As the gas drilling boom continued in Pennsylvania, it was still largely on hold in New York as the state Department of Environmental Conservation updated its regulations on high-volume, horizontal hydraulic fracturing or “fracking,” the controversial technique used to tap the lucrative Marcellus Shale.

But even with the moratorium, the gas boom managed to generate plenty of controversy in the Southern Tier in 2010.

In late winter, a proposal surfaced by Chesapeake Energy to build a facility in the Town of Pulteney, near Keuka Lake, to inject wastewater from gas well drilling deep underground. The plan generated intense resistance and Chesapeake eventually pulled its permit application.

After a long, controversy-filled review process that included a state Supreme Court challenge, Schlumberger’s $30 million campus in The Center at Horseheads – built to provide fracking services to wells being drilled within a 300-mile radius – finally broke ground this spring. A handful of other gas-related companies soon followed Schlumberger into the industrial park.

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The risks and benefits of drilling for natural gas have been so widely discussed over the past year that even if you haven't been following gas drilling closely, you might now be familiar with the word "frack."

For those who aren't, the term is short for hydraulic fracturing, a practice where gas drillers shoot pressurized water mixed with sand and chemicals into a well to release natural gas from the earth. The practice has been around for decades, but it's gained new prominence in the past few years with the growth of horizontal drilling, where drillers mine the earth laterally deep underground. The technique has allowed the expansion of drilling into gas-bearing shales across the country, but it also requires large quantities of fracking fluids, sometimes millions of gallons per well. And it's this mix of water and chemicals that has generated the bulk of the controversy and a series of studies, orders and regulations in 2010 from the federal government and a number of states.

Of particular concern to regulators and public health advocates are the specific chemicals that go into that chemical mixture. The industry has fought disclosure for years and had largely been able to keep well-to-well specifics secret, but that began to change this year. Wyoming updated its oil and gas regulations and, in an effort to fend off potential federal oversight, started requiring drillers to list the name and concentration of each of the chemicals used in each well. In Pennsylvania, where drilling in the region's Marcellus Shale continues to expand, regulators have written similar rules that await final approval by the legislature. In both cases, however, drillers may be able to find exceptions.

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Big oil and gas conglomerates. They just got a little extra via the Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit. If you can believe it, this tax credit — one of the best examples of wasteful spending out there — was attached to the tax-cut deal President Obama negotiated with Republicans.

U.S. taxpayers will initially bear this boondoggle’s cost. Ultimately, the poorest people around the world — and our planet itself — will pay the bigger price.

Once thought to be a promising renewable fuel, evidence is mounting that corn ethanol and other basic biofuels are actually worse for the environment than the fossil fuels they’re supposed to replace. When you take into consideration the impact on the land and the deforestation that results from biofuel-driven agriculture, you see a rise in greenhouse gases.

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A critical competitive resource will continue to be delivered to dozens of Western New York manufacturers through the next decade thanks to legislation approved Tuesday by Gov. David Paterson.

Officials from the New York Power Authority joined numerous business leaders for a news conference at Praxair Inc. to announce the seven-year extension of low cost hydropower contracts for more than 100 Western New York companies, including Praxair, the General Motors Tonawanda Engine facility, 3M, DuPont, General Mills and Nestle Purina.

The contracts begin in 2013 and run through 2020. They were reached between the New York Power Authority and Power for Economic Prosperity, a consortium of companies that buy power from NYPA.

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A lot can be spun from the results of the Nov. 2 election, but one fact is uncontrovertible: Pennsylvanians are sick of centrally planned, highly regulated, gimmick-driven economic policy. It hasn’t worked, and now they want results.

And is there a greater example of useless, wasteful government scheming than the commonwealth’s Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard? Coupled with the many subsidies and breaks granted to wind, solar and biomass interests, citizens get doubly whacked in their taxes and in their utility bills.

Outgoing Gov. Ed Rendell signed the state’s current AEPS in 2004, which requires major utilities to get 18 percent of their power generation from renewable resources by 2020. At least .5 percent must come from solar. This requires investor-owned utilities such as PECO Energy and PPL to drop some of their cheaper, more efficient sources of electricity like coal and gas, which keep your bills more affordable. By force of Pennsylvania law, the power companies will instead have to sell you — at a higher price — kilowatts created by wind turbines and solar panels.

