Chesapeake and at least one other gas company have sent similar letters to thousands of landowners across Central New York and the Southern Tier in the past two months.

The letters have the effect of unilaterally extending leases that many landowners were looking forward to ending. Some landowners have had second thoughts since signing the leases or believe they can get a better deal than they did five years ago when the lease rush began in earnest.

The gas companies say they have the right to extend the leases for months or years because the state’s delay in approving drilling in the deep Marcellus shale has prevented them from drilling.

The state attorney general’s office said it’s reviewing the letters. In 2009, then-Attorney General Andrew Cuomo fined another energy company $192,500 for sending similar letters. Cuomo is now governor.

(Click to read the entire article)

The natural gas industry has spent months attacking the documentary "Gasland" as a deeply flawed piece of propaganda. After it was nominated for an Oscar, an industry-sponsored PR group asked the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to reconsider the film's eligibility.

The reply: Let Oscar voters have their say.

"We do not have the resources to vet each claim or implication in the many (documentary) films that compete for our awards each year, and even if we did there would be no shortage of people disputing our conclusions," Bruce Davis, the academy's executive director, wrote in a reply obtained by The Associated Press.

(Click to read the entire article)

The documentary "Gasland" brought the term "hydraulic fracturing" into the nation's living rooms. With its sharp and sustained criticism of gas drilling, it highlighted the growing debate that has come with a boom in the country's domestic energy production.

And it's been nominated for an Oscar.

The HBO film follows Josh Fox, a New York filmmaker whose family owns property in northeast Pennsylvania. After a gas company offers to lease the land for drilling, he takes off in a beat-up Toyota to interview people harmed by gas drilling.

The oil and gas industry has not been as supportive as the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Industry groups, such as the Independent Petroleum Association of America, have accused Fox of confusing hydraulic fracturing with drilling in general. They allege many other errors, large and small. IPAA's "Energy In Depth" campaign issued a seven-page rebuttal to the film, called "Debunking Gasland".

(Click to read the entire article)

NYSEG Pipeline Sale

NYSEG gas customers are expected to benefit from the recent sale of a portion of its business.

The Public Service Commission has given the go ahead for the company to hand over the Seneca Storage facility to Inergy Midstream for $65 million. The deal also includes a natural gas pipeline that connects Binghamton to a larger interstate line. Inergy Midstream is the current owner of the Stagecoach natural gas storage facility in Owego. According to the Commission, the transaction will lower operating costs for NYSEG and limit future rate increases.

Writer offers Facts on Wind Turbines

There is some damaging information being delivered to the media and to councils by wind energy developers and our provincial government authorities. This information may help bring some degree of clarity to the issues. There is nothing technical in here. I leave that for the licensed professionals. There are also many subjects not covered.

Myth: Anti-Wind turbine groups are being funded by the power workers union and non-renewable energy groups.

Should anyone ever make this phony allegation again, I hope the recipients insist on evidence to back up their statements.

(Click to read the entire article)

The nations’ second largest natural gas producer Chesapeake Energy Corp has sold $4.75 Billion in assets to BHP Billiton. The Oklahoma City-based company located within the Fayetteville shale reported that it would be selling most of its shares within that region located in Arkansas. Chesapeake Energy had a heavy influence in West Virginia and throughout the Kanawha Valley and was one of the first natural gas companies to capitalize on the Marcellus Shale’s discovery. The former Fortune 500 company had Charleston in position to become Chesapeake’s Energy’s east coast headquarters.

But a multi-million dollar lawsuit filed buy a coalition of land owners and lawyers made Chesapeake officials re-evaluate its financial position in West Virginia. The lawsuit filed was actually against former gas subsidiary Columbia/NiSource, but when Chesapeake bought out Columbia Gas, it inherited the legal issues associated with the company, hence the lawsuits associated with Columbia. The case went all the way to the State Supreme Court and judges ruled in favor of the land owners, triggering a major corporate pull-out by Chesapeake leading to an emotional lay-off of over 200 longtime employees.

Chesapeake announced earlier this month it was interested in selling the assets so that it could focus its efforts on higher-margin oil assets. The Australia-based BHP Billiton is the world's biggest mining company.

