A new report on state renewable energy regulations gives California, Colorado, New Jersey and Oregon top marks and failing grades for Georgia, Idaho and Texas.

“Freeing the Grid,” which was written by renewables advocates, examines each state’s policies on net metering and interconnection procedures. Those are two of the main regulatory elements that enable homeowners and businesses to connect solar panels or other energy technologies to the electric grid, and be reimbursed for their efforts.

“If not implemented fairly or properly, these policies can pose a barrier to the development of customer-sited renewable energy,’’ the report states. Some customers, it noted, encounter “byzantine” regulations.

The report, released on Tuesday, was prepared by two nonprofit groups, Network for New Energy Choices and the Vote Solar Initiative. It lays out suggested guidelines to facilitate the adoption of renewable energy. The groups are hoping for improvement to existing state regulations, and ultimately for a favorable federal policy.

(Click to read the entire article)
Study of the Effect of Employment of Public Aid to Renewable Energy Sources
Spain’s Self-inflicted Economic Wounds from “Green Jobs” Regimes

…for every renewable energy job that the State manages to finance, we can be confident that on average 2.2 jobs will be destroyed, to which we have to add those jobs that the non-subsidized investment would have created.

(Click to read the report)
Gas drilling may shift lending landscape
The expected boom in natural gas leasing has some local lending institutions reconsidering their mortgage policies.

And local borrowers who stand to make a lot of money from leasing their potential gas rich properties to energy companies are concerned, lenders say.

"Our switchboards have been lighting up," said Frank E. Berrish, president and chief executive officer of Visions Federal Credit Union, headquartered in Endicott.

"There has been concern and confusion."

Berrish may be getting more calls than other lenders about the gas lease issue. Visions holds more mortgages in Broome and Tioga counties than any other lending institution, the credit union president said.

At issue is how the leasing or selling of gas and mineral rights could affect the value of the mortgaged property.

(Click to read the entire article)
11/26/2009
Horseheads couple sues gas services company
A Horseheads couple has filed a $5 million lawsuit against a gas drilling services company that located next to their home and has become a constant source of noise, diesel fumes and other inconveniences.

The suit was filed this week in Chemung County's state Supreme Court by David and Deborah Harnas, 145 Old Ithaca Road, against Gas Field Specialists Inc., located in The Center at Horseheads industrial park. In addition to punitive damages, the lawsuit also seeks to have the Pennsylvania-based company cease its Horseheads operations.

The Harnases' attorney, Luciano Lama of Ithaca, said the couple contacted him about two weeks ago after unsuccessfully taking their concerns to Horseheads village officials. Lama said he and his clients will "be looking at the village next."

The Harnases' lawsuit is assigned to Supreme Court Justice Judy O'Shea. A hearing date has been set for Dec. 22, Lama said. The filing also requested a temporary restraining order be placed against the company while the lawsuit works its way through the court, but O'Shea did not grant the order. Lama said that issue will be one of his first orders of business at the December hearing.

(Click to read the entire article)
11/25/2009
Smart grid is still an option
ALBANY -- National Grid is not giving up on its plans for a "smart grid" demonstration project in upstate New York.

The London-based utility recently lost out on $200 million in federal stimulus funding it was seeking for projects in New York and New England that would have allowed it to test new technologies such as advanced meters and plug-in electric cars that make up what's generally called the "smart grid."
The New York portion of the project -- expected to cost $250 million -- would have taken place in Saratoga County and a small portion of Schenectady County, as well as parts of the Syracuse area.

Half the funding would have come from the Department of Energy through the stimulus package, and the other half would have come from utility customers.

However, National Grid was not among the chosen when President Barack Obama announced $3.4 billion in smart grid funding for 100 projects across the country on Oct. 27.

But National Grid is now telling state regulators that it may try to do a scaled-down version of its smart grid pilot, although how it would pay for the project remains unclear.

(Click to read the entire article)
Marcellus Shale: Pipe dreams in Pennsylvania?
When the natural gas companies descended on Pennsylvania's Marcellus Shale two years ago, it felt like a Gold Rush. And everyone seemed to be hitting pay dirt.

Landowners, many in long-depressed regions, rushed to lease their property, betting the promised royalties would better their lot. Mayors rejoiced that restaurants and hotels were full after decades of barely hanging on. Legislators talked of thousands of new jobs.

Even some environmentalists were pleased-natural gas burns clean, it's plentiful and it's local. Finally, it seemed, an energy source had come along that would wean Americans off their foreign oil addiction, fight climate change and boost the economy.

But now, with nearly 700 Marcellus wells drilled throughout the state, the environmental costs of drilling are becoming clear. The gas in the Marcellus "play" may ameliorate the United States' energy needs, but the technique to extract it has damaged streams, water supplies and Pennsylvania's famous forests. It has transformed some of the state's most beautiful landscapes into industrial zones and brought hardship to some who thought it was their lifeline.

(Click to read the entire article)
Gas-drilling impact on land values uncertain
Will the lure of natural gas drilling leases attract modern-day prospectors to Tompkins County to buy up vacant land and drive up local property values? Or will the fear of industrial activity and environmental damage send potential homebuyers running for the hills, leading to a drop in the housing market?

It's a question county Assessor Jay Franklin is eager to answer, but one he suspects will take time to play out as the marketplace responds to the issue of the day.

As Franklin explained to municipal leaders at a meeting of the Tompkins County Council of Governments on Monday, the presence of new large-scale horizontal gas drilling in the area is just as likely to have a positive impact on property value as it does a negative one. And since his assessment calculations are based on fair market value, it's hard to predict what will happen.

"All of our decisions are data-driven. Until we have data, we are not seeing any positive or negative impact," Franklin said.

(Click to read entire article)
Marcellus shale, climate change, money, politics and the environment
After a flurry of leasing activity last summer provoked a frenzy of excitement among many landowners, things went very quiet later in the fall. One land agent working in Westfield remarked that many of the exploration companies had already leased the land they wanted, at least for the time being, and were just tying up loose ends, negotiating leases for property they needed for access, pipelines and such. That was, for the most part, the way things remained until now. R & R Energy Consulting in Lawrenceville (an energy consulting firm begun by Jackie Root and Earle Robbins, former Tioga County Penn State Cooperative Extension agent) explains this situation on its website. “An extremely weak economy, rising unemployment, a severe lack of credit and an abundance of fear and uncertainty created a crisis in the global economy in 2008, including the natural gas/oil industry. We saw leasing rates and royalties go from record highs to a standstill. The U.S. natural gas wellhead price (dollars per thousand cubic feet) dropped from $14 in June 2008 to just under $3 in late August 2009. Many companies saw their company stock prices drop by 50 percent or more. The S & P Index was off 37 percent, its worst result since 1937.”

The quietness may be coming to an end.

