When about 40 landowners broke away from one of the area's largest gas-lease coalitions to sign a deal with Inflection Energy, they expected to receive a $2,750-per-acre bonus payment by March 3.

The checks weren't in the mail.

While the landowners from West and East Windsor and their attorney were under the impression the deal for natural gas rights below their properties was final in January, Inflection hired an Albany-based lawyer to review it before officially signing off on some documents.

When he found some issues with the lease, Inflection asked to rework the deal, according to Thomas West, the attorney hired by Inflection. Attorneys from both sides of the deal said they have now agreed on a modified deal that will pay the landowners in May, though it will ultimately be up to their clients to sign on the dotted line.

(Click to read the entire article)

With gasoline prices rising, oil supplies from the Middle East pinched by political upheaval and growing calls in Congress for expanded domestic oil and gas production, President Obama on Wednesday will set a goal of a one-third reduction in oil imports over the next decade, aides said Tuesday.

The president, in a speech to be delivered at Georgetown University, will say that the United States needs, for geopolitical and economic reasons, to reduce its reliance on imported oil, according to White House officials who provided a preview of the speech on the condition that they not be identified. More than half of the oil burned in the United States today comes from overseas and from Mexico and Canada.

Mr. Obama will propose a mix of measures, none of them new, to help the nation cut down on its thirst for oil. He will point out the nation’s tendency, since the first Arab oil embargo in 1973, to panic when gas prices rise and then fall back into old gas-guzzling habits when they recede.

He will call for a consistent long-term fuel-savings strategy of producing more electric cars, converting trucks to run on natural gas, building new refineries to brew billions of gallons of biofuels and setting new fuel-efficiency standards for vehicles. Congress has been debating these measures for years.

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The head of the New York Power Authority has been ordered by Attorney General Eric Schniederman to immediately cease using NYPA funds to make charitable contributions which appear do not directly relate to the agency’s powers, duties or purposes.

The Attorney General directed a letter dated March 21 to NYPA president and CEO Richard Kessel, the former chairman of the Long Island Power Authority after he said it had come to the attention of the Attorney General’s office via published press reports that NYPA might be making improper donations including contributions to chambers of commerces in communities which NYPA may have no physical or service-related presence.

“If NYPA is currently making these or similar contributions, please terminate them immediately”, Schniederman told Kessel whose office is in White Plains.

Schniederman wrote “This is to advise you that on Oct. 9, 2007, this office issued a formal opinion at the request of your successor at the Long Island Power Authority, Kevin Law, concerning the payment of financial contributions to local not-for-profit organizations and civic and business entities. The opinion is available at the Office of the Attorney General’s website at the following web address LINK.

(Click to read the entire article)

A Pennsylvania chapter of the Sierra Club is warning that drilling for natural gas along the Marcellus shale could contaminate the drinking water in the state’s Lehigh Valley — which, by coincidence, is precisely where the scientist who first identified propane, Walter O. Snelling, lived out the last decades of his life.

At issue is a method of gas extraction called hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” which involves injecting a cocktail of water and chemicals into the ground at high pressure to crack rock and release pockets of natural gas. Energy companies are deploying the technique along the Marcellus, a gas-rich rock formation that runs under West Virginia and Pennsylvania.

The yield from the Marcellus is “wet” with natural gas liquids, (or NGLs), including propane.

Environmental advocates have said that fracking could poison drinking water for millions of residents around the shale. And a recent New York Times series on fracking’s impact, along with the Oscar-nominated documentary titled “Gasland,” have put a magnifying glass on the issue.

(Click to read the entire article)

Five developers submitted proposals by the June 1, 2010 deadline. Since then, NYPA has been reviewing the proposals, aiming to select one or more projects for approval by early 2011. (The RFP requires proposals to be firm through May 31, 2011, after which terms like pricing might be open for renegotiation.) In the interim, NYPA has been fairly quiet about the process, citing New York’s procurement law as prohibiting the disclosure of information about proposals under review. We may soon see what the RFP will yield, as NYPA has suggested it may be ready to announce the results of its review of the five proposals as soon as March 31.

One question that remains open is where the proposed projects would be built. The RFP solicited proposals to develop sites in the New York State waters of Lake Erie and/or Lake Ontario that would interconnect with the NYISO transmission system. New York’s portion of Lake Erie consists roughly of the southeasternmost part of the lake, running from Buffalo at the about 70 miles southwest to just east of Erie, PA. New York’s Lake Ontario waters are more extensive, running about 200 miles east from the Niagara River just north of Buffalo to the head of the St. Lawrence River in the northeast part of the lake. Prior to issuing the RFP, NYPA evaluated wind resource potential and a variety of environmental and siting factors affecting where projects could be placed in these waters. While NYPA designated certain Project Site Areas that it found to be potentially feasible, NYPA stated that it would consider proposals for sites anywhere in these waters.

