In a letter released Tuesday, New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli urged Chesapeake Energy shareholders to withhold their votes for directors V. Burns Hargis and Richard K. Davidson at the company’s annual meeting on June 8.

“A fundamental restructuring of the Company’s Board of Directors is essential if the Board is to regain the trust of stakeholders and regulators,” DiNapoli wrote.

The New York State Common Retirement Fund is a significant shareholder of Chesapeake. DiNapoli is trustee of the fund.

The board of the natural gas company has been under fire over the past few months for its ties to CEO Aubrey McClendon and for its oversight of executive compensation.

To see the full text of DiNapoli's letter, click here.

Hydraulic fracturing will set back, not save, the Southern Tier economy if the government allows the controversial gas drilling technique to proceed, congressional candidate Leslie Danks Burke said Tuesday.

Hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, is a heated topic among those who live and work above the gas-rich Marcellus Shale formation, a portion of which lies below Chemung, Schuyler and Steuben counties.

Supporters say a drilling boom will spur economic activity, while opponents say the potential risk to the environment, health and quality of life outweighs economic benefits.

Danks Burke touched on the subject during a brief interview with The Leader.

(Click to read the entire article)

The New York State Public Service Commission draft (link for comments) from the New York State Board on Electric Generation Siting and the Environment for the proposed regulations to the Power NY Act 2011, known as Article X is deficient in its mandate. Since a SEQR review for electric generation projects that fall under the new regulations is no longer a requirement, New York State is effectively writing new regulations that abdicate the oversight role of the Department of Environmental Conservation. The motive to fast track permitting approval at the expense of environmental protection demonstrates a bias in favor of developer projects. Therefore, in order to establish an equitable balance in interests, it is prudent to include a comprehensive citizen participation process within the administrative structure of the DPS.

The purpose of incorporating a Citizen Advisory Panel within the PSC is to have access, in a timely manner to the entire database of relevant information on each project. A review of applications and stakeholder input from representatives of citizen organizations is in keeping with the Article X mandate. Recommendations by the panel have the value of experience and expertise that deserves consideration by the Article X Siting Board.

The Citizen Power Alliance is a coalition of concerned citizen organizations that have years of involvement within the electric permitting process. From the perspective of local community interest, the spirit of Home Rule will remain in practice with the support of the multi-agency Siting Board. Individual municipalities, hard pressed to engage as an intervener or challenge the new Article X application process, will benefit from a central resource function of the Citizen Advisory Panel.

(Click to read the entire article)

Household electricity bills will rise by as much as a quarter to pay for wind farms and other forms of renewable energy, according to a new report.

The study challenges the Government’s claims that energy bills will actually fall in the next eight years because of energy efficiency savings.

The Coalition is relying on the savings to offset the price increases caused by renewable energy subsidies. Those extra costs are added on to household bills in the form of consumer subsidies.

This week the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) will publish its draft energy bill, setting out how it plans to reform the electricity market and reduce the cost to households.

DECC has insisted that energy bills will begin to fall from next year and will be reduced by seven per cent - or £94 - by 2020 because of new energy efficiency policies.

These include the Green Deal, which will provide loans to fund loft and wall insulation; the roll-out of 'smart’ meters to help control and monitor energy consumption; and the improvement in the energy efficiency of kettles and other appliances.

But a study of the Government’s own figures by the Renewable Energy Forum (REF), a specialist renewable energy consultancy, has accused DECC of deliberately misleading the public.

REF claims its analysis of the Government’s own figures shows that two-thirds of households, about 17 million in all, will be worse off - even if energy efficiency targets are met in full.

In a 54-page report published tomorrow [Monday], REF will conclude: “DECC has made unrealistic assumptions about the use of energy efficiency measures to offset the costs to households, but even on those optimistic assumptions 65 per cent of households will still be net losers.

“In fact there is every reason to suppose that the efficiency measures will not live up to these expectations and that costs have been understated.”

REF estimates that the UK’s climate change policies - which promote wind farms and other forms of renewable energy - will be responsible for 'major increases’ in the retail price of electricity and gas.

It estimates that electricity prices on domestic bills will rise by 27 per cent by 2020 and by 34 per cent on bills for medium-sized companies. Gas prices will rise by seven per cent and 11 per cent respectively.

The row over the cost of renewable energy - especially wind farms - has caused tensions in the Coalition with DECC run by first Chris Huhne and then Ed Davey, both of them Liberal Democrats.

