Fracking threatens underground streams

Never in the media or at meetings about hydrofracking that I have attended have I heard of a complete, impartial and professional geological study of this region that pinpoints underground streams vulnerable to the effects of hydrofracking.

High above some of the Finger Lakes exist deep underground streams. These supply many country wells. Some of them contribute to our lakes.

My own well is about 80 feet deep and the water has always tested pure and safe. A longtime well-driller of our area told me that our water, and others of the area, comes from a stream uphill and deep within the ground. Certainly, some of the regional vineyards might be affected by these very streams.

Do those who propose hydrofracking pay any attention to the location of these underground streams in relation to proposed drilling sites?

Such professional and unbiased surveys have been done for more than 100 years by the U.S. Geological Survey. I believe Cornell University may have done the same in various parts of Schuyler and other affected counties.

We are told that hydrofracking activities would provide considerable new employment. Once the drilling is done and wells with pipelines established, how many permanent jobs would there be for local workers?

Penn Yan Village officials plan to spend up to $15,800 to hire an outside firm to submit an electric rate adjustment filing with the Public Service Commission.

The village is seeking a mini-rate case, meaning it will ask for an adjustment to generate up to $300,000 in annual electric revenues. The last electric rate adjustment was done in 1998.

This move is based on information village board members and Municipal Board members learned during a Dec. 7 external audit meeting.

William Frietag, of Bollam, Sheedy, Torani & Co. told village officials during the audit meeting that a municipality going so long without a rate adjustment in New York State is “almost unheard of. Either your rates were a little high at first or the things you could control, you controlled nicely.”

“Your cash balances have been good, which is why the rates have held up so long,” he said.

According to the audit, Penn Yan’s expenses per retail customer are all below other municipal averages.

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State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli became the first statewide official to submit formal comments on the Department of Environmental Conservation’s hydrofracking proposal, using the opportunity to make a renewed push for a gas-drilling accident fund his office would oversee.

DiNapoli submitted a five-page letter to DEC Commissioner Joe Martens today, criticizing the agency’s draft proposals for failing “to adequately address the issue of remediation of contamination resulting from natural gas production.”

High-volume hydrofracking involves a pressurized mix of water, sand and chemicals that is blasted deep underground to unlock gas from shale formations. The gas-rich Marcellus Shale sits underneath the Southern Tier and parts of the Catskills.

In August, DiNapoli proposed a bill that would create a fund—paid for by a fee on gas drillers—that would cover the cost of cleanup from gas-drilling accidents when liability is up in the air. Gas companies, however, were cool to the idea, and the bill has yet to pick up a majority sponsor in the Senate.

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COHOCTON — While many town boards in Livingston County are looking at passing moratoriums on hydrofracking, the Town of Cohocton has taken a different step.

During its Dec. 19 regular meeting, Town resident Harold Kiesl asked the board if they intend to pass a moratorium on hydrofracking, or publicly state where the board stands on the issue as a whole.

Zigenfus said the town is waiting to see what the final Department of Environmental Conservation’s recommendations are, plus receive recommendations from the town and village planning board before going further with discussing a moratorium.

But Zigenfus said he has already been looking at “home rule” issues, which has been brought to the Town recently.

Town attorney Pat McAllister explained further, stating there is complexity at this time on the state constitutional home rule – a municipality’s right to pass local zoning laws – regarding hydrofracking.

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Eco Politics Daily, a blog of the New York League of Conservation Voters, is reporting that New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens has said the agency plans to have a consultant study how natural gas exploration will impact such things as the housing market and emergency services if high volume hydraulic fracturing is approved in New York state.

An earlier report by the outside firm, Ecology & Environment, released in September, concluded that natural gas drilling in New York could create anywhere from 6,000 to 37,000 jobs.

Also, according to the report by Eco Politics Daily, the consultants are being asked to recommend taxes and fees that could be levied on drillers to cover industry oversight, which DEC official estimate could cost about $20 million per year and call for 140 new DEC workers in the first year and 226 by the fifth year of drilling.

The Patterson Republican held a conference call with Assemblyman Robert Castelli, R-Golden’s Bridge, to push a one-year moratorium on hydrofracking in New York. (Hydrofracking is the much-debated technique used with gas drilling that is currently on hold in the state.)

The bill, which Ball said is currently being drafted with Assembly EnCon Chair Robert Sweeney, a Democrat, is sure to gain the support of the heavy Democratic majority in the Assembly, but will be a much tougher sell in the Republican-held Senate. The Senate’s second-ranking member, Tom Libous of Binghamton, has been an outspoken advocate of hydrofracking and drilling, and Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos has pledged support as well. (Skelos, as minority leader in 2010, voted in favor of a six-month moratorium on hydrofracking.)

If nothing else, the push shows how split the Legislature is on hydrofracking. Democrats in both houses are generally opposed, but feelings are mixed in the Senate Republican majority.

Shortly after the conference call ended, Ball’s office sent out another statement blasting Rep. Nan Hayworth, the freshman Mt. Kisco Republican. Ball has taken several shots at Hayworth in recent months, fueling speculation that he may be gearing up for a primary challenge in 2012 (Speculation that, to this point, Ball hasn’t denied).

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Governor Frackinstein

If the state does look to add regulators to watch over the natural gas industry, it won't be part of Gov. Andrew Cuomo's initial budget proposal next year, according to the state's environmental agency.

Department of Environmental Conservation spokeswoman Emily DeSantis said in an email Monday that additional funds for regulating hydraulic fracturing and gas drilling "will not be included in the executive budget," which Cuomo will propose in mid-January.

The DEC is in the middle of soliciting public comment on a series of regulatory proposals that would allow high-volume hydrofracking, a process in which mass amounts of water mixed with sand and chemicals are blasted deep underground to unlock natural gas. High-volume hydrofracking was put on hold by the state in July 2008.

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Marcellus Shale natural gas production is expected to keep rising in 2012, yet landowners may find that signing lease deals isn't as easy as in years past.

Though still in its early stages, industry experts say that the business of Marcellus Shale gas drilling is starting to change, as new forces emerge.

Among them: lawmakers putting regulations in place that will create more drilling opportunities in shale states other than Pennsylvania; Shell's coming decision on where to build a massive processing plant; and the great unknown, the market prices for natural gas.

Drillers have swarmed in recent years to the lucrative Marcellus Shale region primarily beneath Pennsylvania, New York, West Virginia and Ohio. Pennsylvania is the center of activity, with more than 3,000 wells drilled in the past three years and thousands more planned. Critics say a drilling method known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, could poison water supplies, while the natural-gas industry says it's been used safely for decades.

2012 could lessen the spotlight on Pennsylvania. Other states are moving toward updating laws to regulate drilling, and the industry is starting to explore a new gas resource — the Utica shale, which lies under the Marcellus formation.

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Is 2012 the year for hydrofracking?

For natural gas companies and eager landowners hoping to tap into New York's vast underground reserves, 2008 was looking like "the year."

The same could have been said every year since.

It's been 3 1/2 years since New York began assessing the risks and benefits of using high-volume hydraulic fracturing to extract gas from the Marcellus and Utica shale formations that lie deep beneath the state's surface.

And while the state has taken clear steps toward allowing the much-debated technique, the highly polarizing decision on whether to give the green light looks like it will drag on well into 2012 -- if not longer.