After acknowledging in January that Dimock Township, Pa. was under consideration, the Environmental Protection Agency named Bradford and Susquehanna counties as one of five finalists to be considered for potential retrospective case studies in its much-discussed look at hydraulic fracturing.

The finalists were officially revealed in the EPA's "Draft Plan to Study the Potential Impacts of Hydraulic Fracturing on Drinking Water Resources" -- DPTSTPIOHFODWR, for short -- which was published earlier this week and will be up for review by a board of scientists.

According to the draft plan, the EPA intends to choose between three and five sites for "retrospective" case studies, along with two to three "prospective" case studies. Along with Susquehanna/Bradford, the other four retrospective finalists are:

* Killdeer and Dunn County, ND; Bakken Shale
* Wise and Denton Counties, TX; Barnett Shale
* Wetzel County, WV; Green/Washington Counties, PA; Marcellus Shale
* Los Animas County, CO; Raton Basin

All five sites have shown signs of suspected water contamination or changes in water quality, according to the EPA. A case study would be held to definitively determine whether the acquifers are contaminated and iits source.

Oscar nominee Josh Fox wants President Barack Obama to order a national moratorium on the natural gas drilling procedure call hydraulic fracturing.

Fox, nominated for his documentary "Gasland" about environmental problems associated with hydraulic fracturing, made his plea Thursday at a news conference outside the U.S. Capitol.

"The point is, that he has to wake up to this now," Fox said. "We would like to educate him. We would like to bring this to him."

Obama used similar power to order an offshore oil drilling moratorium following the BP Deep Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

New York State Electric and Gas Corp. wants to sell its Seneca Lake natural gas storage facility to Inergy Midstream LLC for approximately $65 million.

New York's Public Service Commission is expected to vote on the proposed sale Thursday at the agency's monthly meeting. The sale, if approved, would transfer NYSEG's natural gas storage facility near Watkins Glen and two related pipelines to Inergy subsidiaries Inergy Pipeline East and Arlington Storage Co.

The Seneca Lake facility is capable of storing approximately 1.5 billion cubic feet of working natural gas in an underground salt cavern on Inergy's U.S. Salt property, three miles outside of Watkins Glen on the western side of Seneca Lake.

(Click to read the entire article)

As energy companies attempt to extend some oil and gas leases because of New York's hydraulic fracturing moratorium, local law firms are trying to assemble groups of landowners to fight those claims in federal court.

Hundreds of local landowners have received letters from natural gas companies over the past two years claiming "force majeure" on their expiring leases, many of which are a decade old and signed for just a few dollars per acre.

Force majeure, a legal clause in some contracts, allows for the lease to be extended if an unforeseen event prevents either side from upholding the terms of the agreement.

"Some of these leases are 10 years old and signed at a time when Chesapeake and other companies had no idea they would be drilling in the Marcellus Shale," Kurkoski said. "We've been sending letters back and forth with Chesapeake for over a year, and it's clear that we're not getting anywhere. It's clear that landowners have to assert their rights to get this to stop."

(Click to read the entire article)

BROCTON - Portland town officials engaged in idea sharing with their constituency during their monthly meeting, even though public attendance numbered two individuals.

One of those in attendance was Portland resident Matt Furman, who came in hopes of hearing any further commentary on hydrofracturing, or "fracking," which is on the agenda for the Association of Towns of the State of New York's annual meeting. The board discussed the issue at their January meeting, noting it would be discussed at the upcoming annual meeting, which two town officials plan to attend.

Furman was first introduced to the issue while visiting friends in Ithaca recently, and noticed a fair amount of signage posted throughout the area, and what he calls "washed over" news articles in the region's free news publication. After bringing several articles back home with him, he started independently researching the process, and has been following the journey of the FRAC (Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals) Act of 2009, comprised of twin bills partially drafted by Sen. Charles Schumer D-N.Y. and Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa. which seek to amend the Safe Drinking Water Act and allow the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate hydraulic fracturing in certain states and would also require the energy industry to reveal what chemicals are being used in the sand-water mixture. Currently the bill is standing still.

