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."

(Click to read the entire article)

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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DEC Commissioner Joe Martens defended himself and his agency at an Assembly hearing that was called to allow individuals who feel strongly about the DEC's draft supplemental generic environmental impact statement on hydraulic fracking to voice their opinions on the issue "For more than three years, DEC has been intensively studying the potential environmental impacts of the use of high-volume hydraulic fracturing to extract natural gas from shale formations in New York State," Martens told the panel of lawmakers who sit on the Assembly Environmental Conservation Committee.

"We have held 10 hearings to date on the scope of the study and on the 2009 draft of the SGEIS, received more than 13,000 comments and consulted with numerous states on issues they have confronted involving high-volume hydraulic fracturing. We have used the time since the 2009 draft SGEIS was published to learn from the experiences in other states and identify measures that will protect our drinking water, our streams, our air and our land," Martens said.

Assemblyman and Chairman of the Assembly Environmental Conservation Committee Robert Sweeney, D-Babylon, was joined with ten other members of his committee as well as Steven Englebright, D-Setauket, to hear testimony on the revised draft SGEIS and question the witnesses on their claims. The Assembly members had many questions for Martens and his fellow witnesses; DEC General Counsel Steve Russo, Executive Deputy Commissioner Marc Gerstman, and Deputy Commissioner Eugene Leff.

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Gov. Tom Corbett called Monday for even-handed laws that recognize the natural gas industry's competition beyond the state’s borders.

Corbett’s plan would allow counties to impose fees of up to $160,000 per well over 10 years to help pay for the cost to regulate the drilling and fix the damage it causes to the environment, according to the Associated Press. It also would toughen laws that protect the state’s water sources and help the industry find new outlets for its product, such as converting school bus fleets or mass transit systems to natural gas power., the AP reported.

Under his plan, counties would have the latitude to impose an impact fee of up to $40,000 per well in a well’s first year. The maximum fee amount would decline to $30,000 in the second year, $20,000 in the third year and $10,000 in the fourth through tenth years of production. After that, it would disappear.

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It’s unlikely that anyone’s going to drill in the town of Tully into the now-famous Marcellus shale because the rock is too close to the surface. But that doesn’t mean drilling rigs and hydrofracking will bypass the town — and a large piece of Central New York.

Despite all the attention given to the Marcellus shale, there’s another, deeper rock layer in New York that is an intriguing mystery — bigger but economically an unknown.

It’s the Utica shale: a layer of rock thousands of feet deeper than the Marcellus and less well-studied. It covers a greater footprint of Central New York and might be an attractive target to drillers in areas that where the Marcellus doesn’t exist or is too shallow to hold any natural gas.

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An energy company is seeking federal approval to allow exports of liquefied natural gas from the booming Appalachian drilling industry, saying that the nation's natural gas supply is outpacing demand.

Richmond, Va.-based Dominion Resources Inc. announced last week that it has applied to the Department of Energy to allow 1 billion cubic feet per day to be exported through a terminal it owns in Maryland. The application, filed Sept. 1, seeks permission for the exports of liquefied natural gas to any country with which the United States does not prohibit trade, the company said.

The terminal, Dominion Cove Point on the Chesapeake Bay in Lusby, Md., is well-situated to export gas from the prolific Marcellus Shale and the promising Utica Shale formations, Dominion's chairman and CEO, Thomas Farrell II, said in a statement.

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As debate rages in other corners of New York state about the risks and rewards of rampant natural-gas drilling, Rochester has been slow to warm to the topic.

The perception has been that the wells would go somewhere else — in the Southern Tier, far from metropolitan Rochester. Hydrofracking, as the well-drilling method is known, would be someone else's problem.

That perception is rapidly changing as the potential impact from hydrofracking, especially on the Finger Lakes region, becomes clearer. For example, about 810,000 acres in the Finger Lakes — if put together, an area slightly larger than Rhode Island — has already been leased to natural gas companies.

Nedra Harvey, co-founder of a local citizens group that questions the wisdom of fracking, said that two years ago public meetings on the subject were infrequent and drew barely 100 people. Now there are meetings almost weekly and they're attracting two or three times that number.

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Before a skeptical panel of state lawmakers, New York’s top environmental regulator defended his agency’s proposed rules for hydraulic fracturing for nearly three hours Thursday while he was peppered with a near-constant stream of questions and criticism.

In an (amazingly) still-ongoing hearing hosted by the Assembly’s environmental committee, Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joseph Martens said he’s confident in his agency’s approach to studying the controversial natural-gas process, and that its regulations will be the strongest in the country when finalized.