"It's going to be the year we decide if democracy exists in Albany," Adrienne Esposito, executive director of the Citizens Campaign for the Environment, said about next year. "We have seen a record outpouring of public engagement on this issue, unlike anything I have seen in my 26 years doing this work."

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As many other towns across Livingston County, such as North Dansville, have already done, Springwater Town Council voted last week to draft a moratorium that could put the brakes on permits for hydraulic fracturing in the town.

High volume, horizontal hydrofracking is a process of natural gas extraction that involves drilling multiple wells from a single well site and uses millions of gallons of water laced with thousands of gallons of chemicals. Many citizen action groups, including Frack Free Genesee in Livingston and Ontario counties, oppose allowing the practice in New York.

Springwater Resident Herb Tinney spoke Monday night about the dangers of hydraulic fracturing and criticized the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s ability to oversee the process. He urged the town council to begin the process toward a one-year moratorium.

“The DEC has now publicly states it cannot regulate the hydraulic fracturing process,” Herb Tinney said. “The more information we are getting, the more we are realizing we do not yet have.”

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New York state OKs sale of Ginna plant

The state Public Service Commission gave the go-ahead Thursday to the sale of a controlling interest in three upstate New York nuclear power plants, including the Ginna facility in Wayne County.

Saying the sale would have no significant impact on ratepayers, the commission ended an eight-month review of the purchase by Exelon Corp. of Constellation Energy Group's 50.1 percent interest in the Ginna plant and the Nine Mile Point I and II reactors in Oswego County.

The minority ownership share would continue to be held by Electricite de France, one of the world's largest utilities.

Transfer of Constellation's interest in the three upstate power plants, which can generate about 2,300 megawatts of electricity, is part of a $7.9 billion merger of the Baltimore-based company with Exelon, of Chicago.

The PSC said the combined companies, which will operate under the Exelon name, will have about 5 percent of the electricity generation market in New York state. Exelon will have only a "small" ability to influence the market, the commission concluded.

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Some Steuben County residents had put a lot of hope into hydrofracking making big money for them, and numerous permits have been filed for Marcellus Shale drilling in the Steuben County towns of Lindley and Tuscarora. Permits have also been filed in Bath, Cameron, Jasper and other towns too.

However, according to one top local official, the price of gas is affecting the chances for a lot of hydrofracking in Steuben County. Hornell Industrial Development Agency Director Jim Griffin says he's been told by sources that the price of gas being at $2.00, that's affecting the chances drilling in Steuben County. "It's not economically feasible to drill and recover marcellus shale gas at $2.00," Griffin has been told.

Griffin also informs WLEA/WCKR News that it could be two to 10 years before hydrofracking becomes the money maker many hoped it would be in Steuben County.

A new law for New York authorizes establishment of benefit corporations with a dual focus on social responsibility and profits.

While officers and directors of existing companies are required to pursue profits on behalf of shareholders, sponsors say the new model envisions other fiduciary responsibilities meant to have a positive material impact on society and the environment.

It is meant in part to address concerns among some entrepreneurs who need to raise growth capital but fear losing the social or environmental missions of their business.

The bill will go into effect in 60 days. It unanimously passed the Senate and Assembly and Gov. Andrew Cuomo has signed it.

Supporters say New York is the seventh state to enact the legislation, following Maryland, Vermont, New Jersey, Virginia, Hawaii and California.

Questions are surfacing about the $7.1 million Bath Electric Gas and Water Systems substation now under construction on the residential Fairview Drive in the village of Bath.

A number of residents on Fairview recently attended a village board meeting, to complain about the size of the project, possible noise and lighting.

But many of those issues apparently could have been addressed when the project was first discussed more than four years ago.

According to information received under the Freedom of Information Law, a report by the BEGWS Commission indicated in March 2007 the project would:

•Be located over a primary, principal or sole source aquifer.
•Be near a building, site, or district listed on the state or national registers of historic places.
•Be located in a 100-year flood plain.
•Would produce operating noises exceeding local ambient (normal) noises.
•Would impact aesthetic resources.

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Getting Gas Drilling Right

URBAN WATER SUPPLIES The rules rightly forbid drilling inside the two major unfiltered watersheds serving New York City and Syracuse. But New York City officials warn that hydrofracturing outside the watershed boundaries could set off tiny subsurface shocks, cracking the aging tunnels that bring water to the city and allowing water to leak out of the tunnels and gas to seep in. The proposed rules would limit drilling within 1,000 feet of the tunnels; some experts believe that a setback of several miles will be necessary.

HAZARDOUS WASTEWATER A federal panel found recently that the biggest risks arise from “flowback” — the huge volumes of water laced with naturally occurring toxic pollutants that drilling brings to the surface along with the natural gas. In Western states, these and other wastes are sometimes safely stored underground, but this may not be possible in New York’s geological formations. Sewage treatment plants are not equipped to handle these wastes, open pits are out of the question, and surface storage — even in airtight steel tanks — may be no more than a temporary solution. State officials concede that they don’t have an answer, but until they do, not a single well should be drilled.

OVERSIGHT When fully operational in a decade, the industry could be drilling hundreds of wells a year. Two questions arise, neither addressed in the proposed regulations: First, who’s going to police all this activity? The minerals division of the Department of Environmental Conservation has fewer than 20 employees. Joe Martens, the commissioner, says he wants 140 more, but even that doesn’t sound like enough. Second, who’s going to pay for the regulatory machinery? The obvious answer is the industry, which is growing rapidly and can easily afford permit fees or a volumetric tax on the gas or both. The state needs to ensure an adequate financing stream dedicated to monitoring and enforcement.

There are other issues that need meticulous examination. One is the danger of underground leaks of chemicals or methane gas. The Environmental Protection Agency reported on Thursday that wells in a remote valley in Wyoming may have been contaminated this way. Another issue is above-ground gas leaks that would add to global warming (methane is a potent greenhouse gas). Still another is what industry should be required to do to restore the landscape to its original condition after wells go dry.

There is no reason to hurry the rule-making or the drilling. The only way New York can safely move ahead with hydrofracturing is by designing and executing a tough regulatory program that could also serve as a model for the rest of the nation.

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A U.S. Environmental Protection Agency report linking hydraulic fracturing for natural gas to groundwater contamination for the first time puts pressure on the agency to move sooner on efforts to regulate drilling.

The Dec. 8 report that chemicals consistent with those used in drilling were found in groundwater samples in west-central Wyoming may be used by the agency to accelerate action, according to Ken von Schaumburg, a Washington-based attorney and former EPA deputy general counsel. The EPA is weighing three rules on fracturing, or fracking, the first of which is planned for April.

Environmental groups say fracking, in which millions of gallons of chemically treated water are forced underground to shatter rock and let gas flow, is a threat to drinking-water supplies. The EPA’s draft report on groundwater contamination in Pavillion, Wyoming, about 230 miles (370 kilometers) northeast of Salt Lake City, is the first to blame the drilling technique for spoiling water.

“They’re trying to move the rule-making along,” von Schaumburg, who served in President George W. Bush’s administration, said in an interview. “They’re getting a lot of pushback from industry. This may be a tool for EPA to speed up the process.”

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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for the first time has implicated hydraulic fracturing — a controversial method of improving the productivity of oil and gas wells — for causing groundwater pollution.

The EPA’s findings add fuel to a growing movement to protect watersheds and communities statewide.