"There are pages and pages of chemicals used in this that are pretty high on the MSDS list," stated Furman.

(Click to read the entire article)

Steuben County is preparing to accept Marcellus Shale cuttings at the county landfill some time this year.

The cuttings – soil and rock removed before drilling for natural gas – show no dangerous levels of radiation, Public Works Commissioner Vincent Spagnoletti said.

He based that on an existing study by Barton & Loguidice, an engineering firm.

“All soil is radioactive,” he told the county Legislature’s Public Works Committee recently. “The question is, how radioactive?”

Another opponent, Rachel Treichler, of Hammondsport, told the committee a study should include more sensitive tests, including one for radon.

Several others told the committee there are not a lot of detailed tests on the debris, warning it could endanger future generations. Concerns also included the Public Works Committee’s lack of general knowledge on radioactivity.

(Click to read the entire article)

The Horseheads Village Board approved a site plan amendment Thursday night for the Schlumberger campus under construction in The Center at Horseheads, and were sharply criticized afterward for ignoring concerns and “rubber stamping” changes.

Not the case, Horseheads officials responded.

The site plan amendment includes rearranging the proposed locations of several buildings for efficiency purposes, downsizing the total square footage of the complex. It also involves eliminating a truck fueling station and scaling back bunkers used to store explosives.

But some felt the amendment also allowed for Schlumberger to ramp up railroad and sand distribution facilities on the other side of the campus, and feared it would lead to increased railcar traffic through the village, as well as sand and dust blowing into nearby neighborhoods. The original plans called for trucks to supply the sand, with railcars as a future alternative.

(Click to read the entire article)

The provincial government has suddenly abandoned any plans to construct offshore wind projects.

Citing environmental concerns, the Liberals made the surprising announcement Friday that they have placed a moratorium on building wind power projects in freshwater lakes.

While there are currently no offshore wind projects anywhere in Ontario, the issue has been a political problem for the Liberals as the October election inches closer and seats in rural areas are up for grabs. Anti-wind activists living along the Scarborough Bluffs also vigorously oppose any plans to construct offshore wind farms in Lake Ontario.

Activist voices have dogged Premier Dalton McGuinty when he travels to rural communities where wind turbine projects have been installed or are planned.

They say the low-frequency noise from the turbines causes health problems such as nose bleeds and headaches.

(Click to read the entire article)

Gas lease issue rising in Fremont

Stephens Mills, N.Y. — Gas drilling isn’t coming to Fremont yet — but it will be the hot topic at the March board meeting.

Supervisor Carol Burns said after the meeting Tuesday that a political action committee will speak to the board in support of drilling. The committee is from the Steuben County Land Owners Coalition.

Danny Hammond, the town’s code enforcement officer and a member of the land owners coalition, scheduled the presentation. Wednesday he said the committee would provide details as to when the coalition would be approached by a major gas company that would lease acres from coalition members.

“With this meeting, people will be aware what takes place when gas drilling starts. Not if it starts, but when it starts,” he said. “Whether it’s this year or next, I don’t know.”

(Click to read the entire article)

The EPA has proposed examining every aspect of hydraulic fracturing, from water withdrawals to waste disposal, according to a draft plan the agency released Tuesday. If the study goes forward as planned, it would be the most comprehensive investigation of whether the drilling technique risks polluting drinking water near oil and gas wells across the nation.

The agency wants to look at the potential impacts on drinking water of each stage involved in hydraulic fracturing, where drillers mix water with chemicals and sand and inject the fluid into wells to release oil or natural gas. In addition to examining the actual injection, the study would look at withdrawals, the mixing of the chemicals, and wastewater management and disposal. The agency, under a mandate from Congress, will only look at the impact of these practices on drinking water.

The agency’s scientific advisory board [1] will review the draft plan on March 7-8 and will allow for public comments then. The EPA will consider any recommendations from the board and then begin the study promptly, it said in a news release [2]. A preliminary report should be ready by the end of next year, the release said, with a full report expected in 2014.