Earlier this year, 101 backbench Tory MPs wrote to David Cameron demanding that the £400 million a year subsidies paid to the onshore wind turbine industry be “dramatically cut”. In all, REF estimates that £1.5 billion a year is paid out in subsidies for all forms of renewable energy - including on and offshore wind - and that figure will rise to £8 billion a year by 2020.

A DECC spokesman said obtaining a “diverse energy portfolio is crucial for our energy security and to shield our homes and businesses from the sort of price shocks that we’ve seen filter through into our energy bills as a result of rocketing global gas prices”.

The spokesman added: “We are going to revolutionise the energy efficiency of millions of homes and businesses across the nation through the Green Deal which will launch later this year.”

The state of Vermont became the first to officially ban the use of hydraulic fracturing for natural gas and oil, a move that appears to be somewhat symbolic but has New York groups pushing for a ban hoping for a boost.

Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin signed the ban on Wedensday. It prohibits hydrofracking, though the gas-rich Marcellus and Utica shale formations are not believed to reach the state. It does, however, also prohibit the importing of hydrofracking waste for treatment.

Hydrofracking critics from New York hope the Vermont ban advances their cause. High-volume hydrofracking is on hold in New York as the state DEC works on an environmental review of the technique.

“When I went to VT to testify before the Senate committee it was refreshing to see legislators listening and asking important questions about the science,about the geology, the wastewater, and possible health impacts and showing real concern for their agriculture,” Wes Gillingham, Program Director of Catskill Mountainkeeper, said in a statement. “We urge Governor Cuomo and the New York State Legislature to listen to the hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers who have called for a ban in order to protect New York’s communities from fracking’s unacceptable dangers.”

American Petroleum Institute Director of State Government Relations Rolf Hanson responded to the initial decision by the Vermont legislature to pass the ban: “The decision by the Vermont legislature to pass a statewide ban on hydraulic fracturing follows an irresponsible path that ignores three major needs: jobs, government revenue and energy security.”

Advocates from Vermont who helped push for the ban were in Albany on Tuesday, partaking in a rally for New Yorkers Against Fracking, a coalition of hydrofracking critics.

New York’s proposed regulations for hydraulic fracturing would have sufficiently curbed many of the environmental impacts experienced in Pennsylvania, according to a study by the University at Buffalo.

The report received immediate criticism from environmental and anti-hydrofracking groups, with one accusing its authors of “drawing rosy conclusions based on limited information.”

The study focused on 2,988 violations filed by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection from January 2008 through August 2011, covering close to 4,000 gas wells. Of those, 25 violations were considered “major,” which include events like blowouts at gas wells, land spills and water contamination.

New York’s proposed permitting guidelines for high-volume hydrofracking would have helped avoid or mitigate the major violations, according to the report.

(Click to read the entire article)

Anti-fracking activists are laying down on the job — literally. This litter of bodies in front the governor’s chambers are part of the large protest that was slated for later today, but which we hear may be moved inside the Capitol due to rain. It’s part of an afternoon/evening long event topped off with a concert and celebrity activists at the Egg.

Hovering above the inert clean suit wearing protestors was a woman wailing about the harm and potential health problems that they say fracking could lead to, while another woman was singing that “It’s not nice to block the walkway.”

Reminiscent of the gay marriage rallies and protests that took place almost a year ago, State Police were there making sure there was a clear walkway through the area.

President Obama’s mantra du jour for his 2012 campaign speeches is “all-inclusive” energy. But any business touting this version of “all-inclusive” would be prosecuted for false advertising.

When the President says “all-inclusive,” he means politically correct (PC) “green” energy (wind, solar and bio-fuels), and nothing that actually provides reliable, affordable power – especially not hydrocarbons. Another PC buzzword – “sustainable” – is right out of the United Nation’s Agenda 21 Protocol and the President’s goal of “fundamentally transforming” America.

Increasing pain at the pump and the plug underscores the reality that Mr. Obama’s energy policies are anything but “all-inclusive,” and PC power is anything but sustainable – though they certainly are transforming our country. In fact, if the Keystone XL pipeline’s oil were used to generate electricity, it would provide more energy than all existing U.S. wind and solar installations combined.
Be they massive or small-scale, actual or theoretical, and decades away – wind, solar, corn ethanol, switch-grass and algae projects are being paid for with countless billions of taxpayer and ratepayer dollars. The arrangements are sweet for promoters and “investors” on the receiving end–and for politicians looking for campaign contributions from these recipients. It’s crony capitalism (aka political capitalism) at its best.