This past week, the Canandaigua Lake Watershed Council became one of the latest groups to plead formally for protection from the gas drilling procedure, also called hydrofracking, which involves blasting chemical-laced water into the ground. The council consists of leaders representing the 14 municipalities dependent on Canandaigua Lake for their drinking water.

“Based on the current technology of high-volume hydraulic fracturing and the proposed regulations, we believe that this method of drilling for natural gas poses unacceptable risks to the lifeblood of this region,” the council stated in a detailed letter to New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens.

Ontario County Watershed Manager Kevin Olvany said the letter signed by the council urges the DEC to look to the EPA’s national comprehensive study on the impact of fracking. The study is due to be completed by the end of 2012.

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Chemung County is joining its counterparts throughout New York in asking the state for help to pay for increased staffing to handle anticipated demand to test drinking water due to gas well development in the Marcellus Shale.

The Chemung County Board of Health this week approved a resolution asking Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state Legislature to provide funding to cover completely the cost of additional staffing and resources to investigate complaints about drinking water, should hydraulic fracturing be approved by the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

Local health departments have been specifically identified in the DEC's revised draft Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement as being responsible for responding to all initial complaints about water related to drilling, said Tom Kump, director of environmental health for the Chemung County Health Department.

"That's going to put a huge burden on us, and we're looking at that as an unfunded mandate," Kump said. "We'll do the best we can, but at some point we'll just get saturated where we just can't respond."

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Over 100 people turned out Monday evening for a town hall meeting with Sen. Tom O’Mara and Assemblyman Phil Palmesano at the Penn Yan Village Hall.

For about two hours, the lawmakers listened to several comments from people opposed to hydraulic fracturing in the Marcellus Shale in the Finger Lakes.

The crowd applauded at various times when people made specific comments such as urging the two lawmakers to support a ban of hydrofracking in the area.

“The gas isn’t going anywhere. We need to be smart and wait for a proven way to take it out. Let’s do it safely and not jump the gun,” said Michelle Morehouse.

O’Mara said he wants to hear from the experts within the Department of Environmental Conservation on whether the practice can be done safely. If he is convinced it can be done safely, he will support the practice. He said he also wants to learn more about a proposed 4,000 ft. set back from a lake.

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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for the first time has implicated fracking — a controversial method of improving the productivity of oil and gas wells — for causing groundwater pollution.

The finding could have a chilling effect in states trying to determine how to regulate the controversial process.

The practice is called hydraulic fracturing and involves pumping pressurized water, sand and chemicals underground to open fissures and improve the flow of oil or gas.

The EPA announced today that it found compounds likely associated with fracking chemicals in the groundwater beneath a Wyoming community where residents say their well water reeks of chemicals.

Health officials advised them not to drink their water after the EPA found hydrocarbons in their wells.

The EPA announcement has major implications for a vast increase in gas drilling in the U.S. in recent years. Fracking has played a large role in opening up many reserves.

The industry has long contended that fracking is safe, but environmentalists and some residents who live near drilling sites say it has poisoned groundwater.

Why RGGI Should Be Repealed in New York:

NY’s Participation in RGGI is Unconstitutional:
 No legislation, participation through Gov. Pataki’s Memorandum of Understanding and Gov. Paterson’s Executive Order
 Taxation without representation
 A lawsuit has been filed in NYS Supreme Court challenging it’s constitutionality

Increases Costs to Energy:
 $900 Million in permits (as of 9/2011) sold as a requirement to energy plants that emit CO2
 Increased cost of production passed on to consumers, considered an ultra vires tax
 Rates for electricity could increase anywhere from 2% to 23% according to the Associated Industries of Massachusetts (A.I.M.)
 NYS has the 2nd highest electricity costs according to the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council’s 2010 Energy Cost Index (which cited data for 2008 through October from the U.S. Energy Information Administration)
 NYS electricity prices are 58 percent higher than the national average

Lack of Transparency:
 The RGGI program operates in secret with little know about who is trading on this government-created carbon commodities market
 RGGI has refused open records requests claiming they are a non-governmental agency despite having been created by ten state governments
 To date, RGGI has not released information regarding salaries and benefits paid to RGGI bureaucrats
 Companies trading on this carbon commodities market are unknown – only a list of prospective bidders is released
 Prospective bidders are a “who’s who” of Wall Street firms, including Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley and JPMorgan Chase

RGGI is Ineffective:
 According to RGGI’s own consultants, there will be no drop in CO2 emissions for two decades due to RGGI bureaucrats setting the cap too low
 Gov. Christie said “This program is not effective in reducing greenhouse gases and is unlikely to be in the future. The whole system is not working as it was intended to work. It is a failure.”

“RGGI has not changed behavior and it does not reduce emissions,” Christie said. “RGGI does nothing more than tax electricity, tax our citizens, tax our businesses, with no discernable or measurable impact upon our environment.”

Adverse Affects on Plants and Communities:
 Making it difficult for energy producing plants to stay in business, threatening closures
 Loss of good paying jobs
 Loss of tax base directly affect the county, towns and school districts
 $326,693,566 taken out of economy in NY due to the required purchase of permits
 $90 Million diverted by Governor Paterson to balance the FY 2010 budget, not to the green initiatives it was intended for
 The costs associated with this regulation contributes to NYS’s 50th rating in Business Climate

Bottom line: RGGI is unconstitutional, ineffective, lacks transparency, drives electricity costs up, and puts jobs and communities in jeopardy.

The Canandaigua Town Board unanimously passed a moratorium on natural gas and petroleum activities — including high volume hydraulic fracturing — Monday night during a public hearing at the Town Hall.

The moratorium would ban hydrofracking — the controversial natural gas drilling method — for 18 months. The moratorium would give the town additional time to update the Town Code to protect the health, safety and welfare of its residents, said Kevin Reynolds, the Chairman of the town’s Environmental Conservation Board.

It would also give the board more time to sort through both the pros and cons of the issue.

“There is much (about hydrofracking) that’s unknown — not good or bad, it’s just unknown” said board member Terry Fennelly. “We’re trying to methodically move through this and understand what legal authority we have.”

Fennelly added that to review the facts and to look at both sides of the issues, could take several months.

Most of the residents present at the meeting were anti-fracking and raised concerns about what will happen after the 18-month time period of the moratorium.

“We can issue an extension (to the moratorium),” said Town Supervisor Sam Casella. “That’s why we extended it by more than a year in the first place.”

People from all corners of Ontario descended on Queens Park last week demanding local municipal decision-making power be reinstated with respect to industrial wind turbines. While municipalities and residents have their say on, for example, where a new Tim Hortons or Walmart is located, Mr. McGuinty continues to allow faceless unelected bureaucrats and the companies themselves decide on wind towers.

With no planning directives from council, and no yellow roadside zoning signs, Mr. McGuinty’s Green Energy Act has neutered municipal councilors, taking away their power, and the power of area people, to have their say.

As people rallied outside, Opposition Leader Tim Hudak was inside formally questioning, “’re bringing in the largest industrial wind farm in the entire province in West Niagara and the Glanbrook area…Will you do the right thing and support the bill…and restore local decision-making like the 80 municipalities have called for?”

“The bill” Hudak referred to, the Local Municipality Democracy Act, 201, was introduced by MPP Todd Smith from Prince Edward Hastings. The legislation, proposing to restore municipal planning previously stripped by the Green Energy Act, was debated that afternoon.

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The Jefferson County Industrial Development Agency has signed on to help Guilfoyle Ambulance Service move and expand.