Common sense tells most people (the exception being economics-challenged environmentalists) that this will inevitably increase overall electricity costs, which not only hit your power bill, but also pass through all industries and businesses into the products and services that you use. But there is a little bit of research that verifies these facts as well.

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PSC to audit NYSEG

REGION The state Public Service Commission has begun the lengthy process of conducting a management audit of Iberdrola USA's New York utilities: Rochester Gas and Electric Corp. and New York State Electric & Gas Corp., both with headquarters in Rochester.

The PSC will solicit an independent consultant to conduct the audit, noting that Iberdrola "has an international corporate structure that differs from most other electric and gas utilities in New York state."

Iberdrola SA, the parent of Iberdrola USA, is based in Bilbao, Spain.

The PSC said the audit will focus on the utilities' construction programs and operational efficiency, and how the New York operations and ratepayers are affected by decisions made outside of the state.

Completion of the audit isn't expected until May 2012.

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U.S. Says China Fund Breaks Rules

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration filed a case against China with the World Trade Organization on Wednesday, siding with an American labor union, the United Steelworkers, in accusing Beijing of illegally subsidizing the production of wind power equipment.

The decision is the second time in less than four months that the United States has accused China of violating world trade rules.

It represents an escalation of trade tensions between the United States and China over clean energy, viewed by the Obama administration as a frontier in which American companies are struggling to remain competitive.

The United States is challenging a special Chinese government fund that awards grants to makers of wind power equipment. The Americans say the fund provides subsidies that are illegal under W.T.O. rules because the grants appear to be contingent on manufacturers using parts made in China.

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Land owned by Tompkins County will not be leased for natural gas drilling if hydraulic fracturing is used, the county legislature decided Tuesday.

The legislature voted 14-1 to approve a resolution prohibiting the leasing of any county-owned land for hydraulic fracturing, a natural gas-drilling method used in the Marcellus Shale in which a mixture of water, sand and chemicals are pumped into the ground under high pressure to crack the shale and release the natural gas.

The process is highly controversial, with opponents arguing it is detrimental to the environment, threatens drinking water, and the traffic from the drilling pads destroys local roads.

Supporters say the natural gas trapped in the Marcellus Shale, part of which reaches into western and central New York, would be an economic boon to the region.

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The state Public Service Commission on Thursday voted to start a management audit of Iberdrola USA's New York operating companies.

Iberdrola, a Spanish utility company, owns New York State Electric & Gas Corp. as well as Rochester Gas and Electric Corp. NYSEG serves a portion of the Capital Region.

The PSC has been undergoing management audits of utilities across the state to ensure that ratepayers are being served in a cost-efficient manner.

As he's set to leave office in less than two weeks, talk of Gov. David Paterson's legacy has centered on his rise to office, budget battles with the legislature and pesky scandals he couldn't quite seem to shake.

If there's a separate discussion of the mark he will leave on the Southern Tier, it would revolve around two words that have become part of the region's lexicon around the same time the governor's name did: Marcellus Shale.

Much like the overall effectiveness of his nearly three-year term, Paterson's decision making when it comes to the vast natural gas reserve a mile below the surface of the Southern Tier and Catskills Region has received mixed reviews, even among usually like-minded stakeholders.

"I think he was walking a very tight rope when it comes to the Marcellus," said John Holko, president of Genesee County-based Lenape Resources and a member of the Independent Oil & Gas Association of New York's board of directors. "To move on in government life you have to understand that nothing is all good and nothing is all bad, and I think he really did understand that."

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When the battle over a planned water pipeline to run between a pair of Susquehanna County, Pa., communities took an unexpected turn, no one was more surprised than Jean Carter and Julie Sautner.

The Dimock Township residents -- whose water wells were ruined by nearby natural gas drilling operations, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection -- hopped on a conference call Wednesday evening with DEP Secretary John Hanger. They were expecting to hear an update on the project before Hanger is likely relieved of his position by year's end.

What they heard instead was news of a settlement between the DEP and Cabot Oil & Gas, killing the $11.8 million project that would have provided water from Lake Montrose to 19 families in the Carter Road area of Dimock.