(Click to read the entire article)

As oil and gas drilling explodes nationwide, the Obama administration today proposed rules requiring the disclosure of chemicals used to extract these deposits on public and Indian lands. Environmentalists say the rules don't go far enough but an industry group says they may stifle job growth with "bureaucratic red tape."

The proposed rules require companies to disclose the chemicals used during hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, but do so after (not before) they finish operations. About 90% of wells drilled on federal and Indian lands use this drilling process, which blasts chemical-laced water and sand deep below ground to release oil and natural gas trapped in rock formations.

Fracking has dramatically boosted the development of previously uneconomic natural gas and oil deposits, but critics say it can pollute the water and air. In his State of the Union address in January and subsequent speeches, President Obama has promised to promote domestic energy production while protecting the environment.

"As the President has made clear, this administration's energy strategy is an all-out effort to boost American production of every available source of energy," Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said in announcing the draft rules on fracking. "As we continue to offer millions of acres of America's public lands for oil and gas development, it is critical that the public have full confidence that the right safety and environmental protections are in place."

Fracking has dramatically boosted the development of previously uneconomic natural gas and oil deposits, but critics say it can pollute the water and air. In his State of the Union address in January and subsequent speeches, President Obama has promised to promote domestic energy production while protecting the environment. "As the President has made clear, this administration's energy strategy is an all-out effort to boost American production of every available source of energy," Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said in announcing the draft rules on fracking. "As we continue to offer millions of acres of America's public lands for oil and gas development, it is critical that the public have full confidence that the right safety and environmental protections are in place."

(Click to read the entire article)

It was a familiar sight early Wednesday afternoon outside the Senate chamber.

In front of the bright lights of television cameras and a handful of microphones and recorders, a coalition of groups and lawmakers opposed to hydraulic fracturing for natural gas stood next to six boxes packed with petitions supporting a statewide ban on the technique. The petitions had more than 200,000 signatures, according to the groups.

At the same time, members of a gas industry trade group were fanned across the Capitol and Legislative Office Building, selling the job-creation and energy-independence benefits associated with gas drilling to lawmakers and members of Gov. Andrew Cuomo's staff.

But in a battle that has stretched on for nearly four years at the Capitol, have the public protests and behind-the-scenes wrangling had any impact on the debate? Both sides said Wednesday that they have, but differed in how so.

"This process has slowed down to a crawl, though it's still moving ahead," said Sen. Tony Avella, D-Queens, who sponsors a bill to permanently ban hydrofracking. "I absolutely think we're winning this battle. I think (Cuomo's) getting the message."

(Click to read the entire article)

John Koelmel, president of First Niagara Financial Group Inc., was nominated today by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to serve on the New York Power Authority board and to serve as its chairman.

Koelmel, whose nomination will require Senate approval, would succeed the current chairman Michael Townsend, a prominent Rochester-area attorney who was first appointed to the board by then-Gov. George Pataki in 2004.

“With decades of experience in key leadership and management positions with major private sector organizations, John Koelmel has the expertise needed to be a strong and effective voice on the NYPA Board of Trustees,” Cuomo said in a statement.

Koelmel has been president of First Niagara since 2006 and has led its rapid expansion in New York and neighboring states. Koelmel spent 26 years at KPMG LLP, serving as managing partner of the Buffalo office.

The White Plains-based Power Authority is largest state power organization in the nation, with 17 generating facilities and more than 1,400 miles of transmission lines.

“For New York State to come back stronger than ever and to rebuild a vibrant and sustainable economy, we need affordable, clean power,” Koelmel, 59, of East Amherst, Erie County said in a statement.

Koelmel’s nomination is the latest appointment by Cuomo to the Power Authority since he took office in January 2011. In October, Cuomo nominated Gil Quiniones, the authority’s chief operating officer since 2008, to take over as president and CEO. Quiniones replaced Richard Kessel, who led NYPA from October 2008 until he resigned in July 2011 amid a state investigation into the authority’s donations to politically connected non-profit groups.

A year ago, Cuomo nominated John Dyson, a Millbrook, Dutchess County, resident, to serve on the NYPA board, which Dyson had served on from 1979 to 1985.

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