Following in the footsteps of the Watertown Local Development Corp., the agency board approved a $252,500 loan for the service at 5 percent interest for 20 years. The service plans to purchase the former Covidien building on Faichney Drive for its new home.

“This is part of the money for renovations and new equipment,” board Treasurer Michelle D. Pfaff said.

The for-profit ambulance service now has 121 employees, but expects to add 74 in the next three years.

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The Canandaigua Town Board will hold a public hearing for a proposed moratorium on high volume hydraulic fracturing at 7 p.m. Monday, Dec. 5 at the Canandaigua Town Hall, 5440 Routes 5 and 20.

The moratorium would ban hydrofracking — the controversial natural gas drilling method — for a certain period of time, thus giving the town more time to research the issue and to possibly change the town’s zoning code.

The town passed a resolution Oct. 24 asking that the legislature of New York, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo, apply the same standards to the Canandaigua Lake Watershed and Finger Lakes Watershed that has been issued in New York City and Syracuse.

A recently released study on natural gas drilling and contamination of water wells, contentious issues as drillers swarm to a lucrative shale formation beneath Pennsylvania, had an error, according to researchers from Penn State University.

The researchers reported that there is far less evidence of well contamination by bromides, salty mineral compounds that can combine with other elements to cause health problems, than first suggested. The researchers are reviewing the entire study, released in October, after discovering that results from an independent water testing lab contained the error.

One water well, not seven, showed increased bromide levels after drilling, the researchers said in a statement issued last week by The Center for Rural Pennsylvania, a state-funded agency that first released the study.

One of the Penn State University researchers, Bryan Swistock, said in an email that the study didn’t go through an independent scientific peer review process because of a Center for Rural Pennsylvania policy that reports must first go to the General Assembly before outside publication.

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We, the undersigned, strongly support safeguarding the environment, public health, natural resources and scenic splendor of New York’s Catskills, Finger Lakes and Southern Tier regions. With that goal in mind, we request that you immediately withdraw the Marcellus Shale revised draft Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (RD SGEIS) in order to resolve the fundamental shortcomings documented herein.

There is a de facto moratorium on horizontal hydrofracturing in New York’s Marcellus Shale pending adoption of a Final SGEIS. The Department of Environmental Conservation’s (DEC) 2009 Draft SGEIS received such withering criticism that Governor Paterson signed Executive Order No. 41 requiring DEC to: “make such revisions to the Draft SGEIS that are necessary to analyze comprehensively the environmental impacts associated with high-volume hydraulic fracturing combined with horizontal drilling, ensure that such impacts are appropriately avoided or mitigated …” On 1/1/11, you signed a “continuation” of that Order.

The RD SGEIS Must Be Withdrawn Due to DEC’s Failure to Fulfill Executive Order No. 41

(Click to sign)

The state Department of Environmental Conservation will let the public comment on its proposed rules for hydraulic fracturing for an additional month, the agency announced Wednesday.

The public comment period on the DEC's 1,500-page environmental review and proposed regulations will now close Jan. 11. It had been slated to end Dec. 12.

In September, the DEC released its draft rules for comment, after an incomplete draft was released in July. But an agency spokeswoman said many people had asked for more time to comment, and the DEC would grant the request.

"Many individuals and organizations requested additional time to prepare comments," spokeswoman Emily DeSantis said in a statement. "We have decided to extend the comment period by 30 days to Jan. 11."

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The plan is broken into 14 proposals that each fall under the umbrella of five strategies developed by the council, focusing on health care, renewable energy, rural economics, infrastructure and transportation.

» The Community Revitalization Project, a $60 million investment in 60 to 75 major community revitalization efforts that would create 4,500 jobs and 35 to 40 businesses.

» A Rural Initiative Venture Fund that would create 2,000 jobs through a $10 million investment in diversifying, improving and expanding the region's agribusiness industry.

» The Next Generation Transportation Development Initiative, a $14 million investment aimed at establishing the Southern Tier as a bedroom community for New York City with a high-speed inter-city transportation project.

» A three-year, $7 million regional broadband project that would connect 26,000 rural homes and businesses to enhanced Internet service.

» A $5 million investment in renewable energy that would retrofit 145,000 buildings and create 4,500 jobs.

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In 2009 Google announced a project in which it would pursue a so-far elusive goal – to produce “Renewable Energy Cheaper Than Coal” (“REto ingratiate themselves with the Obama administration by following its “Green jobs” agenda.

But last week the company announced it will end RE

“We’re in the process of shutting a number of products which haven’t had the impact we’d hoped for,” wrote Urs H√∂lzle, Senior Vice President of Operations, on the company’s blog.

Under RE, Google dedicated an engineering team to research and try to improve solar technology. Upon its 2009 announcement the company’s Green Energy Czar Bill Weihl told Reuters he expected “within a few years” that his people would be able to demonstrate technology that produces renewable energy cheaper than coal.

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A Hydrofracking Forum Monday night in Honeoye Falls will add artwork to the debate about the environmental impacts of hydrofracking.

The event, at 7 p.m. at the Rabbit Room, 61 North Main St., Honeoye Falls, in the historic Lower Mill, is free and open to the public. Artwork on display will include landscape-based paintings of hydrofracked sites by South Lima artist Gloria Betlem, wood cuts of endangered and invasive species by Ithaca artist Jenny Pope, and a quilt depicting a hydrofracking well penetrating layers of earth by Mary Louise Gerek, a member of Rochester Area Fiber Artists.

According to Allison DeMarco, the meeting’s organizer, the intent of the informational forum is to bring together people from Ontario, Livingston and Monroe Counties to explore ways the three counties can work together to help shape regulations covering hydrofracking in the region. Honeoye Falls is located in Monroe County, near the borders of both Livingston and Ontario counties.

National Grid, the British power conglomerate that owns the power system in parts of New York, was expected to receive a forceful call today from U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer.

Schumer, D-N.Y., speaking this morning at a dairy farm in Covington, Wyoming County, told a gathering of farmers and local officials that he will demand National Grid live up to its commitment to connect its power grid to a manure-powered generator at the Synergy Dairy by the end of the year.

Schumer got involved because the energy project must start producing electricity by Dec. 31 to qualify for $2.8 million in federal energy tax breaks.

National Grid agreed more than a year ago to connect power lines to the manure- and food-waste-digesting generator, Schumer said, but hasn’t done it and now says it cannot do the work until March.

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The Obama administration controls the tie-breaking vote on a plan to begin drilling for natural gas in the Northeast, shining a spotlight on its efforts to find a middle ground on the use of hydraulic fracturing to tap deep shale rock formations for energy.

Some local environmental groups are comparing the proposal, and their efforts to block it, to the debate over the Keystone XL pipeline, which would bring crude to the United States from Canada's oil sands region. Green groups claimed a big victory earlier this month when the administration delayed a decision on that project.

The administration is holding its cards close to the vest on the drilling proposal before the Delaware River Basin Commission. The obscure but important agency has authority over development in a watershed that includes parts of four states and supplies drinking water to 5 percent of the country's population, including Philadelphia and New York City.

Late last week, the commission called off a vote that had been planned for today on whether to approve regulations and allow drilling to start.

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Hydrofracking is a simple technology that has opened a vast natural gas resource for development.

New York's anti-hydrofracking crowd would have us believe that this technology will ruin our water supplies. The pro-fracking side tells us that it's safe, and will boost our economy. Each side is partially correct. So why is hydrofracking so controversial?