"We didn't know anything about it until we got on the call (Wednesday) night," Carter said. "We had no idea what was coming."

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CRESSON, Pa. -- Two central Pennsylvania communities are considering natural gas drilling bans based on an ordinance passed last month in Pittsburgh.

Officials in Cresson and Washington Township, two Cambria County communities more than 60 miles east of Pittsburgh, say local ordinances may be the only way to control drilling in their towns.

Washington Township Chairman Ray Guzic Jr. says his big concern is the effect drilling could have on water quality.

Pittsburgh's ordinance was passed largely to prevent fracking, the injection of chemical-laced water that breaks up rock and helps force gas to the surface. Opponents of the process say those chemicals can contaminate water supplies and even the air near wells.

Both Cambria County towns say their measures are still on the drawing board.

The Obama administration supports a full study of the effects of gas drilling in the watershed that provides drinking water for Philadelphia and New York City, but it doesn't want to wait until it's finished for drilling to begin.

Gen. Peter "Duke" DeLuca of the Army Corps of Engineers outlined the position in a letter (pdf) written to Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-N.Y.) and released today.

The letter offers the first indication of the administration's position on gas drilling in the Northeast since the day after the Nov. 2 midterm election when President Obama highlighted gas drilling as a potential area of common ground with Republicans (Greenwire, Nov. 4).

DeLuca, the Army Corps' North Atlantic division engineer, is the federal representative on the Delaware River Basin Commission, which is developing regulations for gas drilling in eastern Pennsylvania and upstate New York.

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Fired as DEC commissioner almost two months ago, Pete Grannis has joined Environmental Advocates of New York as “special counsel.” Just after his canning — primarily the result of Grannis’ pushback against the Paterson administration’s DEC layoffs — EA Executive Director Rob Moore called it “the final insult of the Paterson administration toward environmental protection.”

At that time, Grannis said he believed the circumstances of his departure would allow him to lobby his former employer without the standard two-year bar. Even so, EA spokesman Erica Ringewald said Grannis wouldn’t be appearing before DEC.

Former Park Commissioner Carol Ash made a similar move by joining the Alliance for New York State Parks, although since she jumped instead of being pushed from her state post, Ash will not be able to lobby her old agency.

(Clock to read the press release)

Environmental groups and energy companies both claimed victory after Gov. David Paterson ordered a seven-month moratorium on some natural gas drilling in the state, although environmentalists would have preferred the broader ban that the Legislature had approved.

The outgoing Democratic governor vetoed a bill on Saturday that would have suspended all new natural-gas drilling permits until May 15. Instead, he issued an executive order prohibiting high-volume hydraulic fracturing of horizontally drilled wells, such as those in the Marcellus Shale region of southern New York. The order stands until July 1.

High-volume hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, involves blasting millions of gallons of chemical-laced water thousands of feet underground to crack shale and release natural gas trapped inside it. The Environmental Protection Agency is examining the process to see if it imperils drinking water supplies, as opponents claim.

Permitting of gas wells in New York’s part of the Marcellus region, which also underlies parts of Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia, has already been on hold for two years while the state Department of Environmental Conservation reviews its potential effects on the environment.

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ALBANY - Gov. David Paterson on Saturday vetoed a bill to temporarily ban natural-gas drilling in New York, but issued an executive order to prohibit the hydraulic fracturing process until at least July 1.

In doing so, Paterson sought to find a middle ground between environmentalists concerned about the potential harm of the so-called hydrofracking and business groups critical that the moratorium bill would impact all gas drilling in the state.

Both sides praised Paterson for his decision - a rare sign of agreement in the contentious battle over natural-gas drilling.

The executive order requires the state Department of Environmental Conservation to continue its review of the effects of hydraulic fracturing in the Marcellus Shale, a formation that stretches across the Southern Tier.

The order would essentially ban high-volume, horizontal hydraulic fracturing until at least July 1, the outgoing Democratic governor said.

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ALLENTOWN, Pa. — The agency that oversees water quality and quantity in the four-state Delaware River basin issued proposed regulations on Thursday for the natural gas drilling industry, launching what is certain to be a heated debate pitting energy companies and leaseholders against environmentalists, sporting groups and residents worried about their drinking water supplies.