Experts at Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences reported this week that a fierce bidding war has doubled the prices being offered for leases in Pennsylvania. “Energy companies seem to be returning to the state and buying up drilling leases with a vengeance,” said Joann Kowalski, Penn State Extension economic development educator in Susquehanna County. “The proven performance of existing wells may have companies competing to lock up prime properties in the state’s Northern Tier.

“Word hit the street in September that Fortuna Energy was going to be paying the Friendsville Group $5,500 an acre for a five-year lease, with 20 percent royalties for producing wells,” Kowalski continued. “That was probably about twice the rate that had been offered up to that point.” She noted that Fortuna had not been buying leases in Susquehanna County before this – they were doing most of their work in Bradford County.
N.Y. penalizes gas-drilling firm
Fortuna Energy will relinquish acreage it unfairly claimed from more than 300 Southern Tier property owners in the fight over the gas-rich Marcellus Shale, according to the state attorney general's office.

While the settlement centers on practices of Fortuna, Attorney General Andrew Cuomo characterized the industry's tactics to acquire drilling acreage from property owners as misleading, bullying and deceptive.

"Many of these companies used their size and extensive resources to manipulate individual property owners," he said Tuesday. "This land grab must stop."

Fortuna, based in Elmira, agreed to pay the state $192,500 as part of the settlement.

(Click to read the entire article)
Fortuna used deceptive tactics
Horseheads, N.Y.

Fortuna Energy used deceptive and misleading tactics in negotiating natural gas drilling rights with landowners, according to a recent investigation by the state Attorney General’s Office.

The Horseheads-based company reached a settlement in which it agreed to stop using such tactics, which are prevalent in the industry, the Attorney General’s Office said Tuesday.

Beginning in April, Fortuna sent letters to several hundred area landowners whose leases with the company were about to expire, according to a press release. Most of the leases were for drilling rights in the gas-rich Marcellus Shale formation which runs deep beneath the Southern Tier.
The letters falsely stated that Fortuna had the right to extend these leases without the permission of the landowners, according to the AG.

Specifically, Fortuna falsely claimed that the leases contained provisions that allowed Fortuna to put the lease on hold until the company could obtain required horizontal drilling permits from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, according to the AG.

(Click to read the entire report)
11/24/2009
Fortuna fined for misleading lease holders
Albany, N.Y.

Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that his office has reached an agreement with Fortuna Energy, Inc. that will allow customers who were misled and ended up extending their natural gas leases with the company to renegotiate their terms. The settlement also stops Fortuna from
employing industry-prevalent misleading and deceptive tactics to secure from New York landowners.

The company also agreed to pay $192,500 to the state in connection with the settlement.
East Rochester out to tame the wind?
East Rochester officials are looking into wind power to help save on electricity costs.

Among the options under consideration are wind turbine units that look like giant flowers. They’re produced by WindTamer Corp., a relatively new business in Geneseo, Livingston County. Village Administrator Marty D’Ambrose said they sell for about $19,000 each, but that WindTamer has offered them to the village at $15,000 each.

D’Ambrose said Assemblyman David Koon, D-Perinton, who recently started working for WindTamer as vice president of engineering, brought the units to the attention of the village, which is also part of his district.

“He thought, knowing the village well, that this would be something that would be a good opportunity, and he was able to convince them to give us a cost break,” D’Ambrose said — noting Koon’s son, East Rochester Mayor Jason Koon, has “stated emphatically” that he would not participate in voting on the matter, should it come to a vote.

(Click to read the entire article)
11/22/2009
Marcellus Shale: Three power brokers take control of unleased land
Landowners have what gas companies need.

Gas companies have what landowners want.

So why are they both knocking on the office doors of three men who have come to hold the keys to the bulk of the Southern Tier's multi-billion dollar natural gas-drilling prospects?

Meet the Marcellus Shale power brokers.

Two are local attorneys representing landowner coalitions that control more than 120,000 acres in central Broome County. A third is a landman from Oklahoma, entrusted with drilling rights to 10,000 acres in Vestal. All are competing for the next mega-deal with energy companies staking out the heart of the Marcellus that runs under the Southern Tier.

* Chris Denton, an Elmira attorney, built a career on lease transactions long before the Marcellus became the prize. He was among the first in the game and has amassed the biggest local following. He represents coalitions holding unleased land in Windsor and Kirkwood, with 95,000 acres, a coalition in Tioga County, with about 65,000 acres, as well as other groups.

* Scott Kurkoski, a partner with Levene Gouldin & Thompson in Vestal, represents eight coalitions in Broome and Tioga counties with about 80,000 acres, including 18,000 acres in the towns of Binghamton and Conklin. He also represents groups in central New York.

* Dean Lowry, a principal in Llama Horizontal Drilling, is a gas and oil industry career man following the call of the Marcellus to Vestal. He controls leases of about 600 landowners who commissioned him to find a buyer for mineral rights to 9,859

(Click to read the entire article)
11/20/2009
Pa. residents sue gas driller over polluted wells
DIMOCK, Pa. - More than a dozen families have filed suit against one of the nation's largest natural gas drillers after the company polluted their water wells in northeastern Pennsylvania.

State environmental regulators fined Houston-based Cabot Oil & Gas Corp. for allowing gas to escape into groundwater supplies in rural Susquehanna County near the New York border. The Department of Environmental Protection says 13 wells were polluted.

Cabot agreed earlier this month to take steps to prevent a recurrence. The company also promised to restore or replace the affected water supplies.

The problem was discovered Jan. 1 when a well exploded at a home near Cabot's operations.

Cabot is among a slew of exploration companies that are drilling in the potentially lucrative Marcellus Shale formation.
Ithaca gas protesters: Payout not worth risk
ITHACA -- The hundreds of people milling outside the State Theatre Thursday night weren't waiting to see a show, but rather to hear comments about an issue that has taken center stage across Tompkins County and the Southern Tier: the potential for high-volume hydraulic natural gas drilling into the Marcellus Shale that runs underneath the region.

Doors opened an hour before a public hearing was scheduled to start, and within half an hour, the speaking slots were filled. The crowd was there to hear and make comment on the state's draft gas drilling environmental impact statement.

The Tompkins County Council of Governments had use of the space until 11 p.m., and with 85 people signed up to comment, it seemed likely they would fill all four hours.

About 1,000 more people packed into the 1,600-capacity theater to hear those comments, and in many cases cheer on the speakers as they expressed their concerns about the potential negative impacts of gas drilling on their health, the environment and the local economy. As of press time, no one had spoken in favor of drilling.

(Click to read the entire article)
Central Hudson claims second-lowest rates for residential customers
Central Hudson Gas & Electric used to boast it had the lowest bills in the state of any of the investor-owned utilities.