New York state already has thousands of natural gas wells, and nearly all of them have been hydrofracked. As far back as the 1960s New York's drillers would "frack" new gas wells by injecting a mixture of water under extreme pressure to fracture the rock, sand grains to prop the new fractures open, lubricants such as diesel fuel to make the water flow more easily, and toxic chemicals to prevent microbial growth.

Without hydrofracking the natural gas would stay embedded in the shale and not flow into the wells.

New York's gas resource will be developed: It's just too big to ignore. With gas prices low we lose nothing by going slow and making sure we have all the regulations and oversight in place.

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Key gas drilling vote canceled by DRBC

A multistate agency that has spent years developing regulations for natural gas drilling in the Delaware River watershed abruptly canceled a key vote scheduled for Monday after two members announced their opposition.

The Delaware River Basin Commission said Friday it was postponing a vote on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, to give the agency’s five commissioners more time to review the draft regulations.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett said the commissioners failed to agree.

The DRBC said no new date had been set.

“Pennsylvania is ready to move forward now,” Corbett said in a statement released Friday. “We have demonstrated a willingness to compromise and to address issues brought forth by other members of the commission. We have worked with our commission partners in good faith, and it is disappointing to not have these efforts reciprocated.”

But New York’s Attorney General, Eric Schneiderman, said an environmental risk-assessment is needed to win public confidence and ensure that the commission’s actions are based on science.

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Finger Lakes, N.Y. — Attorney General Eric Schneiderman Friday issued the following statement regarding a decision by the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) to postpone a scheduled vote on its proposed draft hydrofracking regulations.

“This delay further demonstrates that the proposed regulations for fracking in the Delaware River Basin are not ready to see the light of day. Without a full, fair and open review of the potential risks of fracking in the Basin, the public will continue to question the federal government’s ability to protect public health and environment.

“I also commend Delaware Governor Markell for stating that Delaware would vote 'no' on the current regulations. His position echoes my long-standing position: the federal government must follow both common sense and the law, and conduct a full study of fracking in the Basin before proceeding with regulations.”


On this issue, no one sits on the fence.

With hundreds of people filling Dansville for an afternoon session and hundreds more piling in for the evening public hearing, New York residents came with strong arguments both for an against hydrofracking, but nothing in between.

The public hearing was a chance for the Department of Environmental Conservation to hear public comment on its regulations on high volume hydraulic fracturing within the state’s borders, something that could become a reality without much more of a wait.

During the afternoon session, 64 people were able to get their opinions out to the audience and DEC officials. It is estimated that 800 - 900 people came through the former school to attend, some 160 in hopes of speaking. The evening session brought more people, all limited to three minutes of commenting time each.

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BINGHAMTON -- It was the perfect setting for the Southern Tier's longest-running drama.

In Binghamton's downtown Forum theater Thursday, two hopelessly divided sides took center stage in a region at the crux of New York's natural gas drilling debate.

And, predictably, voices were raised and fingers were wiggled when the estimated 1,050 people began voicing their opinions on the state Department of Environmental Conservation's proposed regulations for hydraulic fracturing.

This was the second of four hearings DEC will hold this month to take public comments on its proposed regulations. After the close of the public comment period Dec. 12, the agency is expected to consider relevant feedback as it creates the final draft of the regulations before issuing permits to drill wells as soon as sometime next year.

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The casualties of wind development

After six years of fighting wind development, I‘m looking at the absentee voter numbers and results for the Cape Vincent elections. I wonder if it will ever dawn on the wind proponents and former wind-conflicted town officials who became wind developer pawns and casualties as to what wind actually brought to them. It angered a community so deeply, locals and seasonals, that decades of entrenched town government was overturned.

To wind proponents, here is the gift wind brought you sealed in the belly of the Trojan horse you let through the gates: a longtime supervisor overturned, the Planning Board chairman and three Planning Board members gone, three councilmen removed or resigned, a long-time town justice removed, a local wind-conflicted state senator removed, and worst, a town socially torn apart. All brought to you courtesy of your clean, green wind energy. Make sure you send BP and Acciona a thank-you card.

When Cape wind proponents drank the Kool-Aid, they opened the gates wide for the real monster. They never grasped the frightening reality of who the real enemy was. Wind developers always stay above the fray. And like Teflon, they let all the public dirt and social upheaval that rips apart wind towns slide right off onto their real victims — the leaseholders and conflicted town officials. They engineered the destruction of a long-established town government.

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About 100 people are listening to impassioned arguments about natural gas drilling at a hearing in Binghamton, the epicenter of expected development in New York of the Marcellus Shale formation.

Local officials and residents are making three-minute statements about hydraulic fracturing. Some are calling on the Department of Environmental Conservation to lift its three-year moratorium. Others are urging more study of health impacts.

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, involves injecting millions of gallons of chemical-laced water into a gas well to free gas from dense shale a mile underground.

Opponents say it poses environmental hazards, while supporters say fracking will bring thousands of jobs to upstate New York.

The first hearing, held Wednesday, drew hundreds of people to Dansville, in Livingston County south of Rochester.

Passions run deep for and against the natural gas drilling method called hydrofracking, or high volume hydraulic fracturing. Those sentiments were evident during Wednesday’s public hearings on fracking in Dansville, Livingston County, before the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

The hearings were held in the recently shuttered Dansville Middle School — a site that Tom Shepstone, campaign director for Energy in Depth, Northeast Marcellus Initiative, said was indicative of New York's need for economic benefits of hydrofracking. In the struggling state, he said, "there's no growth, no construction."

A few of the observations, from participants speaking during the afternoon hearing and citizens rallying outside the school:

“The issue is not just about the potential environmental and health costs to individuals and this state, but the threat to clean, safe drinking water — which is life itself.” — Sandra Frankel, Brighton town supervisor.

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Fracking sparks earthquake concerns

In early 2001, people living in northern Steuben County experienced something that many of them had never felt before — a series of earthquakes, the largest of which was more powerful than any naturally occurring tremor in New York in a decade.

Damage was minimal but nerves were jangled. Because the epicenters were in an area not known to be quake-prone, officials looked for an explanation. They found one that might seem improbable.

The earthquakes were man-made, New York officials suspected — the result of test injections of millions of gallons of water into two-mile-deep disposal wells built as part of a controversial natural-gas storage operation being developed in the town of Avoca.

State officials ordered a halt to the well tests. The elaborate gas storage facility was never finished and the site eventually abandoned. The incident, which largely went unnoticed outside of Avoca and neighboring Cohocton, has been given fresh currency today because of the growing controversy in New York and nationwide over the natural-gas drilling technique known as hydraulic fracturing.

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The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation holds a public hearing on the draft regulations for the highvolume hydraulic fracturing of natural gas drilling Wednesday in Dansville.

It is one of four public hearings on the revised draft environmental impact statement, draft regulations and proposed State Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (SPDES) General Permit (GP) for Stormwater Discharges associated with high-volume hydraulic fracturing, which involves injecting water and chemicals into rock to release gas.

The Dansville hearing includes afternoon and evening sessions, from 1 to 4 p.m. and 6 to 9 p.m. at Dansville Middle School auditorium, 31 Clara Barton St., Dansville

Comments will be accepted in written and oral format at the hearings. Once the comment period ends, Dec. 12, the DEC will review the comments and prepare responses to be released with the final environmental impact statement and final regulations. No permits for high-volume hydraulic fracturing will be issued until the impact statement is finalized and the DEC issues the required Findings Statement. Comments can be submitted online. They may be mailed to: Attn:dSGEIS Comments, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, 625 Broadway, Albany, NY 12233-6510.