At the same time, there has been a mix of local support for and opposition to siting the project in certain locations. Last fall, in the wake of the initial publicity about the GLOW project and the submission of responsive proposals, town boards in the New York coastal towns of Irondequoit, Greece and Webster passed resolutions in opposition to the siting of wind turbines nearby in Lake Ontario. Likewise, a majority of Monroe County, NY, legislators signed a non-binding resolution opposing the siting of GLOW projects offshore of that region. On the other hand, a survey of likely Monroe County voters in fall 2010 found that 68 percent supported offshore wind turbines somewhere in Lake Ontario.

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New York State Electric & Gas Corp. has launched the initial phase of the Seneca Compressed Air Energy Project -- an evaluation of the technical and economic viability of storing compressed air in an underground salt cavern and releasing the air to spin a turbine and generate electricity.

The study is expected to be completed late this year. If it reveals the project is feasible, the utility would seek state and federal approval to build a 150-megawatt power plant to be operational in late 2014. The plant could operate up to 16 hours a day using stored compressed air and could reduce the need for fossil fuel-fired generating plants during periods of peak demand.

The project received a $29.6 million grant from the federal Department of Energy in November to offset its estimated $125 million cost.

The power plant would be built next to the Seneca Lake Gas Storage facility on the west side of Seneca Lake, about three miles outside Watkins Glen. The site is suited for capacity increases, NYSEG says, because of the depleted salt caverns nearby.

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Hydroelectric generating stations of Rochester Gas and Electric Corp. and New York State Gas & Electric Corp. combined to produce 2.5 billion kilowatt hours of electricity in the last five years, company officials said Thursday.

The power generated from 2006 to 2010 was enough for 70,000 homes, officials said.

“NYSEG and RG&E have operated hydroelectric generating plants for more than 100 years, starting long before the green power movement hit its stride,” President Mark Lynch said in the statement.

“We are committed to this clean, renewable energy source, as is evident by our ongoing investments to keep our hydro plants operating at their peak for years to come.”

RG&E and NYSEG expect to generate 387 million kilowatts of hydroelectric in 2011, officials said.

(Click to read the entire article)

Recharge NY would allow companies to enter into long-term contracts of up to seven years, allow the state to allocate more energy for the program and expand the benefits to more companies and not-for-profit organizations.

The Power for Jobs program was created in 1997 to provide 400 megawatts of cheap electricity for businesses and not-for-profit corporations that commit to create or retain jobs in the state.

Under the program, qualified participants receive power from the New York Power Authority under a sale-for-resale agreement, whereby NYPA provides the power to the customer’s local utility, which then delivers it to the customer. Participants receive benefits either through a cash rebate from NYPA to offset their electricity costs or through discounted rates.

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The state Public Service Commission has hired a Pennsylvania consulting firm to conduct a management audit of Iberdrola SA and its New York affiliates, including Rochester Gas & Electric Corp. and New York State Electric & Gas Corp.

The audit by Liberty Consulting Group of Quentin, Pa., will focus on RG&E and NYSEG's construction program planning and operational efficiency.

The total potential cost of the audit could be about $1.54 million, the PSC said.

Although Liberty's focus will be on construction and operating efficiency at the two Rochester-based utilities, "issues related to corporate governance, distant ownership and affiliate transactions add more complexity than is typically seen in management audits in New York," the PSC said.

(Click to read the entire article)

Understanding and planning for major regional energy transitions -- such as the development of the Marcellus Shale and other energy sources -- will be the focus of a two-day conference on March 30-31 at the Watkins Glen Harbor Hotel.

The event, "A Systems Approach to Energy Transitions" will address the information needs of municipal officials, professional planners, planning/zoning board members, community leaders and land managers.

The conference opens on March 30 with a free presentation from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on "Marcellus Shale: Economic Development Implications."

(Click to read the entire article)

The Public Service Commission has chosen a consultant to perform an in-depth management review of NYSEG's parent company Iberdrola.

The audit includes the Spanish-based Iberdrola, S.A. Iberdrola USA, New York State Electric & Gas Corporation, and Rochester Gas & Electric Corporation.

Upon review and evaluation, The Liberty Consulting Group of Pennsylvania was selected as the consultant to conduct the audit.

It will focus on the companies' construction program, planning and operational efficiency.