The Delaware River Basin Commission published the long-awaited regulations on its website. They govern a range of drilling activities, including water withdrawals, well pad siting and wastewater disposal. The proposed rules also require drilling companies to post a bond of $125,000 per well to cover the plugging and restoration of abandoned wells and the remediation of any pollution.

The commission — a powerful federal-interstate compact agency that monitors water supplies for 15 million people, including half the population of New York City — has declared a moratorium on Marcellus Shale drilling projects in the Delaware River basin until the rulemaking process is complete.

The regulations proposed Thursday are meant to protect “an incredible regional resource for the mid-Atlantic area,” said Carol Collier, the DRBC’s executive director.

Smart Grid Policy Handbook 2010: Major Government Policies, Regulations and Incentives

Smart Grid Policy Handbook 2010: Major Government Policies, Regulations and Incentives


Governments around the world have realized the potential benefits that can be derived from smart grid technology. A key benefit of a modernized electricity network through the adoption of smart grids is the ability to reduce power consumption at the consumer end during peak hours via demand management. In addition, smart grids enable grid connection of distributed power generation such as photovoltaic arrays, wind turbines, micro hydro and combined heat power generators. A smart grid also allows grid energy storage for distributed generation load balancing, and contains or eliminates failures such as widespread power grid cascading failures. Further, it drives the adoption of energy efficient appliances by modifying consumer behavior through in-home displays and variable electricity rates. In this report, the policy and regulatory steps that have been taken by various countries to implement smart grid roll-out are analyzed.

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Newly elected Rep. Tom Reed, RCorning, said Wednesday that he plans to pull together like-minded members of Congress to push for fuller development of the natural gas reserves in the Marcellus Shale.

Only a day after the State Legislature approved a six-month ban on the controversial process of hydraulic fracturing to release the shale’s gas, Reed — in his first media conference call as a congressman—told reporters that the shale has great economic potential.

He also said Congress has a role in clarifying the debate, which has ground drilling to a halt in New York State while producing a boom in neighboring Pennsylvania.

“I am a promoter of developing the Marcellus Shale,” Reed said. “I believe we can do it responsibly. Now is the time to move forward.”

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Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said Tuesday that he's considering a requirement that natural gas drillers who use a process called hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, must identify the chemicals they inject into the ground when they drill on federal lands.

About 90 percent of federal drilling leases granted over the last decade have involved hydraulic fracturing operations as part of their initial well completion, according to the Bureau of Land Management.

Salazar's announcement of a new federal review of the practice came at a forum called by the Interior Department to gather comments from industry groups and environmental advocates.

Current regulations require only that drillers using public lands use "standard prudent operating practice."

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The hydrofracking debate

Local environmentalists are praising the passage of a bill that could lead to a temporary ban on hydrofracking across the state. Those who support the process say the Empire State could lose out on jobs if the ban stays in place. Our Kaitlyn Ross has more on the debate.

After months of debate and several bill drafts, a moratorium on natural gas drilling in New York State has passed both the Senate and the Assembly. But as it waits for the Governor's approval, at least one local voice thinks the issue should be decided outside the Capitol.

"We need to take the politics out of this issue. We need to let the scientists and the engineers, let them do their job," said Broome County Executive Barbara Fiala.

A full report from the Department of Environmental Conservation is pending and Broome County Executive Barbara Fiala thinks the state should support the agency's effort to make sure it's done right.

"I think we need to have confidence in this organization. Fund them. Fund them so they will have the staff to monitor," Fiala said.

(Click to read the entire article)

Environmental activists and their allies in the Assembly held a news conference to praise last night’s Assembly passage of the moratorium on new natural gas wells statewide. Now on Gov. David Paterson’s desk, the measure runs through May 15 and covers the controversial hydrofracking method as well as the more conventional vertical drilling technique.

Not surprising considering the length of the debate and the possible environmental/economic impacts of hydrofracking, each side was describing the ban as — depending on who you talk to — a major common-sense victory for environmentalists or a job-killing piece of politicized hysteria.

Paterson, however, described it as “really not that big a deal” in a Tuesday-morning radio interview with Susan Arbetter of the “Capitol Pressroom.”

He acknowledged that the DEC’s work on the draft regulations wouldn’t be completed by the end of his administration — and possibly not even by the end date of the moratorium.

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