With New York poised to begin public hearings on proposed gas drilling rules, the industry says the regulations would be so restrictive that drillers would avoid the state, while environmental groups call the rules too lax.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation is holding the first of four public hearings on Wednesday in the Finger Lakes village of Dansville. People hoping for a three-minute slot to comment on the agency's proposed guidelines are expected to line up hours before the 1 p.m. hearing at the middle school.

The state has refused to issue permits for drilling in the lucrative Marcellus Shale formation since 2008, when it began its review of the high-volume hydraulic fracturing process used to blast wells into production. Opponents fear it will contaminate water supplies.

he 3½-year debate over drilling for natural gas in New York is about to hit the stage.

Officials in Dansville and Binghamton are preparing for large, emotional crowds this week as the Department of Environmental Conservation travels the state to solicit input on its proposed rules for hydraulic fracturing in the Marcellus and Utica Shale.

Anywhere from several dozen to a few hundred people from all parts of the state and all sides of the debate are expected to attend, with those hoping to secure a coveted three-minute speaking slot expected to line up at the doors well before they're open.

"There are groups and individuals from all across this state that are gearing up and getting ready to come out and tell the DEC what they think of its draft plan," said Katherine Nadeau, a program director for Environmental Advocates of New York.

Hearings will be Wednesday at the Dansville Middle School auditorium and Thursday at The Forum Theatre in Binghamton, with ones in Sullivan County and New York City to follow later in the month.

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(NOTE: Among the 15—Hawaii’s Kahuku Wind Power project owned by a shell company controlled by Mafia-connected First Wind. First Wind’s shell company received a $117M ‘loan’ from the US Treasury.)

The government support — which includes loan guarantees, cash grants and contracts that require electric customers to pay higher rates — largely eliminated the risk to the private investors and almost guaranteed them large profits for years to come. The beneficiaries include financial firms like Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, conglomerates like General Electric, utilities like Exelon and NRG — even Google.

Concerns that the government was being too generous reached all the way to President Obama. In an October 2010 memo prepared for the president, Lawrence H. Summers, then his top economic adviser; Carol M. Browner, then his adviser on energy matters; and Ronald A. Klain, then the vice president’s chief of staff, expressed discomfort with the “double dipping” that was starting to take place. They said investors had little “skin in the game.”

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Landslide elections here and in the neighboring town of Caroline Nov. 8 put to rest any doubts that hydrofracking opponents have the upper hand politically in this Finger Lakes community.

But those lopsided victories will ring hollow unless the Town of Dryden prevails in court against Anschutz Exploration Corp.

In August, the Dryden town board banned oil and gas exploration and development within its borders, where the Colorado company has spent $5.1 million leasing and developing 22,000 acres. Local residents were split on the wisdom and validity of the ban, and it became the central issue in fall political campaigns.

On the Friday before pro-ban Democrats swept the elections, lawyers for Anschutz asserted to Tompkins County Supreme Court Justice Phillip R. Rumsey in Ithaca that Dryden lacked the legal authority to ban local oil and gas exploration and development. Thomas West, an Albany attorney representing Anschutz, argued that the 1981 state law assigning regulatory authority over such activities to the state Department of Environmental Conservation supersedes all local laws, including zoning ordinances.

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The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation issued its draft regulations for high-volume hydraulic fracturing which are based on the proposed requirements contained in the agency’s revised draft Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement.

A public hearing has been scheduled 1-4 and 6-9 p.m. Nov. 16 in the Dansville Middle School auditorium.

“Public review of the proposed requirements and regulations governing high-volume hydraulic fracturing is an important part of the environmental impact statement process,” DEC Commissioner Joe Martens said. “The comments from the 2009 public comment period proved insightful and helped inform the revised SGEIS. We look forward to continuing to hear from commentors in person and in writing over the next few months.”

The draft regulations create a legal framework for implementing the proposed mitigation measures in the revised dSGEIS. The public comment period on the draft regulations runs concurrently with the public comment period on the dSGEIS, which ends Dec. 12. DEC also released the proposed State Pollutant Discharge Elimination System General Permit for Stormwater Discharges associated with high-volume hydraulic fracturing.

DEC will host four public hearings on the revised draft SGEIS, draft regulations and proposed SPDES GP. Each public hearing will have a 1-4 p.m. afternoon session and a 6-9 p.m. evening session. Comments will be accepted in written and oral format at the hearings.

The hearings will be:

◦Nov. 16: Dansville Middle School Auditorium, 31 Clara Barton St., Dansville, NY 14437
◦Nov. 17: The Forum Theatre, 236 Washington Street, Binghamton, NY, 13901
◦Nov. 29: Sullivan County Community College, Seelig Theatre, 112 College Rd, Loch Sheldrake, NY 12759
◦Nov. 30: Tribeca Performing Arts Center, 199 Chambers Street, New York, NY, 10007

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A new coalition of New York business groups, landowners and construction companies is weighing in on the controversy over hydraulic fracturing of gas wells in the Marcellus Shale formation.

Clean Growth Now says it's a grass-roots group that hopes to strike a middle ground for safe, responsible drilling in the Southern Tier.

The group says it will be a moderate voice between the gas industry and environmentalists who oppose "hydrofracking."

The group's leaders say Thursday they fear the polarization could lead to the upstate economy missing out on the boom they see in northern Pennsylvania.

The group of 16 organizations includes the Associated Builders and Contractors, the state Business Council and the Greater Binghamton Chamber of Commerce.


Lowell Mountain Occupation #2

Many people in Sidney, N.Y., were outraged when the town board voted unanimously to provide a 50-year franchise to Leatherstocking Gas Co. for a natural gas pipeline at a meeting last month. Dozens shouted “Postpone the vote!” as they protested the town board’s vote in favor of the franchise. Their fear: that it will open the door to the controversial natural gas drilling technique known as fracking.

Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is a hot topic in upstate New York these days, where the gas drilling debate has moved to the local level.

Across the region, town boards are debating its merits and some are deciding to use zoning to ban fracking locally. And as the debate heats up, it is pitting neighbor against neighbor: landowners who want gas leases against environmentalists and others who fear fracking.

This drilling technique, of shooting water, sand and chemicals into rock to extract natural gas, requires millions of gallons of chemically treated water when it is used on deep horizontal wells.

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No need to rush into hydrofracking

We need fresh water to live. Only 1 percent of the world’s water is potable and safe for use. Two of the world’s biggest sources of potable fresh water are the Great Lakes and the Finger Lakes. So why would we want to risk polluting these vital sources with toxic chemicals used in hydrofracking?

Water is clearly more valuable to our survival than natural gas. There is no adequate way to process the toxic waste for hydrofracking in New York State. The air pollution from the hauling, the damage to roads, the cost of trucking the toxic waste out of state would be enormous.

Recent economic studies have shown that the costs of hydrofracking are egregious for taxpayers. We should not rush into hydrofracking; we should wait until a safe, responsible method for gas extraction is discovered and peer reviewed by scientists, biologists, economists and environmental specialists.