On Thursday, it said an industry report found its bills were the lowest for commercial and industrial customers and second-lowest for residential customers.

The Edison Electric Institute said commercial customers of Central Hudson, including small and mid-sized businesses, churches, schools and so on, paid electricity prices that were about 66 percent of the state average. Industrials were less than half the state average. Residential customers paid 15 percent below the state average, Central Hudson said in its statement.

For residential customers, the institute found Rochester Gas & Electric was lower than Central Hudson and New York State Electric and Gas was slightly higher. National Grid was slightly higher than NYSEG. The costliest utility was far and away Con Edison, which serves New York City and Westchester County.

(Click to read the entire)
Gas-drilling oversight reconsidered; burden may not fall to county
Who's going to pay to ensure local water wells are not polluted by Marcellus Shale drilling?

State officials said this week they are still trying to figure that out, but Broome County may be off the hook. The state's proposal that would require local health departments to oversee gas drilling is being reconsidered in light of an order by Gov. David Patterson.

That order, signed in April, prohibits state mandates on municipalities without assessing their full economic impact, including costs and benefits.

Claudia Hutton, head of public affairs for the state Department of Health, said the governor's policy has led to rethinking a regulatory proposal by the DEC that would leave oversight of water quality testing in drilling zones to local health departments.

"We're very mindful of the governor's concerns about the impact of costs to local governments," she said. "We haven't made a decision about how we're going to handle this."

(Click to read the entire article)
Gas drilling concerns aired at DEC hearing
Corning, N.Y.

A debate raging across the state took center stage in Corning on Wednesday evening as the state Department of Environmental Conservation held a public hearing on its new regulations for natural gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale.

Hundreds crowded the auditorium at Corning East High School, and dozens spoke passionately about their concerns. Many drew loud applause as others held up signs protesting the impending drilling boom in the Southern Tier, television cameras rolled and police officers watched.

The controversy centers around the Marcellus, a deep underground, previously untapped formation thought to contain the richest supply of gas in North America. Thousands of new wells are expected across upstate New York, and drilling them requires massive amounts of water mixed with toxic chemicals.

The process generates huge amounts of waste water and has been linked to a wide array of environmental problems. Opponents say the Marcellus boom will be on a much larger scale than drilling that has occurred here in the past, with heavy truck traffic and big areas of land being bulldozed.

But the boom is also expected to bring a windfall to landowners who sign gas leases, as well as a significant boost to the upstate New York economy. More than a year ago, the DEC was charged with updating its regulations, turning out an 800-page draft for review, and Wednesday’s public hearing in Corning was one of only a handful held across the state.

Many in attendance claimed the regulations weren’t nearly stringent enough.

(Click to read the entire article)
11/19/2009
Congressman Eric Massa requests that Governor Paterson extends the public comment period for hydro fracture drilling


WASHINGTON, D.C. - Last night, Rep. Eric Massa sent a letter to Governor David Paterson to request a 60 day extension for the public comment period on New York State's draft Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement regarding the process of hydraulic fracturing for natural gas. Massa's request would extend the public comment period from 60 days to 120 days. Massa's letter comes in response to the hundreds of requests for extension that constituents have voiced to the Congressional office. Link
Hydro-fracking forum held in Binghamton
BINGHAMTON, N.Y. -- The Community Science Institute, a non-profit group based out of Ithaca, detailed what they call the dangers of possible water contamination when it comes to hydro-fracking. The group held a public forum Wednesday night in Binghamton.

Speakers believe the DEC's environmental impact report isn't comprehensive enough.

"I think a little more time is warranted, the gas isn't going anywhere, it's been there millions of years, gas prices are at historic lows, supplies are at historic highs, so take a little time we only have one supply water," said Helen Slottje.

Once the public comment period is over, the DEC could elect to conduct further studies or begin issuing drilling permits.

Steuben County Green Party Joins Call for Gas Drilling Ban

Acting on our concerns about the extensive environmental and health damages that are likely to be caused by drilling gas wells in the Marcellus Shale if horizontal drilling and high pressure hydrofracturing are allowed in New York State, the Steuben County Green Party adopted a resolution November 16, 2009, calling on the state legislature to adopt a ban on permitting gas wells that use these techniques. In so doing, the party joins the Green Party of New York and 63 other groups across New York State calling for such a ban.

The resolution lists the reasons why the party is calling for a ban:

Because of our concerns that environmental and health damages lasting long beyond our lifetimes will extend across New York State if gas drilling is permitted using horizontal drilling and high pressure hydrofracturing,

Because damaging economic consequences to residential and commercial property values, tourism, agriculture, forestry, wineries, colleges and universities will result from damaging health effects,

Because the infrastructure costs of building and repairing roads, water treatment facilities, and other public services needed by the gas drilling industry will exceed the economic benefit to local communities,

Because New York State has no laws restricting industrial scale water withdrawals from our rivers, lakes and aquifers,

Because the citizens of New York are not protected from the toxic effects of oil and gas drilling by Federal and New York State environmental laws that apply to other industries,

Because the subsidies granted to oil and gas drilling promote the use of fossil fuels and undermine the development of conservation, efficiency, and renewable energy sources, and

Because the global warming effects of the methane in natural gas are many times greater than the global warming effects of carbon dioxide,

Be it resolved that the Steuben County Green Party calls on the New York State legislature to adopt a ban on permitting gas wells that use horizontal drilling and hydro-fracturing to release gas from tight sand and shale formations.

(Sign Petition)

Wind Act threatens our landscape
The recent acknowledgment by the National Geographic Society that the Berkshires are one of the earth’s 10 greatest tourist destinations (Berkshire Eagle Nov. 19) is a significant distinction. It highlights that our primary attraction is an intact natural landscape.

Protecting the Berkshire landscape has always been a concern of local zoning authorities, the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission, and numerous land preservation groups and citizen activists. Towards this end the Berkshires have time and again put an end to many proposals which would scar or blight our mellow landscape.

Today the commonwealth’s secretary of energy and environmental affairs has authored proposed legislation which has the potential of seeing over 700 wind turbines built on the Berkshire’s commanding ridgelines. The Wind Energy Siting Reform Act would effectively remove all local control over siting these behemoth turbines. The intent of this legislation is to shift the decision-making powers over the siting of these turbines from the municipalities to a newly forming Energy Facility Siting Board whose composition would be carefully screened so as to appear to represent Berkshire community and environmental interests. However you can bet your bottom dollar that when critical votes are taken by that board the utility interests will always come out on top.

Some years ago I served for six years on the commonwealth’s Energy Facility Siting Council whose board was composed so as to appear to represent community and environmental interests when in fact the majority of voting members had deep ties to the industry which they were called upon to regulate. In a word the proposed siting board is a sham and I would urge all those who love the Berkshire hills to call Sen. Downing and ask him to put this bill aside. His office phone number is (413) 442-4008. Thank you so much.

