In the most obvious example: Pennsylvania and New York have no severance tax on oil and gas. Ohio has a tiny one that covers only the cost of regulating the industry.

By contrast, all veteran energy states tax their energy resources heavily and use the money to keep other taxes low.

Texas charges a 7.5 percent severance tax on natural gas and has no income tax. Oklahoma charges 7.1 percent. Alaska charges 25 percent to 50 percent. It has no sales or income tax, writes checks to residents every October ($1,174 per person last year) and has stashed away $41 billion for the future by taxing energy. North Dakota, now enjoying a shale oil boom, charges 5 percent to 6.5 percent.

Among the new boom states, only West Virginia has a substantial tax -- an old natural resources levy, a little above 5 percent, that applies to oil, gas and coal.

(Click to read the entire article)

Gas lease holders learn to end contracts

About 35 property owners, most with gas leases and a desire to renegotiate the renewal clauses, met with attorney Rachel Treichler Feb. 15 at the Finger Lakes Produce Auction in Milo. Organizer Steve Knapp of Barrington said that the meeting was needed because landowners “want to get this lease thing under control.”

Of great concern was the “automatic renewal” clause that is often included in gas leases, which unless opted out before signing, gives gas companies nearly perpetual rights of renewal. Renegotiation with that clause in place is difficult.

Treichler, a resident of Wayne, was a practicing attorney in New York City for 20 years. She earned her legal degree at the University of Texas in Austin, well known for its oil and gas industry related legal training.

She described many of the leases she has seen here in New York as “badly worded and in need of revision.” New York adopting compulsory integration has further complicated matters. Landowners can be forced into a lease if the majority of the land around them has been signed, though they will not face surface operations on their land.

Treichler and Knapp provided informational materials for landowners toprepare themselves before facing landmen and the confusing legal terminology of the leases they often pressure landowners to sign.

Depending on who you talk to, the state Supreme Court’s decision Tuesday to uphold a hydrofracking ban in the Town of Dryden is either a step forward for towns looking to repel fracking or just a small victory in a greater fight.

Dryden, located in Tompkins County, used zoning laws to pass a ban on the exploration for and production or storage of natural gas and petroleum in August.

A month later, Anschutz Exploration Corporation, a drilling company based in Colorado that had leased 22,200 acres of land in Dryden, challenged the town’s authority to regulate or prohibit gas drilling.

Anschutz had invested approximately $5.1 million in its activities in the town. Its leases represent over one-third of Dryden’s total area.

In his decision, state Supreme Court Justice Phillip Rumsey upheld the ban.

(Click to read the entire article)

Opponents of hydraulic fracturing said Wednesday a judge's decision to uphold a small town's gas drilling ban may put more pressure on municipalities to enact their own bans. Drilling supporters, meanwhile, expect a court appeal.

Judge Phillip Rumsey, a Supreme Court justice in Tompkins County, ruled Tuesday that the Town of Dryden had the legal authority to use its zoning laws to ban gas drilling and heavy industry within its boundaries.

The decision led opponents of hydrofracking to call for more local governments to pass a ban or moratorium on the drilling process, citing the decision as proof municipalities have that right.

"By upholding Dryden's fracking ban, Judge Rumsey has brought a renewed sense of hope to the many cities and towns concerned with fracking," said Katherine Nadeau, program director for Albany-based Environmental Advocates of New York.

(Click to read the entire article)

In a case that’s considered a key test in the battle over gas drilling in upstate New York, a Supreme Court judge has upheld the Town of Dryden’s ban on drilling within its borders.

Justice Phillip Rumsey of the New York State Supreme Court, Tompkins County, ruled Tuesday in favor of Dryden, which was sued by Denver-based Anschutz Exploration Corp.

Dryden officials - in an attempt to prevent heavy industrial activity due to gas drilling and the process of high-volume hydraulic fracturing - changed the town’s zoning laws to prohibit drilling and related activities.

Anschutz, which says it has 22,000 acres under lease and has already invested $5 million in Dryden, challenged the ban.

Under state law, only the Department of Environmental Conservation can regulate drilling. At issue is whether municipalities have the right to ban drilling through local ordinances under the concept known as home rule.

The Dryden case is the first ruling on the matter. Rumsey’s decision may be appealed to a higher court.

Dozens of municipalities across New York have either passed or are considering drilling bans.

The Dansville town Planning Board hammered out its road use agreement Monday night and called for the town board to pass a six-month moratorium on the natural gas extraction process called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

Board members spoke about the need to make sure the town was prepared for the possibility of fracking in the next few years by having road use agreements and site plan regulations in place.

“Do we want to make a recommendation to the board to put a moratorium on so we’re not getting applications for use before we get everything in place? I don’t know that it would hurt anything rather than being flat footed and out in the cold because we’re not ready,” Planning Board Chairman Paul Sick asked during the meeting.

The move to recommend a fracking moratorium to the town board was unanimously approved by the planning board.

(Click to read the entire article)

How to handle millions of gallons of contaminated wastewater after gas drilling begins in New York's Marcellus Shale region remains unsettled as the state considers final regulations.

