A Denver-based gas industry has filed notice that it plans to appeal a state judge’s ruling that New York’s municipalities can ban gas drilling and hydrofracking within their borders.

Tom West, an Albany-based attorney representing Anschutz Exploration Corp., told Gannett CNY’s Rachel Stern that the company has officially decided to move forward with an appeal in the case that could set a statewide precedent when it comes to towns and cities banning the natural-gas extraction process.

Anschutz sued the Tompkins County town of Dryden last year after the town strengthened its zoning laws to make clear that gas drilling was not allowed within its limits. The company cited a clause in the state’s Environmental Protection law that says the state has regulatory authority over oil and gas drilling, but a state Supreme Court justice ruled last month that towns can still ban the practice outright.

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Southern Tier Energy Partners, a newly formed organization representing about 2,000 property owners known collectively as the Tioga County Landowners Group, has signed a preliminary agreement with two companies that want to develop Marcellus and Utica shales in New York by using an alternative to the controversial hydraulic fracturing drilling method.

The landowners' group controls about 135,000 acres in Tioga County and is working with eCorp International and GASFRAC Energy Services Inc. eCorp is known in this area as the developer of the Stagecoach Storage Facility in Tioga County, a natural gas storage operation that is now owned by Inergy Midstream of Missouri.

GASFRAC, based in Calgary with branch offices in Texas, uses a process that injects gelled liquid petroleum gas, with three additives, into an underground rock formation to release trapped natural gas. During the fracking operation the gelled liquid petroleum gas, or LPG, liquefies and returns to the surface as propane gas. The propane is recovered, chilled back into a gel and reused.

GASFRAC's drilling method would not be subject to the provisions of the state's Supplemental Generic Environmental ImpactStatement, which will only guide permitting for the type of hydrofracking being used by companies in Pennsylvania, DEC says.

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A pair of measures championed by environmental and conservation groups will be left out of a final state budget agreement, lawmakers said Monday.

Funding for a health-specific study of hydraulic fracturing for natural gas and language that would have moved the state's share of unclaimed bottle deposits to the Environmental Protection Fund were cut in final budget negotiations.

Both proposals are "not in the budget," said Assembly Environmental Chairman Robert Sweeney, D-Suffolk County. "Eventually, it was taken off the table."

Assembly Democrats had included $100,000 in their one-house budget proposal for a State University of New York research center to analyze the potential public health effects of hydrofracking, a much-debated technique of natural gas drilling.

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A coalition of 50 groups against hydraulic fracturing for natural gas have joined forces to push for a statewide ban on the controversial technique.

New Yorkers Against Fracking was launched in an Albany news conference on Monday, backed financially by a portion of a $100,000 Heinz Award given to Ithaca College scholar-in-residence Sandra Steingraber. It consists of groups from a number of different backgrounds, including Frack Action, the New York State Breast Cancer Network and Cooperstown’s Brewery Ommegang.

The coalition is looking to ban the gas extraction process altogether. High-volume hydrofracking is on hold in New York as the state Department of Environmental Conservation reviews its proposed rules and guidelines for the technique; that review is expected to wrap up this year.

“The Cuomo administration has failed to consider many of the negative impacts of fracking, on our economy, our public health, and the environment.” said Eric Weltman, New York organizer for Washington-based Food and Water Watch. “But most fundamentally, fracking is inherently dangerous and beyond our capacity to safely regulate.”

Meanwhile, a poll released by Rasmussen on Monday found that 57 percent of Americans are in favor of hydrofracking, while 22 percent said they oppose the process. That’s in contrast to a number of polls specific to New York, which have found state residents are effectively split on it.

UPDATED: A spokesman for Clean Growth Now, a coalition of business and labor groups in favor of hydrofracking, sent along this statement: “Our continuing hope and expectation is that
the state will find a way to balance the interests of those who oppose
natural gas development with those who strongly support it.”

Here’s Weltman discussing the new anti-fracking coalition:

The federal government knows nothing about thousands of miles of pipelines that tap natural gas flows released through the drilling method known as hydraulic fracturing, and needs to step up oversight to ensure they are running safely, government auditors say.

Private companies have put in hundreds of gathering pipelines in recent years to collect gas and oil supplies freed through the high-pressure drilling technique.

Nationwide, about 240,000 miles of gathering pipelines ferry the fuels to processing facilities and larger pipelines in top energy-producing states. Many of these pipelines course through densely populated areas.

The Government Accountability Office said in its report issued Thursday that most of those miles are not regulated by the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, which means they are not regularly inspected for leaks or corrosion.

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Senate Democrats are pushing their Republican counterparts to follow the lead of the Assembly majority and include funds in the state budget for an analysis of the health impacts of hydrofracking.

The Senate’s minority conference is pushing for $300,000 in state funds for a pair of studies: one on human health impacts of the process used with natural-gas drilling, and another on the “geological effect” of the technique. Assembly Democrats have included $100,000 for a health study, which would be conducted by a SUNY university.

“The Senate Democratic Conference has concerns about hydrofracking and wants more information about the process, safeguards and potential ramifications to be made public before any action is taken,” Senate Minority Leader John Sampson, D-Brooklyn, said in a statement Thursday. “Currently, there are too many unknown factors which must be resolved before we allow oil and gas companies to drill and pump chemicals into our state.”