GEORGE S. WISLOCKI

Pittsfield

The writer is president emeritus of the Berkshire Natural Resources Council.

Voice Your Choice gone, but choices will remain
The five-year-old Voice Your Choice electricity program came to an end this year, but customers of Rochester Gas and Electric Corp. will have an ongoing opportunity in 2010 to make choices about their electricity service.

Or they can choose nothing, which would keep them in the RG&E tent.

The new sign-up opportunity is an expansion to allow selection of competing energy service companies year-round instead of during a defined period toward the end of each year.

The new approach to choice begins on Jan. 1, when RG&E and New York State Electric and Gas Corp. customers will be able to choose to receive electricity from either their utility or from a competing energy services company at any time, according to Dick Marion, RG&E spokesman.

The biggest change is that RG&E and NYSEG will no longer offer fixed-price options for electricity as of Jan. 1. Energy service companies, also known as ESCOs, will continue to do so.

(Click to read the entire article)

DEC hearing on drilling draws passionate response from both sides
CORNING -- Chris Tate of Hector believes hydro-fracturing, a process used in extracting natural gas from the Marcellus Shale formation, is an environmental disaster waiting to happen.

On the other hand, Mike Gustina of Hornby would have no problem allowing drilling on his property.

Both men were among about 400 people who crowded into the auditorium at Corning-Painted Post East High School on Wednesday evening for the fourth and final public hearing on the Department of Environmental Conservation's draft for state regulation of the drilling process.

The DEC has already held three other hearings -- in Sullivan County, in New York City and in the Binghamton area.

At issue is the safety hydro-fracturing (or fracking), a process that involves pumping millions of gallons of water and other fluid deep into rock formations to tap into massive natural gas deposits.

(Click to read the entire article)

Gas drilling concerns aired at DEC hearing
A debate raging across the state took center stage in Corning on Wednesday evening as the state Department of Environmental Conservation held a public hearing on its new regulations for natural gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale.

Hundreds crowded the auditorium at Corning East High School, and dozens spoke passionately about their concerns. Many drew loud applause as others held up signs protesting the impending drilling boom in the Southern Tier, television cameras rolled and police officers watched.

The controversy centers around the Marcellus, a deep underground, previously untapped formation thought to contain the richest supply of gas in North America. Thousands of new wells are expected across upstate New York, and drilling them requires massive amounts of water mixed with toxic chemicals.

The process generates huge amounts of waste water and has been linked to a wide array of environmental problems. Opponents say the Marcellus boom will be on a much larger scale than drilling that has occurred here in the past, with heavy truck traffic and big areas of land being bulldozed.

(Click to read the entire article)
11/18/2009
Events draw out gas-drilling views
ITHACA -- Residents are being invited to add their voices to the controversial conversation about state gas drilling regulations in a series of events Thursday.

The first is a rally, set for the Bernie Milton Pavilion on the Ithaca Commons from 4:30-6:30 p.m. Local and state legislators will take the microphone alongside several environmental experts and a few musical acts.

It will be followed at 7 p.m. by a public hearing at the State Theatre.

Doors will open at 6 p.m., and several ground rules have been set. Those wishing to speak will be expected to sign in, and will be called in the order registered. There will be a three-minute time limit on oral statements, which may be supplemented with written comments.

(Click to read entire article)
Natural gas quest: Cayuga Heights won't accept drilling waste
Cayuga Heights has no plans to accept gas drilling wastewater in the foreseeable future, Mayor Jim Gilmore said Tuesday.

"Not in the near future, and based on what we know today, not even in the distant future. But I think it's a subject we'll probably have to revisit. Probably the industry will force us to," Gilmore said. "Already in the last couple months I've had private entities come to me and talk about processing drill water and I told them we're not in the business of accepting drill water at this time."

The village's wastewater plant, which discharges into Cayuga Lake, began accepting wastewater from conventional gas drilling in May 2008.

The Journal reported the plant was doing so in mid-March, and in early April the village decided to temporarily stop accepting the material pending the results of an analysis on the wastewater plant.

(Click to read entire article)
Madison County: State will hold public hearing in Lebanon on proposed natural gas pipeline
The New York State Public Service Commission will hold a public statement hearing in Lebanon Wednesday night to solicit feedback on a proposed natural gas pipeline.

The 8.2-mile steel pipeline built by Norse Energy Corp., previously known as Nornew Inc., would run through the towns of Eaton and Lebanon, parallel to an existing plastic line. It would be buried up to four feet below the ground, crossing farmland, forests, wetlands, roads and several brooks and streams.

Norse Spokesman Dennis Holbrook said the project is the next step in the developer’s work in the area. The initial plastic pipeline served during the company’s initial exploration, transporting natural gas at a low pressure.

The high-pressure steel pipeline is an upgrade that will allow the developer to move more gas from its wells in Madison County and the neighboring Chenango County township of Smyrna to a compressor station in Eaton.

“You tend to start smaller,” Holbrook said. “When you have more gas to move, you want to move it more efficiently. It makes sense to plan for the future.”

(Click to read entire article)
Schlumberger court date set
Elmira, N.Y.

A court appearance is scheduled for mid-December on a recent legal action filed by a citizens’ group against the Schlum-berger project in Horseheads.

State Supreme Court Justice Judith O’Shea is scheduled to review the case at 9:30 a.m. Dec. 18 at the Chemung County Courthouse in Elmira.

O’Shea will consider a legal action filed by Ithaca attorney and environmental activist Helen Slottje on behalf of a group of area residents calling itself People for a Healthy Environment.

She will also hear a response from Schlumberger, and from the village of Horseheads, the lead agency in the project’s review.

The citizens’ group has been fighting Schlumberger’s $49 million facility in The Center at Horseheads industrial park, which will provide materials and services to the region’s natural gas drilling industry.

(Click to read entire article)

New York Court of Appeals Expands Criteria for Standing to Bring a SEQRA Challenge

The New York Court of Appeals has held that a person who can demonstrate greater enjoyment of a natural resource than the general public has standing under the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) to challenge an action by a governmental entity which may threaten such a natural resource. In Matter of Save the Pine Bush v Common Council of the City of Albany, the Court held that both the individual petitioners and the organization had standing to challenge an action that allegedly threatened certain endangered species within the Pine Bush area. However, the Court also found that Petitioners had failed to prove their case on the merits as the City had examined the major potential impacts and the City "was not required to scrutinize every possible environmental issue, and the failure of the City's environmental impact statement (EIS) to discuss the possible impact of rezoning on certain rare species was therefore not a fatal flaw."