We might feel desperate enough to believe that hydrofracking will bring jobs. However, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., an advisor to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s hydrofracking panel, stated an Oct. 11 article, The Fracking Industry’s War On The New York Times — And The Truth, “Gas fracking flacks routinely make extravagant promises about bringing jobs and income to the depressed rural communities. If those jobs and royalties don’t come — the way they have not come for people in Bradford County, Pa. — New Yorkers will be justifiably angry, as they wonder why the government and our panel did not protect them when there were so many warning signs.”

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The Assembly's minority leader is pushing for a "buffer zone" around each of the Finger Lakes that would prevent natural-gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing within 4,000 feet of the lakes.

Assemblyman Brian Kolb, R-Canandaigua, asked for the setback in formal comments he submitted late last month to the state Department of Environmental Conservation, saying its current proposed hydrofracking regulations offer "no substantive protection to these environmentally sensitive bodies of water.

"This serious omission is correctable through a minimum 4,000-foot buffer zone for each of the 10 unprotected Finger Lakes," Kolb wrote.

Kolb's proposal would impact all but one of the Finger Lakes. Skaneateles Lake is part of the Syracuse watershed, where the DEC has already proposed banning surface drilling within 4,000 feet of its edge.

On Thursday, Kolb said he was supportive of allowing the controversial hydrofracking technique in New York, in part because of the expected economic windfall it would bring to fiscally troubled communities above the gas-rich Marcellus Shale formation.
He said he was concerned, however, about protecting the Finger Lakes and ensuring local governments weren't on the hook for any damage the industry would bring to roads and infrastructure.

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The only company in Britain using hydraulic fracturing to release natural gas from shale rock said Wednesday that the controversial technique probably did trigger earth tremors in April and May.

But a report commissioned by Cuadrilla Resources, which is drilling for gas in the area outside the northwestern English coastal resort town of Blackpool, cautioned that the tremors, measuring 1.9 and 2.8 on the Richter scale - were due to an unusual combination of geology and operations and were unlikely to happen again.

Cuadrilla is the only company currently extracting shale gas using hydraulic fracturing - a controversial technique by which a mix of water, sand and chemicals are pumped deep inside underground rock formations to free the gas.

Fracturing operations were suspended on May 27 following the detection of a tremor centered just outside Blackpool.

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Editors Note: If industrial wind want to be involved in writing the Article X rules, the Citizen Power Alliance want the same option.

Doug Ward was asked to participate on a panel discussing the new Article X power plant siting legislation at the Alliance for Clean Energy New York’s (ACENY) 5th Annual Membership meeting and fall conference. Mr. Ward has served as counsel for ACENY and was involved in passage of the Article X legislation.

The new Article X legislation will apply to all electric generating facilities that are proposed to be 25 MW or larger. Mr. Ward’s presentation focused on the applicability of the new Article X to renewable energy facilities and the implications of the new siting process. The State DEC and PSC are required to enact regulations within one year. Mr. Ward said that he sees the rule making process as an opportunity for the wind industry to make the Article X process work for the siting of wind energy projects.


The letter that arrived in Kim Jastremski’s mailbox on County Highway 52 suggested that she stop protesting the possibility of natural gas drilling. It seemed more of a threat than a request.

Computer-generated, unsigned and sent to about 10 other opponents of a practice known as fracking, it compared them to Nazis and said they were being watched while picking up their children at school in their minivans.

Jennifer Huntington’s abuse is more public, like comments online suggesting that people find out where her dairy sells its milk so that they can stop buying it, or the warning that her farm, which has a lease with a gas company, “will fall like a house of cards when your water is poisoned.” She and other drilling proponents have also been called “sellout landowners that prostitute themselves for money.”

The debate over horizontal hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, the injection of huge quantities of chemically treated water underground to free up natural gas, has become increasingly contentious across the Eastern United States, with dozens of communities passing or considering bans. But that ill will often takes its most intimate form in small towns and rural areas like this one, best known as the home of baseball’s Hall of Fame, where fracking has emerged as the defining, non-negotiable political issue.

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State senators are scrambling to wrap up months-long negotiations on a sweeping bipartisan bill toughening environmental regulations and imposing a Pennsylvania's booming natural gas industry.

Senators said Friday that the plan is to finishing writing the bill over the weekend before a vote next week. If all goes according to plan, a committee vote would happen Monday, followed by a final floor vote Tuesday.

One negotiator, Democratic Sen. John Yudichak of Luzerne County, says he doesn't want to reveal details of the emerging legislation. If a bill passes, it would go to the House of Representatives, where its fate is uncertain.

In addition to settling environmental regulations and a drilling fee Yudkchak says negotiators are working on a plan to distribute the fee revenue.

An apparent slowdown in a state hydraulic fracturing committee's work can be partially attributed to this: The panelists have plenty of unanswered questions.

Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joseph Martens announced Tuesday the 18-member panel tasked with creating a new fee structure for gas drillers wouldn't be ready to release its recommendations until sometime next year.

An initial set of state-level proposals had originally been expected next month so it could be included in the state budget process that starts in January, but Martens said the panel would be given "all the time it needs."

The move was welcomed by most of the panel, in part because they're still looking for critical information about what kind of resources state agencies will need to properly oversee the gas industry if high-volume hydrofracking is green-lighted in New York.

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Local residents opposed to current Marcellus Shale drilling in Steuben County lobbied Tuesday, Oct. 18, for an Urbana Town board ban on natural gas drilling in the Hammondsport/Urbana area.

Local attorney and environmental advocate Rachel Treichler said the state Department of Environmental Conservation will not issue permits that violate local laws. The DEC is currently holding public hearings on its draft environmental impact study on drilling throughout the state.

Treichler said the town’s existing codes would allow the town to prohibit drilling or drilling-related traffic.

While the general belief is there would be little drilling in the central region of the county because the shale is too close to the surface, Treichler said the DEC issued permits in 2007 for an inactive well drilled on Glen Brook Road. The “shut-in” well was drilled before the state moratorium on drilling in the Marcellus Shale and is located near the Bully Hill winery, Treichler said.

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After previously indicating his agency anticipated high-volume hydraulic fracturing to begin at some point next year, the state's top environmental regulator said Tuesday it's "hard to predict" whether that's going to happen.

Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joseph Martens said an agency panel will need more time to come up with a new fee structure for gas drillers. The panel's state-level recommendations had initially been expected next month, but a procedural change will likely push them back.

When asked if hydrofracking will begin in 2012, Martens didn't make a prognostication.

"It is really hard to predict," Martens said. "We have a lot of work left to do."

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The Syracuse Common Council voted unanimously to ban hydrofracking within city limits. They also voted to limit where fracking wastewater can be stored. It’s not clear if these municipal bans will hold up in court, but Council Majority Leader Kathleen Joy says it was still important for the city to take a stand.

A coalition of good-government groups and environmentalists is calling for more stringent regulations on Pennsylvania's booming natural-gas drilling industry and says the industry should "pay its fair share" in the form of a drilling tax.

The Citizens Marcellus Shale Commission on Monday released an 87-page blueprint for managing the development of the industry. The panel was formed in response to pro-drilling Gov. Tom Corbett's Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission, which released its own set of recommendations over the summer.

The citizens commission calls the Marcellus a valuable resource but says the state must do a better job of minimizing the environmental impact of drilling.

The commission held five hearings across the state and heard testimony from experts and residents who live in the Marcellus Shale.

The city of Syracuse became the latest municipality to ban a controversial technique used with natural gas drilling, following Albany, Buffalo and a dozen or so towns that have moved to restrict or prohibit hydraulic fracturing within its limits.