Sampson’s conference will also hold a public hearing of their own on hydrofracking in April after their attempt to force one was rejected by the GOP.

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The Hartford, Conn.-based industrial conglomerate, seeing a murky future in space travel and alternative energy, said it will sell Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, Clipper Windpower and its three industrial businesses at its Hamilton Sundstrand aerospace components manufacturer. It expects to raise $3 billion from the sales to finance its biggest acquisition ever….

He added that selling Clipper was not a difficult decision because the alternative energy business has stalled. “We’ve gone into this business with the thought that there was going be a renewable energy mandate in this country and there has not been one,” Hayes said.

That’s a reversal from comments to analysts last year that United Technologies’ $382 million purchase of Clipper Windpower in 2010 would help it capitalize on a global market it valued at $60 billion.

Drexel Hamilton analyst Rick Whittington gave a mixed review to the sales. He said “good riddance” to Rocketdyne, which represents the “end of an era” in space travel. And he called Clipper a “misbegotten acquisition.”

United Technologies Seeks Sale of Clipper Windpower Turbine Unit

United Technologies bought the 51 percent of Clipper it didn’t already own for $222 million in October 2010, after reduced orders left the wind company struggling to finance operations.

Clipper abandoned plans in August to build the world’s largest turbine, the 10-megawatt offshore Brittania model to focus on land-based products.

United Technologies is classifying Clipper as a discontinued operation. The wind unit declined to comment.

Environmental and health groups are praising the New York State Assembly for including an independent health impact study of hydraulic fracturing for natural gas in its budget proposal on Monday.

Numerous physicians, health organizations and environmental groups have criticized the Department of Environmental Conservation for not including a comprehensive health impact study in its environmental review of gas drilling using high-volume hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

Gas drilling in New York's part of the Marcellus Shale has been on hold since the DEC review began in 2008. Gov. Andrew Cuomo and DEC Commissioner Joe Martens have said the review and new regulations are expected to be completed within a few months.

The Assembly bill would set aside $100,000 for a study by a school of public health within the state university system following a model recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Before the study, the school would have to prepare a document outlining its plans, and the public would have the opportunity to comment and suggest changes.

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Alfred Might Ban Hydrofracking

The Town of Alfred is now two months into their moratorium on hydrofracking. At Thursday night’s Alfred Town Board meeting, Alfred resident Graham Marks talked about this week’s Alfred Town Planning Board meeting. According to Marks, there seemed to be a general consensus at the planning board meeting that Alfred residents were in favor of banning any possible hydrofracking projects in Alfred. “At the meeting, that there was just a sense of “let’s get on with it, let’s just start working on a ban,” said Marks.

Alfred Town Board member Mary Stearns replied that the town would like to get the road agreement completed, before any vote on a ban took place. “As soon as they get that done, we’ll have the planning board start looking, and try to pick out what they think is the best (plan), and then they send it back to us to look at,” Stearns said. “But we would like to get this road agreement done first.”

Alfred officials have been studying hydrofracking-related laws in Yates and Tompkins counties.

After the meeting, Stearns confirmed what Marks said about Alfred and hydrofracking. “There are a lot of people encouraging us to go to the ban,” Stearns told WLEA/WCKR.

The city Environmental Committee will meet Thursday at the Hurley Building, 205 Saltonstall St., to discuss high volume hydraulic fracturing and how it could affect the city.

Attorney David Slottje will attend the meeting to answer questions from council members and the public. The council will discuss the feasibility of a moratorium on the controversial gas drilling method.

Democrats in both the Senate and Assembly have been busy today on the issue of hydraulic fracturing for natural gas, announcing that the lower chamber will push for a study of the drilling process’ health impacts while those in the upper chamber are pushing for a public hearing on a list of bills.

A day after releasing a public letter to Speaker Sheldon Silver, Ithaca Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton announced today that the Assembly’s budget resolution out later this week will include $100,000 for a “comprehensive health study” of hydrofracking. While the state Department of Environmental Conservation has evaluated the technique for much of the last four years, its study has been criticized by environmental groups for not taking a strong enough look at the potential impacts on human health.

“This study will go a long way to answer the many questions New Yorkers have about what fracking would mean for their health if this goes forward,” Lifton said in a statement. “I hope the Senate will follow the Assembly’s leadership on this critical issue.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed budget didn’t include any additional funds for gas-drilling regulators, saying that he wouldn’t include such funding until the DEC made a decision on whether to allow high-volume hydrofracking.

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Gov. Andrew Cuomo said today that there’s no new time schedule on when the state Department of Environmental Conservation would finish its review of hydrofracking—which the agency has been reviewing for nearly four years without resolution.

“I have had no recent updates one way or the other in terms of time,” Cuomo said today on Fred Dicker’s radio show.

An Associated Press story today suggested that Cuomo dogged the hard questions on hydrofracking and other issues during a live online chat in September.

In response, Cuomo said, “I think it’s a silly point.”

Cuomo said his office received hundreds of questions during the hourlong chat, including hundreds from people on hydrofracking.

“I answered the hydrofracking question the same way I’ve answered it 100 times before,” Cuomo said. “We’re in the middle of the process. There’s nothing new. DEC is doing the review.”

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