The project at issue involved a rezoning for a proposed hotel that would not be in a protected area but is near a protected area which is habitat for the Karner Blue butterfly. The draft scope of the proposed EIS included examination of the potential impacts on the Karner Blue butterfly but no other plant or animal species. In response to the draft scope a number of comments were submitted. Among the comments was one from the New York DEC which discussed the Karner Blue and pointed out that the Karner Blue is in a habitat which is known to support four other "rare or unusual species...Frosted Elfin butterfly, the Hognosed Snake, the Worm Snake and the Eastern Spadefoot Toad." The DEC asked that the investigation encompass those species as well.

The DEIS was prepared and included a discussion of the Karner Blue butterfly, including a report by a biologist who stated that repeated visits to the site failed to disclose any Karner Blue butterflies at the site. There was no mention of the other species raised in the DEC comments. The DEIS was commented upon by a number of agencies including the DEC. Other than what the court characterized as brief comments on the Frosted Elfin butterfly and a reference to the Adder's Mouth Orchid (which had not been mentioned previously) there was no mention of the other species previously raised by the DEC.

The report of the biologist was supplemented to respond to comments on the DEIS. He stated the Frosted Elfin butterfly is "'likely to occur in the same places as Karner blue butterflies'; that the plants on which it is known to feed 'are absent or rare in the Albany Pine Bush'; and that he observed no Frosted Elfins on the proposed hotel site. He also listed all the plants he observed growing on the site; the Adder's Mouth Orchid was not among them. Like the commenters on the DEIS, he said nothing about the Hognosed Snake, the Worm Snake or the Eastern Spadefoot Toad." Thereafter the FEIS was accepted and the zone change was approved.

(Click to read the entire article)

11/17/2009
Journal's Web site to carry drilling meetings

Two public hearings this week on gas exploration and proposed drilling regulations will be webcast live at www.ithacajournal.com.

To view the hearings, log on towww.ithacajournal.com a few minutes prior to the start of the sessions. Information on how to connect to the stream will be in the home page.

Hearings this week are:

* Wednesday, Nov. 18: DEC official public hearing, Corning East High School auditorium, 201 Cantigny Street, 7 p.m.

* Thursday, Nov. 19: Tompkins County Council of Governments hearing, State Theatre, 107 W. State St., Ithaca, 7 p.m.

Supreme Court ruling could play in 2010 governor's races
If the Supreme Court opens the door to more corporate money in political campaigns, it could affect laws in nearly two dozen states and a host of governor's races next year, including high-profile contests in Texas and Connecticut, experts say.

Twenty-two states ban corporate spending in state candidate races, and gubernatorial contests are underway in 17 of them. Fourteen are rated as competitive by election handicappers, such as The Cook Political Report.

"The Supreme Court decision has the potential to open the floodgates," said Paul Ryan, of the non-profit Campaign Legal Center, which supports campaign-finance restrictions.

Demand for solar energy subsidies puts stress on New York state program

More New York homeowners than ever want to put solar panels on their houses.

That should be good news for the 174 contractors registered with the state to install solar photovoltaic systems. But the demand has put such a strain on subsidies for residential solar that the state has reduced the amount offered, hoping to make a dwindling pot of money last through the end of the year.

A new round of funding for 2010 and beyond has not yet been approved, and that leaves solar power installers hanging. They can’t sign up customers until they know what the subsidy will be. And without customers, an emerging industry employing between 800 and 1,000 people statewide can’t create more “green-collar” jobs.

“We could easily hire another person if the right incentives were in place,” said Duncan Cooper, director of sales for Renovus Energy Inc. in Ithaca, an installer of renewable energy systems that employs seven. “We just don’t know where we’re going to be in the next few months.”

(Click to read the entire article)

11/16/2009
General Electric Pursues Pot of Government Stimulus Gold
The financial crisis hasn't been kind to General Electric Co. Its stock has lost almost half its value, the government has stepped in to prop up its enormous financial arm, and sales have slumped in core industrial businesses.

But Chief Executive Jeffrey Immelt now has his eye on a huge new pool of potential revenue: Uncle Sam's stimulus dollars. Mr. Immelt, a registered Republican, quips about the shift in thinking in the nation's corner offices: "We're all Democrats now."

GE has high hopes for the strategy. It says that over the next three years or so it could bring in as much as $192 billion from projects funded by governments around the globe, such as electric-grid modernization, renewable-energy generation and health-care technology upgrades.

The company is just starting to see a payoff. Last month, for example, President Barack Obama announced $3.4 billion in government-stimulus grants for power-grid projects. About one-third of the recipients are GE customers. GE expects them to use a good chunk of that money to buy its equipment.

(Click to read the entire article)

Lawsuit seeks complete reassessment of Schlumberger project in Horseheads
A citizens' group concerned about the potential environmental effect of the Schlumberger Technology Corp. project in Horseheads is going to court to try to halt the work.

A group calling itself People for a Healthy Environment Inc. filed the legal challenge last week in state Supreme Court in Chemung County, claiming the village's approval of Schlumberger's site plan was arbitrary and capricious.

The group's attorney, Helen Slottje of Ithaca, said the action challenges the legality of the temporary facility already operating on-site.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation issued a notice of violation to Schlumberger for failure to obtain a state pollution elimination system permit, but allowed the company to operate on the site anyway, Slottje said in a news release.

(Click to read the entire article)

11/13/2009
PSC OKs Submarine Electric Cable In New York City

ALBANY, NY (11/12/2009)(readMedia)-- The New York State Public Service Commission (Commission) today approved the New York portion of a 6.6 mile, 345 kV AC, submarine electric cable system and associated cable and interconnection equipment, which will connect a new 512 MW natural gas generation plant in Bayonne, New Jersey to the existing Consolidated Edison Company of New York, Inc. Gowanus substation in Brooklyn, New York. The project is expected to come on line in the fourth quarter of 2011.

"The addition of 512 MW of capacity from the new Bayonne generating plant into the New York City electricity supply is anticipated to provide additional reliability benefits, environmental improvements, and potential price reductions," said Commission Chairman Garry Brown. "The facility, along with the added generation supply, will bring benefits to the competitive market, and to ratepayers, as a result of the shift of financial expenditure and risk from the utility to the merchant developer."

On October 5, 2009, parties filed a Joint Proposal, with proposed conditions, for an Article VII Certificate of Environmental Compatibility and Public Need (Certificate), a Suspended Sediment/Water Quality Monitoring Plan for Jet Plow Embedment Operations, and a proposed federal Clean Water Act Section 401 certification, for the construction, operation and maintenance of the New York portion of the submarine electric transmission facility running under the Hudson River.

(Click to read the entire press release)

DEC hears impassioned debate on gas drilling
FENTON -- About 1,000 people crowded into a high school auditorium Thursday night to give their best - and perhaps final - shot at influencing the great debate over natural gas drilling.