The Syracuse Common Council approved the ban this afternoon.

Like bans in Albany and Buffalo, the move is largely symbolic. The state Department of Environmental Conservation has proposed banning surface drilling within the Syracuse watershed, and geologists and gas companies don’t anticipate much gas coming out of the northern portion of the Marcellus Shale.

But the ban still sends a message, one that the gas industry didn’t take too kindly.

“The city of Syracuse’s ban on hydraulic fracture stimulation does not consider the safe history of natural gas exploration in New York, the strict regulatory structure of local, state and federal governmental bodies that regulate our industry, and the 60-year record of success in this country,” Brad Gill, executive director of the state’s Independent Oil & Gas Association, said in a statement.

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Members of the leading Marcellus Shale industry group in Pennsylvania will voluntarily disclose chemicals used in each natural gas well as of Jan. 1, the organization said.

An environmental group applauded the move, but said it's not enough.

The Marcellus Shale Coalition represents many of the largest gas drillers in Pennsylvania.

The drillers use a process called hydraulic fracturing, which forces millions of gallons of water, mixed with sand and chemicals, deep into shale formations to free the gas.

The industry believes the process is safe, but environmental groups and people who live in drilling areas have worried about the exact chemicals used in each well, and the possibility of groundwater contamination.

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With the heat on in many communities in the Finger Lakes region to impose a moratorium or ban hydrofracking, natural gas industry experts are revving up their promotion of the controversial drilling method by hosting a series of forums in the region.

Next Wednesday, representatives from the natural gas industry will address Canandaigua-area residents at an event, “Fuel For Thought: A Community Conversation,” beginning at 7 p.m. in the Canandaigua Middle School auditorium.

“Answering questions and providing solid, fact-based information to the community is part of our trade association’s mission,” stated John Holko — chairman of the Independent Oil & Gas Association of New York’s public education committee, which is hosting the forum— in a release. “People have a right to have their questions about the energy industry answered in a responsible and respectful way. These community conversations are designed to be open forum for discussion, just questions asked and answered by working professionals in the field.”

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Superb investigative journalism by the New York Times has brought the paper under attack by the natural gas industry. That campaign of intimidation and obfuscation has been orchestrated by top shelf players like Exxon and Chesapeake aligned with the industry's worst bottom feeders. This coalition has launched an impressive propaganda effort carried by slick PR firms, industry funded front groups and a predictable cabal of right wing industry toadies from cable TV and talk radio. In pitting itself against public disclosure and reasonable regulation, the natural gas industry is once again proving that it is its own worst enemy.

I confess to being an early optimist on natural gas. In July of 2009, I wrote a widely circulated op-ed for the Financial Times predicting that newly accessible deposits of natural gas had the potential to rapidly relieve our country of its deadly addiction to Appalachian coal and end forever catastrophically destructive mountaintop removal mining. At that time, government and industry geologists were predicting that new methods of fracturing gas rich shale beds had provided access to an astounding 2000-5000 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in the lower 48 -- enough, they claimed to power our country for a century.

These rich reserves might have allowed America to mothball or throttle back our 336 gigawatts of mainly antiquated and inefficient coal fired electric plants replacing them with underutilized capacity from existing gas generation plants. That transition could reduce U.S. mercury emissions by 20%-25%, dramatically cut deadly particulate matter and the pollutants that cause acid rain and slash America's grid based CO2 by an astonishing 20% -- literally overnight! Gas could have been a natural companion for wind and solar energy with its capacity to transform variable power into base load, and could have been a critical bridge fuel to the new energy economy rooted in America's abundant renewables.

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While scores of environmental groups have loudly expressed their concerns with the state's proposed rules for shale-gas drilling, industry representatives are making clear they aren't pleased, either.

While initially remaining quiet when the Department of Environmental Conservation released its latest review of hydraulic fracturing in September, the gas industry has started publicly pushing back against proposed regulations that some say are "onerous" and could keep drillers out of New York.

"We're all about seeing the environment protected and having a high environmental bar. Nobody has any objection to that," said Thomas West, an Albany attorney and lobbyist who represents several gas companies. "But if you go to far and it gets too expensive, then New York won't be competitive with other states like Pennsylvania and Ohio -- and we won't have much drilling or leasing activity."

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Pennsylvania environmental regulators have given permission to a natural-gas driller to stop delivering replacement water to residents whose drinking-water wells were tainted with methane.

Cabot Oil & Gas Corp. has been delivering water to homes in the northeast village of Dimock since January of 2009. The Houston-based energy company asked the Department of Environmental Protection for permission to stop the water deliveries by the end of November, saying Dimock's water is safe to drink.

DEP granted Cabot's request late Tuesday. The agency says Cabot has satisfied the terms of a December settlement agreement.

Residents who are suing Cabot say their water is still tainted with unsafe levels of methane and possibly other contaminants.

Regulators previously found that Cabot drilled faulty gas wells that allowed methane to escape into Dimock's aquifer.

State Sen. George D. Maziarz on Thursday said he would strongly oppose any move to shift low-cost "preference power" produced in Western New York away from upstate communities to be sent to Long Island.

"I will defeat this effort, even if I have to clip the extension cord to Long Island personally," said Maziarz, R-Newfane.

He spoke in response to legislation introduced by Assemblymen Al Graf, a Long Island Republican, which would eliminate the section of the Public Authorities law that prohibits the Long Island Power Authority from accessing low-cost hydropower from NYPA.

"This legislation is just the latest in a long line of attempts to hijack Western New York hydropower and ship it downstate," Maziarz said. "Like the ill-advised power allocation to Brookhaven National Laboratory in 2009, this proposal looks to help Long Island by pilfering upstate power."

Preference power, which is roughly 700 megawatts generated at the Niagara Power Project, is currently used to assist municipal electric corporations and rural cooperatives based largely in upstate New York. These customers receive power at a much cheaper rate than it would otherwise cost to obtain from the investor owned utilities, Maziarz said.

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When it comes to the heated debate on hydrofracking, Sen. Thomas Libous has a message for legislators whose districts aren’t targeted for drilling: butt out.

Libous, a Republican from Binghamton, said he’s become increasingly frustrated with downstate lawmakers who have expressed opposition to the controversial hydrofracking technique. Libous’ district is in the area of the gas-rich Marcellus Shale formation that is expected to be targeted by industry first if high-volume hydrofracking gets the green light in New York.

“I’ve been pretty quiet about this, but I find it sometimes a little amusing when senators and assemblymen from Long Island or other parts of the state seem to be so concerned about what we’re going to do in the Southern Tier,” Libous said in a phone interview. “You know what? We need this, and let us deal with it, let us worry about it, let us do it in a safe manner. I really don’t need legislators who represent other areas telling me and people in the Southern Tier how to live.”

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New York’s highest court will weigh a lawsuit brought by a Buffalo attorney that attacks the state’s system of giving cash and tax breaks to thousands of businesses.
The lawsuit contends that New York, for decades, has violated the state constitution’s ban on giving “gifts or loans” to businesses, or to support their activities.

The lawsuit argues the state has set up agencies and public authorities, such as Empire State Development Corp. , to try to get around the constitution.

“We’re not particularly interested in grabbing money back. We just want the practice to stop going forward,” said James Ostrowski, a Buffalo attorney who brought the lawsuit in 2008.

The case threatens the core of economic development efforts in the state, a menu of tax breaks, grants, loans or cash incentives intended to spark private-sector activity.

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