The Public Service Commission says the audit will measure Iberdrola's performance and effectiveness in New York energy operation, and identify any opportunities for improvement.

When New York's guidelines for hydraulic fracturing in the Marcellus Shale are set in stone, officials say they will likely be stronger than those in Pennsylvania and other states that have long permitted the process.

But a major question remains: What will be done with the millions of gallons of chemical-laced wastewater and salty production brine that comes along with the process?

The wastewater, which flows back to the surface after being injected into shale formations to fracture the rock, can be cared for at treatment facilities, as long as those plants are properly equipped to remove the chemicals and the total dissolved solids in the fluid and radioactivity levels are within reason.

In New York, however, very few plants are equipped with that type of technology.

(Click to read the entire article)

"Hydrofracking and Agriculture: The Promise and the Reality" will be the topic at a forum Tuesday in Penn Yan.

Farmers, vineyard owners and other experts will discuss their experiences dealing with gas drilling operations located on or near their farmlands, according to a news release from the Coalition to Protect New York.

The forum, co-sponsored by the Committee to Preserve the Finger Lakes and the CPNY, is open to the public. The forum is scheduled from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Penn Yan Middle School auditorium, 515 Liberty St., Penn Yan.

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — An arm of Qatar's sovereign wealth fund agreed Monday to buy more than 6 percent of Spanish power utility Iberdrola SA — the parent company of Rochester Gas and Electric Corp. — for just over $2.8 billion.

As part of the deal, Qatar Holding and Iberdrola said they would work together to develop new electricity-related business projects, mainly in emerging markets.

Qatar Holding will pay $2.82 billion for the stake, which will mostly come from new shares. It said the deal is part of its strategy of building a diverse portfolio of global businesses.

"In addition to a strong, stable European franchise, our investment in Iberdrola provides significant exposure to other important global markets including Brazil, Mexico and the United States of America," Qatar Holding managing director and CEO Ahmad Mohamed al-Sayed said in a statement.

(Click to read the entire article)

US Chamber: NY Wind Projects Delayed

According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, its new Project No Project report assesses the broad range of energy projects that are being stalled, stopped, or outright killed nationwide due to “Not In My Back Yard” (NIMBY) activism, a broken permitting process and a system that allows limitless challenges by opponents of development.

The study is nationwide in scope and discusses energy projects generally. New York wind projects which, per U.S. Chamber of Commerce, are unnecessarily stalled are:

•Adirondack Wind Energy Park, Gore Mountain
•Alabama Ledge Wind Farm
•Cape Wyckoff Wind Project
•Allegany Wind Farm Project
•Hardscrabble Wind Farm
•Horse Creek Wind Farm
•Jericho Rise Wind Farm
•Jones Beach Wind Farm
•Jordanville Wind Farm
•Marble River Wind Farm
•Prattsburgh Wind Farm

What is needed, according to the Chamber, is a careful consideration of how all these permitting obstacles and uncertainties and time delays can be addressed so as to speed up the processing, consideration, approval decisions, and development of many of the job creatingprojects whose progress has so far been denied.

Switching from conventional sources of electricity like coal and natural gas to renewables like wind and solar, our elected leaders tell us, will reduce pollution, advance renewable technology and spark a green jobs revolution.Is renewable energy really a green pathway to a brighter economic future? Or is it nothing more than a heavily subsidized impossible dream?

To learn more, we spoke with Cal State Fullerton economist Robert Michaels and Mark Tholke, an executive at enXco.

Before a packed house at Tuesday’s town meeting, Jeff Heller of the Steuben County Land Owners Coalition urged people to join the coalition instead of signing individual leases with gas drilling companies.

“Our advice to all land owners, and towns too ... we would try to get you to try not to sign a lease until you’ve either contacted the coalition or an attorney. For your own sake. These people are going to make this sound awfully rich, and it is awfully rich. But it may be richer than they’re making it sound,” he said. “We don’t want land owners to sign prematurely.”

People in Steuben County shouldn’t expect rates that high, said Heller, but he’d be happy with $1,000 per acre. And the more members in the coalition, the better the prospects of receiving favorable lease rates, he said. According to its website, over 5,000 land owners are in the coalition, with the total represented acreage topping 164,000 acres.

Fourteen other states have started hydrofracking and gas drilling, said Heller, and the coalition thinks New York will become the 15th.

Standing in the way are environmental concerns, including questions of radiation and damaging water supplies by drilling.

(Click to read the entire article)

Natural gas company workers plan to lobby lawmakers today on the safety of drilling techniques amid controversy over exploration for the fuel.