Officials with the state Department of Environmental Conservation scheduled the hearing at Chenango Valley High School to collect feedback on regulations proposed to oversee development of the Marcellus, the nation's largest natural gas reserve. It extends from the Southern Tier through the Appalachian basin, with one of the most lucrative parts going under the heart of Broome County.

The auditorium, which can hold 1,060, was filled nearly to capacity, with many people standing in the aisles, including protesters bearing signs and wearing costumes.

In what sounded and looked like a pep rally, speakers drew loud applause after digressing into impassioned praises or criticisms of the drilling industry and its plans to set up shop in Broome County.

(Click to read the entire article)

11/12/2009
Iberdrola wants to delay spending
ALBANY -- Iberdrola SA, the Spanish company that bought two upstate New York utilities last year in a $4.5 billion deal, now says it cannot afford to make all the investments in its gas and electric system it had promised state regulators.

The two utilities, New York State Electric & Gas and Rochester Gas & Electric, are asking the state Public Service Commission if it can hold off on $77 million in required infrastructure spending this year.

Iberdrola is required to spend $270 million in upstate New York this year and another $270 million next year as a condition of its purchase of Energy East, a holding company that owns NYSEG and RG&E.

Instead, Iberdrola only wants to spend about $193 million this year and $276 million next year -- about $71 million less than what it previously agreed to with the PSC, the five-person panel that oversees utilities in the state.

Today at its monthly meeting in Albany, the PSC commissioners are expected to vote on how they should proceed with Iberdrola's request, which is unusual because it was made as part of a separate rate hike request before the PSC. The item is listed on the "consent" portion of the commission's agenda that contains items that are typically not debated.

Public invited to summit on drilling for natural gas
Cornell Cooperative Extension, together with a number of state and local partners, will host a summit regarding exploration of Marcellus Shale natural gas from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 30, at the Treadway Inn in Owego.

Government leaders, landowners, environmental advocates, educators, citizens and outdoorsmen are invited to attend.

The DEC's comment period on the gas drilling ends Nov. 30. Go towww.dec.ny.gov/energy/58440.html.

Cost of the summit is $40. Register athttp://gasleasing.cce.cornell.edu.

State commission OKs RG&E parent company’s sales plan
The New York State Public Service Commission today announced approval of the process by which Iberdrola SA, the owner of Rochester Gas & Electric Corp., would sell off certain fossil fuel plants as required as part of its purchase of RG&E and New York State Gas and Electric Corp.

“A fair and equitable plan has been crafted to enable Iberdrola to divest itself of the fossil fuel plants it acquired last year as part of its purchase of Energy East’s New York assets,” said Commission Chairman Garry Brown. “This divestiture plan will speed the sale of the power plants and benefit rate-payers long-term.”

Among the assets that will be sold are RG&E Stations 3 and 9, each consisting of an 18-megawatt combustion turbine; RG&E’s Allegany Station, a 62-megawatt combined cycle gas-fired facility; and RG&E’s Russell Station site, where a coal-fired generation facility was recently retired.

The properties would be sold at auction, with RG&E permitted to retain 10 percent of the net proceeds up to a maximum of $5 million.
Gas, not wind, is replacing coal

Wind is not replacing coal; gas is. Natural gas will need to be burned in gas-fired power plants whether the demand on the grid is high or low and whether or not the wind is blowing. Gas is replacing coal, to be burned to provide base and intermediate load. It also provides load-following and back up to the wind generators because the nuclear plants cannot respond quickly enough, and stored water is a valuable commodity not to be wasted.

This means that when demand is low, expensive wind energy displaces the clean, cheap electricity from the nuclear plants that will have to power down (giving wear and tear concerns) or even shut down, and will not displace the electricity from the polluting and greenhouse- gas-emitting gas-fired plants. More wind makes a bad situation worse.

DEC hearing Thursday will let residents discuss gas drilling regulations
FENTON -- Residents will have a chance to comment on the state's proposal to regulate natural gas production during a hearing Thursday at Chenango Valley High School.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation is proposing new regulations to oversee development of the Marcellus Shale, which requires drilling horizontally through bedrock and breaking it apart with large quantities of water and chemical additives to release gas.

The Marcellus runs under the Southern Tier, the Catskills and throughout the Appalachian Basin.

In the Southern Tier, there is support and opposition to the proposed DEC regulations. Landowner coalitions with thousands of members in Broome County see drilling as a major economic opportunity. They have urged the state to finalize regulations so drilling can begin. Opponents say it brings too much risk to public health and the environment.

(Click to read the entire article)

11/11/2009
NYSERDA Report States that New York Has Spent Small Amount of RGGI Funds

On September 17, 2009, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) released a report finding that it has spent only a small amount of the proceeds that New York has received from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) due to pending litigation over the RGGI program.

The report said the state has spent $1.7 million of the $127 million it has received from RGGI auctions, primarily on program administration and start-up costs. The report said the NYSERDA has decided to delay spending funds on energy conservation and clean energy programs pending the outcome of a lawsuit filed earlier this year by Indeck Energy.

New York is projected to receive a total of $607 million from RGGI auctions over three years, according to the report. Under state regulations, all of the funds must be spent by NYSERDA on energy conservation and clean energy programs. As of June 30, 2009, New York has sold 38.2 million allowances and received $127.8 million. It is projected to sell 79.2 million allowances in its 2009-2010 fiscal year and 63.4 million allowances in FY 2010-2011 and FY 2011-2012.

Indeck, a cogeneration plant, sued New York in state court in January 2009 to overturn the state regulations that implement RGGI, claiming that the regulations are unconstitutional and were implemented by the governor and state agencies without the necessary statutory authority from the state Legislature.

Yates endorses Marcellus Shale recommendations
PENN YAN — Yates County legislators Monday endorsed the Marcellus Shale Task Forces’ recommendations to the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

The county task force recommended minimizing the negative impact of natural gas drilling through:

• Stormwater pollution prevention plan review, compliance and enforcement

• Equal protection of water supplies

• Protection of agricultural lands and coordination with the state Department of Agriculture and Markets

• Addressing quality-of-life/agritourism concerns

• Community health and safety efforts

• Road use agreements

A public comment period on the DEC’s draft supplemental environmental impact statement on drilling was recently extended from 30 days to 60.


(Click to read the entire article)
IOGA of NY Takes Part in Senate Roundtable Session on Marcellus Shale Exploration
The Independent Oil & Gas Association (IOGA of NY) today presented comments at a roundtable discussion hosted by New York State Senator Antoine M. Thompson (D-Buffalo).

Sen. Thompson, chair of the Senate's Environmental Conservation Committee, is gathering information as the state considers allowing expanded natural gas exploration in New York's Marcellus Shale.