Some environmental advocates say it's a glaring gap in preparations.

In the Department of Environmental Conservation's environmental review and proposed regulations for hydraulic fracturing, there are three options for waste disposal:

-- Truck it to an approved treatment facility and either discharge the treated water into a river or reuse it for another drilling project;

-- Ship it to a deep-well injection site; or

-- Recycle it on-site for drilling multiple wells.

DEC Commissioner Joe Martens says permit applications must include details about how the wastewater will be handled, choices left to the drillers.

The Obama administration is considering tougher rules on hydraulic fracking wells that are popping up across eastern Ohio, the Hill reported.

Interior Department rules that would toughen fracking regulation are under review by the Office of Management and Budget, the paper reported.

The rules would require disclosure of the components used in fracking fluids and how drillers would manage water from wells, the paper said.

The New York state Department of Environmental Conservation is reviewing tens of thousands of comments relating to hydraulic fracturing of Marcellus Shale in the state, but no timetable has been set for when oil and gas companies, landowners, and opposition groups will get to see them.

(Click to read the entire article)

The Town of Jerusalem is the first of all the townships on Keuka Lake to make the move beyond a moratorium and enact an outright ban on hydraulic fracturing in natural gas wells. Acting on the advice of an environmental legal team, they did so by strengthening the towns zoning laws, which they assert they have the legal right to do under New York's constitutional "home rule" laws.

Speaking to a standing room only crowd at the Town Hall Feb. 15, Supervisor Daryl Jones' introduced a motion for the adoption of Town of Jerusalem Local Law H-2011 saying, "Early on, a survey was conducted that made it crystal clear that our residents overwhelmingly did not want drilling in our town. It became clear there was strong support in the Town's Comprehensive Plan that emphasized 'agriculture, tourism, and open spaces using the asset of clean water' More than 250 people took the time to write letters and complete the questionnaire."

He continued, "Most important to me was the research and analysis that presented facts that fracking as it is currently done is not safe. It is not safe for the waters we drink. It is not safe for the crops we grow and the produce we eat. It is not safe for the livestock we raise. And it is not safe for the waters of Keuka Lake in which our children and grandchildren swim, fish, and play.

Research proved without a doubt that property values, agriculture and tourism would suffer if fracking came to our town. The idyllic image of Mennonite wagons would be replaced with massive truck traffic of 18-wheelers loaded with waters that contain chemicals that threaten our well-being and waters.

(Click to read the entire article)

Details of a proposed court order by Ecogen settling its wind farm dispute in the town of Prattsburgh will likely by discussed again publicly after town officials meet with their attorney.

With that legal consultation slated for Tuesday, the town board’s first meeting on Ecogen’s proposal gave a general outline of the settlement – and aired the differences between board members and town residents.
Councilman Chuck Shick said he received the wind developer’s proposal, as the town board liaison on the wind issue, on Jan. 30. But the town’s attorney for the legal dispute, was on vacation that week, so Shick said he requested the special meeting for the following Monday, hoping there would be more details by then.

At first glance, the Ecogen proposal appears to simply put the clock back to Dec. 31, 2009, before the issue was brought before the state Supreme Court.

According to town attorney Ed Brockman, state Supreme Court Justice John Ark’s February 2011 decision did not have any legal weight until he signed an order carrying out the rulings.

(Click to read the entire article)

High volume hydraulic fracturing — hydrofracking — will be discussed Tuesday at the Canandaigua City, said Councilmember Meg Reston. No action will be taken, but Reston said a possible moratorium on the controversial gas drilling procedure would be part of the conversation.

“We’ll be discussing whether a moratorium is something the city would consider; it’d give us time to look at our zoning ... If (fracking) is going to happen, we want to know how it’ll affect the city,” Reston said. “We’re still in the embryonic stages of talking about it.”

While Reston feels that it will be unlikely that hydrofracking will be allowed within city limits, she said there are still other issues to contend with, including concerns with the trucks that transport sludge taken from other hydrofracking sites.

She added that the city council was looking to hear public opinion on the issue. They’ll also get advice from David Slottje, executive director and senior attorney for the Community Environmental Defense Council, a not-for-profit public interest firm.

Pro and anti ‘frackers’ butted heads Dansville as that town explores natural gas extraction through hydraulic fracturing.

The process allows drillers to reach gas trapped beneath layers of shale by inserting a mix of water and chemicals underground to force out the gas.

Though the entrance of fracking into the western part of Steuben County is still a few years out, area towns, including Dansville, are considering moratoriums in order to buy time to establish their own policies and road use agreements.

The meeting Wednesday was organized by Dansville resident Michael Holler. Holler described himself as a concerned citizen and said he wanted to get people talking.

(Click to read the entire article)

A decision on whether to allow high-volume hydraulic fracturing in New York is "a couple of months" away, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday.

Cuomo said that while the state's review of hydrofracking has been slowed, a decision would come within months.

"We're going to have a decision in a couple of months," Cuomo told The Post-Standard editorial board, according to an audio recording posted on its website.

"The debate has been going on for years, by the way, so it's not like a few weeks this way or the other is going to make a significant difference," Cuomo continued.