Eighteen workers from six states will visit House and Senate members in an event organized by industry influence group American Petroleum Institute. It started yesterday and continues today. Workers yesterday talked to the White House's Council on Environmental Quality.

"If the natural gas industry is truly committed to the safe production of natural gas, they should be working with Congress to close the regulatory loopholes the industry currently enjoys," said Deb Nardone, senior campaign representative for the Sierra Club. "Congress needs to put an end to the exemptions and exceptions given to the gas industry, privileges that no other industry receive."

Congress, Nardone added, should require natural gas companies to disclose fully the chemicals they use for extraction.

(Click to read the entire article)

Tests of water in Pennsylvania downriver from sewage treatment plants that handle wastewater from natural gas drilling raised no red flags for radioactivity, the state Department of Environmental Protection said Monday.

All of the samples, taken in November and December, showed levels at or below the normal naturally occurring background levels of radioactivity, the agency said. All samples also showed levels below the federal drinking water standard for Radium 226 and 228, it said.

The DEP did not immediately release the actual results, or say what the tests showed on other gas-drilling related pollutants, if anything. It also did not say how long it has known about the results.

(Click to read the entire article)

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation has suspended two permits for Chesapeake Appalachia on two Bradford County roads until repairs are made.

The permits for Chesapeake Appalachia LLC to move drilling trucks and other equipment over state Routes 1029 and 1041 in Bradford County are suspended because of the company's "failure to deal with severe damage to the roadways," according to a press release issued by PennDOT.

Chesapeake was granted a permit to put heavy trucks and equipment on these roads, known locally (state Route 1029) as Lake Road, North Rome Road or Macafee Road in Wysox, Rome, Sheshequin and Litchfield townships, and (state Route 1041) as James Street in North Towanda, Wysox and Sheshequin townships.

(Click to read the entire article)

Newly disclosed figures show wastewater produced from the natural gas drilling practice of hydrofracking has contained radioactivity and other contaminants at levels far exceeding federal limits. According to the New York Times, internal government documents show at least 15 wells produced wastewater with more than 1,000 times the amount of radioactive elements considered acceptable. The wastewater is sometimes brought to sewage plants ill-equipped to properly treat it and then disposed into rivers supplying drinking water. At least 12 sewage plants in three states discharged partly treated wastewater and waste into rivers and streams. The documents also show government regulators and industry officials knew of the problems with the wastewater disposal and treatment but took no action. On Tuesday, protesters rallied following a New York City Council hearing on plans to open the parts of New York state watershed to drilling. This is Joe Levine of the group N.Y. H20.

Joe Levine: "They know it’s contaminating, and they’re doing it anyway. The 18,000 wells is a projection. There could likely be very many more than 18,000 wells. They haven’t been approved. They would be allowed to proceed if these regulations are completed and put out. So once they complete these regulations, gas drilling will be able to commence in the Delaware River Basin."

In a statement, EPA officials say, "EPA scientists are undertaking a study of this practice to better understand any potential impacts it may have on drinking water resources. While we conduct this study, we will not hesitate to take any steps under the law to protect Americans whose health may be at risk."

It's not enough to satisfy Karen Glauber.

"It should make people suspect to the whole process of who is controlling what information," she said.

The EPA's national study into the risk of the hydrofracking process is expected to be completed in 2012.

Congressman Maurice Hinchey sent a letter to the head of the EPA Monday calling for a swifter, more thorough investigation into the hazards of hydrofracking on drinking water.

(Click to read the entire article)

Hinchey: Increase fracking oversight

A day after The New York Times unveiled a front-page exposé on regulatory issues concerning hydraulic fracturing wastewater, Rep. Maurice Hinchey, D-Hurley, urged the federal Environmental Protection Agency to increase oversight on the natural gas industry.

The Sunday article analyzed over 30,000 pages of documents, finding that fracking wastewater contains naturally occurring radioactivity levels well above the acceptable standard for drinking water, and many treatment plants in Pennsylvania had accepted the water at a rate they were ill-equipped to treat.

"Unfortunately, as you know, EPA is limited in its abilities to regulate hydraulic fracturing due to a number of egregious exemptions the industry enjoys from our nation's most important environmental safeguards," Hinchey wrote Monday in a letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson. "However, I believe there are several specific actions EPA can and must take to protect the public health in light of these alarming new findings."

Hinchey, whose congressional district includes a portion of Tompkins County, asked the federal agency to take three steps: speed up the agency's recently undertaken study of hydrofracking, require continuous monitoring for radioactivity at sewage treatment plants accepting such wastewater and drinking water sources close to gas-drilling operations, and include natural gas development in the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.

(Click to read the entire article)

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