(Click to read the entire article)

New York's new environmental chief says the state needs to proceed cautiously with high-volume hydraulic fracturing for natural gas in deep shale formations, but not wait for the Environmental Protection Agency to complete a review of the practice that could take two years.

At a legislative hearing Tuesday, acting Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens said he expects the agency's updated regulations to be completed in June, the deadline set by former Gov. David Paterson.

Permits for gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale region of southern New York have been on hold since 2008 when Paterson ordered the DEC to draft new guidelines to address concerns about hydraulic fracturing, which injects millions of gallons of chemical-laced water underground to release natural gas.

(Click to read the entire article)

Frac Study Update

The Houston Chronicle is a good source for updates on the frac study contemplated by U.S. EPA. For example: "The Environmental Protection Agency is close to launching a broad study on hydraulic fracturing, but the probe doesn’t guarantee that the federal government will step in and regulate the drilling technique, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said Wednesday." The agency expects to have the work plan finished within the next month or two.

WATERVILLE, Pa. (AP) - Former Gov. Tom Ridge is helping a natural gas industry group unveil what it calls a set of guiding principles representing a commitment to Pennsylvania communities.

Ridge is an adviser for the Marcellus Shale Coalition, which advocates for companies drilling into the lucrative reserve of natural gas deep underground much of Pennsylvania.

He attended a discussion Friday at a state forest resource management center in Waterville, where the coalition unveiled its "Commitment to the Community" principles.

It was billed as an industry-wide roundup of best practices by gas drillers in the state.

Ridge and others were also invited by Anadarko Petroleum to visit natural gas drilling sites and related facilities in the Sproul State Forest north of Lock Haven as an example of how the principles were being used.

Triana Energy and Marathon Oil are partnering on natural gas drilling in the Marcellus shale formation in West Virginia and Pennsylvania.

Media outlets report that Charleston-based Triana announced the partnership with Houston-based Marathon on Thursday. The companies plan to develop 82,000 acres in northern West Virginia and Fayette County, Pa.

Triana says up to 350 horizontal wells potentially could be drilled. The company plans to drill four horizontal wells this year.

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Cuomo pushes low-cost power bill

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo is pushing for legislation that its advocates say will create jobs in the north country and help farmers with utility bills.

The Power for Jobs program, which provides low-cost electricity to businesses, would become permanent, larger and available to some farmers if Mr. Cuomo's proposed legislation is approved.

"I think it's a terrific proposal by Governor Cuomo," said Richard M. Kessel, CEO and president of the New York Power Authority, which would administer the newly titled Recharge New York program. "I think it captures all the important things that need to be done to create more jobs in places like the north country and upstate New York."

Darrel J. Aubertine, former 48th District state senator, had pushed for a similar bill last year that passed the Senate but died in the Assembly.

(Click to read the entire article)

Oil and gas service companies injected tens of millions of gallons of diesel fuel into onshore wells in more than a dozen states from 2005 to 2009, Congressional investigators have charged. Those injections appear to have violated the Safe Water Drinking Act, the investigators said in a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency on Monday.

The diesel fuel was used by drillers as part of a contentious process known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, which involves the high-pressure injection of a mixture of water, sand and chemical additives — including diesel fuel — into rock formations deep underground. The process, which has opened up vast new deposits of natural gas to drilling, creates and props open fissures in the rock to ease the release of oil and gas.

But concerns have been growing over the potential for fracking chemicals — particularly those found in diesel fuel — to contaminate underground sources of drinking water.

(Click to read the entire article)

Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection is investigating a serious accident that occurred last week at a Talisman Energy natural gas well drilling site on state forest land in Tioga County, DEP officials announced Tuesday.

The incident led Talisman Energy to temporarily shut down hydraulic fracturing operations at all of the company’s well sites in North America.

The “well control incident,” as the DEP termed it, occurred shortly after noon on Jan. 17 at a Talisman Energy well in Tioga State Forest. The well pad is located in Ward Township, about five miles east of Blossburg.

During the hydraulic fracturing process, fracking fluids and sand were discharged from the well into the air, according to the DEP.

(Click to read the entire article)

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