Brad Gill, executive director of IOGA of NY, explained the oil and gas industry's outstanding record of operational safety and water protection, as well as the science of exploring for and extracting natural gas in the Marcellus Shale. Trapped in the rock formation are trillions of cubic feet of gas enough to improve the nation's energy independence for decades, create thousands of jobs and bring billions of dollars in economic benefits to individuals, municipalities and the state.

Gill asserted that environmental concerns surrounding hydraulic fracturing are adequately addressed in the draft SGEIS. "New York is sitting on a geologic gold mine," Gill said. "Technological advances in the drilling and extraction processes, combined with New York's strict regulatory environment including a more stringent SGEIS should give regulators, policymakers and residents enough assurances that this clean fuel source can be harvested safely and efficiently without posing threats to the state's environmental resources."

(Click to read the entire report)

Drilling safety, environmental concerns to be addressed at DEC meeting Thursday at Chenango Valley High
Have some thoughts about natural gas drilling?

State regulators will be in Broome County on Thursday to collect public testimony about a proposal to regulate production from the Marcellus Shale.

Safety and environmental issues will be at the forefront of the debate, as officials from the state Department of Environmental Conservation get reaction to their proposal to regulate Marcellus production.

Doors will open at 6:30 p.m. at Chenango Valley High School in the Town of Fenton. It is one of a number of meetings being held throughout the state.

(Click to read the entire article)

11/10/2009
Power costs climbing

In regard to NYSEG's proposed rate increases, month after month, I observe that their charges for delivering electricity are now more than twice as much as the actual charge for electricity itself.

I find it odd that this extreme situation persists and that their pass-through services cost me twice as much as the ESCO (energy services company)-supplied power. If their rate increase goes through, the charges will approach three times as much as electricity charges. At what point does this become absurd?

Chris Zell

Schuyler County League of Women Voters sponsors Marcellus Shale discussion
Brett Chedzoy from Cornell Cooperative Extension will present information and answer question starting at 11:45 a.m. at the Montour Moose Club on state Route 14 in Montour Falls. Lunch will be served and is available for $12.

League luncheons are open to the public and provide people with information on current topics, political views and issues as part of a non partisan educational process.

The luncheon meeting will end by 1 p.m. Reservations are necessary and can be made by contacting Donna Beardsly by phone at (607) 535-7676 or by email at villageclerk@watkinsglen.us
11/09/2009
Is New York's Marcellus Shale Too Hot to Handle?
As New York gears up for gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale, state officials have made a potentially troubling discovery about the wastewater created by the process: It's radioactive. And they have yet to say how they'll deal with it.

The information comes from New York's Department of Environmental Conservation, which analyzed 13 samples of wastewater brought thousands of feet to the surface from drilling and found that they contain levels of radium-226, a derivative of uranium, as high as 267 times the limit safe for discharge into the environment and thousands of times the limit safe for people to drink.

The findings, if backed up with more tests, have several implications: The energy industry would likely face stiffer regulations and greater expenses, and have more trouble finding treatment plants to accept its waste -- if any would at all. And the state would have to sort out how its laws for radioactive waste might apply to drilling and how the waste could affect water supplies and the environment.

What is less clear is how the wastewater may affect the health of New Yorkers, since the danger depends on how much radiation people are exposed to, and there is still disagreement over the effects of low-level doses on people.

The DEC has yet to address any of these questions. But New York's Health Department raised concerns about the water samples in a confidential letter to the DEC in July.

(Click to read entire article)
Attorney General Argues Before U.S. Supreme Court To Uphold Public's Right To Contest Excessive Power Rates

November 3, 2009

Attorney General Richard Blumenthal today argued before the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold the public's rights to contest unreasonable and excessive electricity rates.

Blumenthal, appearing before the nation's highest court for the fourth time, urged justices to uphold a lower court ruling affirming the right of states and citizens to challenge unfair and unreasonable power prices. A group of power companies is seeking to overturn the ruling, arguing prices result from private contracts that cannot be challenged by regulators or citizens.

"I am fighting before the nation's highest court to protect the public's right to seek more affordable electricity -- and to assure power prices are fair and reasonable, as mandated by federal law," Blumenthal said.

"I am urging the justices to reject Big Energy's power grab to prevent states and individuals from contesting unfair and unreasonable electricity rates. The power companies' argument that power prices result solely from private contracts is deeply disingenuous, ignoring the vast and vital role played by state and federal regulators in setting prices, as well as the federal requirement that rates be fair and reasonable.

"Power companies can contract among themselves, but consumers and states must retain their long-established right to challenge resulting rates that are unfair and unreasonable. Power producers, already making windfall profits, are seeking to undermine states' and individuals' authority to contest excessive prices, even as Connecticut suffers under the highest electricity costs in the continental United States."

The case stems from a settlement between some New England power companies, regulators and federal authorities over new charges to ratepayers intended to encourage power plant construction. Blumenthal's office opposed the settlement, arguing that the charges were unnecessary to promote construction and were in fact an unearned windfall to power producers. In doing so, he argued that the resulting rate increases were neither fair nor reasonable, as required by federal law.

Blumenthal appealed to the U.S. District Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's (FERC) approval of the settlement, arguing that it unfairly and illegally restricted the rights of states and consumers to challenge rates that are unjust and unreasonable.

The Court of Appeals agreed with Blumenthal's argument, prompting the power industry to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Alternative energy down on the farm: A still-untapped resource
As the federal government hands out billions of dollars to subsidize, push, prod and canoodle companies into jump-starting a green revolution in the U.S., one segment of the economy has been more or less left out. That would be farmers. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has gotten only a few tens of millions of dollars to underwrite grants and programs to promote rural alternative energy projects.

Still, acccording to the AP, the ranks of farmers who are producing their own power is increasing. But what's even more striking is how few now do so, considering the nature of their business and their access to precious energy commodities such as large acreage needed for solar panels and steady winds needed for wind-power generation. According to U.S. government figures collected in 2007, just over 1 percent of the 2 million U.S. farms are producing their own electricity, reported Cleantech.

More discouraging still, renewable energy production on farms increased by only 5% between 2007 and 2008. This meager rise came despite the vulnerability of low-margin farming operations to dramatically higher power prices and, more broadly, to indirect oil costs in fertilizer and tractor fuel, among other areas.

(Click to read the entire article)
Interest soars across state in Marcellus Shale drilling

Susquehanna County is "inundated."

That was the word chosen by MaryAnn Warren, a county commissioner, to describe Marcellus Shale natural gas exploration in the county, situated in one of the busiest drilling areas in the state.

“Susquehanna County is inundated with drilling, fracking, water trucks, residual waste trucks and more companies coming in,” Warren said. “People are going to get rich, but I am worried about our natural resources.”

State Department of Environmental Protection figures show the number of Marcellus Shale gas drilling permits issued statewide has more than tripled this year. About one-third of the permits have been issued for sites in the Northern Tier counties of Susquehanna, Bradford and Tioga.