The governor's remarks were consistent with those made Tuesday by Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens, who told a panel of lawmakers a determination was "months, not years" away. High-volume hydrofracking has been on hold in New York since the DEC began creating permitting guidelines for the technique in 2008.

(Click to read the entire article)

The state's top environmental regulator said Tuesday it's "conceivable" a handful of permits could be issued this year for high-volume hydraulic fracturing, but said a final decision is "months, not years" away.

Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens told a panel of state lawmakers that Gov. Andrew Cuomo's 2012-13 budget proposal does not seek any funds for additional gas drilling regulators because of "the considerable work that remains before we finalize our regulatory framework."

But he acknowledged the possibility that a small number of permits could be issued in 2012 with the agency's existing staff. The amount of permits, however, would be "extremely limited," he said.

"It could only be a limited number of permits," Martens told reporters. "And that's after we get through the whole process, complete the (permitting guidelines), do the summary of comments. We've got a lot of work to do."

(Click to read the entire article)

Joseph Martens, the commissioner of the state Department of Environmental Conservation, took a measured approach this morning when it comes to whether the state would proceed with hydrofracking.

He said the state is still going through more than 60,000 comments it has received on its preliminary environmental report and it would take “months, not years” to go through them.

Gannett’s Albany Bureau wrote last week about how the comment review has been slowed by the development of “scanning shoulder” by the workers charged with recording the thousands of documents.

Martens also wouldn’t commit, when asked by lawmakers, if and when hydrofracking would commence.

“I don’t want to be presumptuous that hydrofracking is going forward or not,” Martens said.

He said there is no money for hydrofracking in this year’s budget because it hasn’t been determined when it would proceed. But if it does, he said the DEC would need 140 new positions and more than 200 positions by year five.

DEC panel wades through responses

The state's hydrofracking advisory panel is in flux as the Department of Environmental Conservation wades through tens of thousands of public responses it received on the much-debated drilling technique.

The work of panel is considered crucial if the state is to move forward with hydrofracking. It was set to meet three times through April, but now that schedule is under review, said agency spokeswoman Emily DeSantis.

"Additional panel meetings were previously scheduled, but we are reviewing that schedule as our primary focus is currently on reviewing the public comments," DeSantis wrote in an email.

The panel is composed of 18 representatives from various groups as well as former and current elected officials. They are tasked with coming up with a new fee structure to generate state revenue from a potential gas-drilling boom.

(Click to read the entire article)

It may not be tennis elbow or writer’s cramp, but the crush of 46,000 comments the state has received on hydraulic fracturing may have caused its own occupational hazard: scanning shoulder.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation is conducting an ergonomic review of a temporary office for scanning and logging the tens of thousands of responses after an employees’ union lodged a complaint last month.

A worker assigned to the “bullpen”—as the office has been dubbed—suffered a shoulder injury in January that the union suspects may have been caused by an inefficient setup, said Wayne Bayer, a DEC steward for the Public Employees Federation.

The complaint, Bayer said, led to a shutdown of the scanning for “a day or two” last month. The union claims the injury was likely caused by “improper equipment, improper level of the equipment” or the motion of repeatedly operating the scanners, he said.

(Click to read the entire article)

U.S. Rep. Tom Reed says he wants to invite President Barack Obama to a meeting of the House of Representatives Marcellus Shale Caucus following the president’s State of the Union Address comments about natural gas resources.

Reed said he likes the idea of meeting with the president to hear more about the executive branch’s stand on tapping into the natural gas resources, in particular using natural gas as a fuel for transportation.

At a town hall meeting in Penn Yan Saturday, Reed said the purpose of the Marcellus Shale Caucus, on which he serves as vice chair, is to get the best scientific data about natural gas exploration.

Saying he favors an “all of the above” energy policy encompassing traditional as well as renewable resources, Reed told about 60 people at the meeting that an energy platform can be a good long term goal for both Democrats and Republicans to work together to achieve.

As some of the audience reacted strongly and loudly, with one woman walking out of the meeting saying, “He’s not listening to his constituents,” he acknowledged there will be disagreement over decisions made about the use of high volume hydrofracking in the Finger Lakes and in New York state.

(Click to read the entire article)

A pipeline operator assured federal regulators it would minimize using eminent domain against private landowners if given approval to lay a 39-mile natural gas pipeline in northern Pennsylvania's pristine Endless Mountains.

Yet the company was readying condemnation papers against dozens of landowners even as the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission was considering its application for the $250 million MARC 1 pipeline. Within two days of winning approval, Central New York Oil & Gas Co. LLC went to court to condemn nearly half the properties along the pipeline's route -- undercutting part of the regulatory commission's approval rationale and angering landowners who are now fighting the company in court.

Eminent domain would give the company the right to excavate and lay the 30-inch-diameter pipeline on private property. Landowners would not lose their properties and would be compensated.

The dispute could foreshadow eminent domain battles to come as more pipelines are approved and built to carry shale gas to market in states like New York, Pennsylvania and Ohio.

(Click to read the entire article)


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