The rules will “ensure that gas drilling is undertaken in a manner that protects public health and the environment,” Martens told the panel.

Twelve Assembly members questioned Martens, often times criticizing the DEC for what many of them said was a lack of depth in the agency’s report and for rushing the approval process despite concerns about the techniques.

At times, the crowd let the commissioner have it, with individual audience members yelling things like “liars” and “solar power” while Assembly EnCon Chairman Robert Sweeney, D-Suffolk County, chastised them.

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An internal report from the state Department of Health says that if high-volume hydrofracking moves forward in New York, the agency will need additional funding to address potential health impacts and assist with regulating the industry.

According to the document, which was obtained by Gannett's Albany Bureau, both the state and local health departments may need to bolster resources to deal with an anticipated surge if the state allows the natural gas drilling process.

While the state Department of Environmental Conservation is tasked with regulating the gas industry, the state Health Department anticipates it will be called to investigate any potential public health issues that arise from drilling. Those could include assessing the toxicity of chemicals used with hydrofracking, investigating any health-related complaints, and initiating any studies if a spike of illness or diseases crops up near a drilling site, the report states.

"The long-term support that (the DEC) may need from the state and local health departments will vary depending on how the permitting program develops and the reaction of the public and others to (high-volume hydrofracking) drilling activity," the report reads.

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Almond, N.Y. — Hydrofracking is not only a hot issue in Alfred, but the Town of Almond as well.

The town, in July, had made resolution to put a moratorium for year to study the situation and at the regular monthly meeting on Monday, there were a few residents with concerns that the moratorium would not protect the town.

Superintendent Richard Stuart said board members have contacted the town lawyer, David Pullen, and will be contacting David Slottje, executive director and senior attorney with the Community Environmental Defense Council, Inc., who has worked with Alfred in developing a local law to ban high-volume hydraulic fracturing.

The residents also presented a petition with approximately 60 names to ban the process within the town. However, Stuart said he believes there are residents who are in support of the industry.

Stuart said one resident commented that there were many people in the town who refused to sign the petition against hydrofracking during Almond community days in September, though at the regular monthly meeting there was no talk in support of the industry.

The board will be looking into creating a local law against hydrofracking and will set up a time for a public hearing at the November meeting.

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) -- Sound decisions about how to proceed with gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale can't be made without looking at how they might fit with other energy choices in a time of growing demand, Pennsylvania's former environmental protection secretary said.

John Hanger led the Department of Environmental Protection under former Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell. He said the commonwealth has been at the forefront of shale gas development, and can both produce gas and protect the environment.

Speaking at a lecture Monday at Penn State University, Hanger said "there are clearly impacts from gas and gas production." Environmental concerns include air emissions, methane leakage and gas migration, he said.

The Centre Daily Times reported that Hanger said there was a difference, though, between gas migration and fluids used in the process called fracturing returning to groundwater tables. He cited researchers who found the latter hasn't happened.

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The author, Stephen E. Herrmann of this opinion viewpoint, was a former Special Assistant to the General Counsel of the United States Environmental Protection Agency. He is part of the law firm Richards, Layton & Finger. His bio states that he has 30 years’ experience in advising boards of directors on corporate governance issues.

From the offset, it should be emphasized that sound energy policy must be based upon actual need, effective cost, efficient generation and balanced environmental protection. Mr. Herrmann’s revealing admission that Article X’s true purpose is to override local zoning and land use authority is clearly stated, “new law hopefully will create a one-stop siting decision-maker”. The elimination of SEQRA compliance and discarding the principled legal standard of Home Rule, has been a main objective of foreign developers, as they rush to site ill-conceived projects, especially over the strong objections of local community representatives.

Absent in Mr. Herrmann’s advocacy for corporate interests is that the two local residents to the new board do not have a vote in the decision and that the five permanent members are NYS bureaucrat appointees that have no accountability to the general public, much less the residents where the project will be fast tracked.

The insignificant amounts for “intervener funding” and limited time for filing, actually creates a major profit center savings for single-minded developers. With a 25 megawatts trigger for jurisdiction, the conclusive result is that siting can and will be forced upon any location that benefits the developer.

(Click to read the entire article)

Original article by The author, Stephen E. Herrmann - NEW YORK’S POWER PLANT SITING SOLUTION

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 released earlier this month, DEC Commissioner Joe Martens announced today.

A public hearing has been scheduled from 1 pm to 4 pm and 6 pm to 9 pm on 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,” 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 begins today and runs concurrently with the public comment period on the dSGEIS, which ends Dec. 12. DEC also released the proposed State Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (SPDES) General Permit (GP) for Stormwater Discharges associated with high-volume hydraulic fracturing.

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