Centre County also saw a dramatic increase in the number of permits issued, although little change in the amount of drilling going on. In 2008, eight gas-drilling permits were issued for sites in Centre County, with five wells actually drilled.

11/08/2009
Pipelines a must for Marcellus drilling to take place

Drilling rigs and tanker trucks won't roll into the Southern Tier to extract wealth from the Marcellus Shale until pipelines have been laid to keep it flowing.

That will be no small task.

According to information from the state Department of Public Service, pipeline permitting applications could quadruple from current levels as multi-national energy companies lay the infrastructure to tap the Marcellus.

State regulators anticipate a network of them crisscrossing the Southern Tier to be built before Marcellus wells are developed.

That's far different from the process for conventional gas wells and it's another issue a limited number of state regulators will face with the Marcellus.

(Click to read entire article)
BAN NATURAL GAS DRILLING IN NEW YORK STATE
Target:

Governor Paterson, DEC Commissioner Peter Grannis, State Senate, State Assembly, DEC dSGEIS Comments

Don't Frack New York!


Paper Version of the Petition
List of Organizations Supporting a NYS Ban

**IMPORTANT: Please make sure you get an email confirmation after you sign. Also, click on "Letter" to the left to see the actual petition.
11/07/2009
Natural gas quest: EPA to review safety of fracking process

The safety of fracking -- a controversial process to stimulate natural gas production from the Marcellus Shale -- will be re-evaluated by the Obama administration.

A bill passed by Congress and signed by the president last week urges the federal Environmental Protection Agency to use a "transparent, peer-reviewed process" to determine whether the fracking process has contaminated water supplies and degraded land around drilling sites.

The review could have special relevance to the Southern Tier, where the local and national debate over fracking will influence the development of the Marcellus Shale, and the environmental, policy and economic issues that go with it.

The Marcellus, the nation's largest natural gas reserve, runs under the Southern Tier and throughout Pennsylvania and parts of Ohio and West Virginia.

(Click to read the entire article)

NYSEG nixes Voice Your Choice

New York State Electric & Gas Corp. announced it is ending its Voice Your Choice program and will no longer offer electricity supply for a fixed price.

The program had customers choosing annually their electricity supply from NYSEG or an energy services company (ESCO). Voice Your Choice served as a transition from traditional regulated utility electricity supply rates to a new competitive retail electricity supply model.

Starting Jan. 1, customers will be able to select their supply service at any time rather than over a two-month period as part of Voice Your Choice.

"Our customers have demonstrated their awareness of energy choice after participating in many Voice Your Choice enrollment programs," said Terri VanBrooker, director of customer service at NYSEG and sister company Rochester Gas & Electric, which also will stop using Voice Your Choice.

(Click to read entire report)

Public needs input on drilling regs

The state Department of Environment Conservation recently pushed back the public comment period on proposed regulations for natural-gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale region of New York state.

Environmental activists and lawmakers had pressed for such changes, as many felt the 804-page document the state DEC had released _ the draft Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement, or SGEIS _ was too dense and important to be given only a cursory glance. Thankfully, now the deadline for public comments has been moved from Nov. 30 to Dec. 31. We applaud this decision and the efforts of lawmakers, including Sen. James L. Seward, R-Milford, who worked to bring this to pass.

However, we are still disappointed the state DEC did not see fit to schedule a meeting for public comment in our area. As we have said previously, this is an issue that stands to affect our community and its environment in a multitude of ways. To not allow all voices to be heard before examining the SGEIS for approval is unacceptable.

In Thursday's edition of The Daily Star, Seward said he has written DEC Commissioner Alexander "Pete" Grannis to request additional hearing sites, including Oneonta. At this time, Seward said, the closest hearing site is more than an hour's drive for most of his constituents. We are pleased with Sen. Seward's efforts, and we hope the DEC will seriously consider bringing a public hearing to our area.

(Click to read entire editorial)

Debate draws strong viewpoints

Gas drilling has become a dominant issue in central New York, with money to be made and risks to be taken.

Thousands of landowners have signed leases to permit drilling, some with bonuses of $2-an-acre and others, near major pipelines, as in Deposit, at $2,500.

That's a mere fraction of what landowners might earn in royalties if the wells on their land are good producers.

On the other hand, the film, ``Split Estate,'' scheduled to be screened in Cooperstown Friday night, shows streams on fire and people sick in Colorado, where drillers have been hard at work for a few years.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation is proposing new rules to govern horizontal drilling and hydrofracking, techniques the industry uses to extract gas from the shale that underlies the area.

Earlier this week, the DEC lengthened the period for public comment on the proposed Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement from Nov. 30 to Dec. 31, an extension cheered by U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and state Sen. James Seward, R-Milford.

(Click to read the entire article)

11/06/2009
PSC rule exposes wind company's motives

A few days ago there was a most revealing article in the Albany Times Union, and it affects all state citizens.

The Public Service Commission recently said that before industrial wind projects could be approved that they had to:

■ Prove that their electricity was not just going to replace carbon dioxide-free hydro-produced electricity, and

■ Verify that available transmission capability was sufficient to carry their anticipated new power.

My first reaction was that these things haven't been formally checked out all along? The admission of that is simply astounding.

Then I see from the story that the big multinational wind companies have objected to these conditions as being too expensive. Additionally they expressed great concern that, if the results of these analyses turned out to be negative, that this information could be used against them as a basis to turn down a project. Imagine that.

So, in other words, state taxpayers and ratepayers should simply fund the developers' lucrative projects even though they may well be providing zero environmental benefit (replacing hydro) and may not be able to have their power go onto the state grid?

That should make it quite clear to anyone paying attention as to what their motivation is. It is not about benefiting state citizens, the state environment or the state electricity situation.

Then, to top it off, a purported "environmental" representative, Carol Murphy, executive director of the Alliance for Clean Energy New York (ACE-NY), said that the PSC's required checks are: "ridiculous, they're not helpful at all. They send a very, very bad message. What they tell people to do is try to avoid the PSC." She went on to say that ACE-NY might sue the PSC on this matter.

ACE-NY's Mission Statement makes bold proclamations about their organization being all about benefiting the state economically and reducing air pollution. Why would they object to making sure that carbon dioxide was really being saved and that the power being paid for was really going to the grid?

They are really wind energy lobbyists, and those good words about their "mission" are just a sleight-of-hand show to rope in the gullible public to support their self-serving lobbying efforts. It's good that this situation has given us an opportunity to see their real spots!

So kudos to the PSC for finally asking for some extremely reasonable information; hopefully this will be the start for them asking for even more worthwhile data, and more are definitely needed.

John Droz jr.

Brantingham Lake

Fenner, NY Wind Turbine Collapse



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