The Ontario County Board of Supervisors on Thursday will hear a presentation from Boylan Code, a Rochester law firm being considered to draw up a model law on fracking.

The county plans to hire a law firm to draw up a model law addressing hydrofracking, which the county’s towns and cities can use.

The presentation takes place during the early portion of the Board of Supervisors meeting Aug. 2, which begins at 6:30 p.m. in the third-floor sessions room of the county Municipal Building, 20 Ontario St., Canandaigua.

Facing declining demand for electricity and stiff federal environmental regulations, coal plant operators are planning to retire 175 coal-fired generators, or 8.5 percent of the total coal-fired capacity in the United States, according to an analysis by the Energy Information Administration (EIA).

A record-high 57 generators will shut down in 2012, representing 9 gigawatts of electrical capacity, according to EIA. In 2015, nearly 10 gigawatts of capacity from 61 coal-fired generators will be retired.

While many of those coal plants are old and relatively inefficient, the scope of this new planned shutdown is unprecedented.

“The coal-fired capacity expected to be retired over the next five years is more than four times greater than retirements performed during the preceding five-year period,” EIA noted in the analysis.

The generators that will be retired between 2012 and 2016 are “approximately 12% more efficient than the group of units, on average, that retired during 2009-2011,” according to the EIA.

(Click to read the entire article)

New York State's money road to nowhere

Citing news that a major insurer is not covering damages from hydraulic fracturing for natural gas, an Albany-based environmental group is asking a variety of state officials and lawmakers to survey other insurers on their policies.

Environmental Advocates of New York sent a handful of letters late last week to a number of top officials, including Financial Services Superintendent Benjamin Lawsky, Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens and the chairmen of the Legislature’s insurance committees.

Earlier this month, it was revealed that Nationwide Insurance would not cover any hydrofracking-related damages. High-volume fracking, of course, hasn’t yet been allowed in New York as the DEC completes an environmental and regulatory review.

In the letter to Lawsky, executive director Rob Moore asked the Cuomo appointee to “open an inquiry into how insurance companies plan to handle liability coverage for businesses, property owners, and others who hold risk related to fracking.”

(Click to read the entire article)

The owners of a coal-fired power plant in Lansing, Tompkins County, intend to mothball the facility by mid-January, according to a filing made with state regulators Friday.

In a letter to the state Public Service Commissioner, a top executive for the new owners of the former AES Cayuga facility wrote that they intend to temporarily deactivate the plant’s two units by January 16.

“Cayuga Operating Company intends to take all steps within its control to avoid permanently retiring the facility by continuing to explore any and all alternatives with its suppliers and other parties, including reductions in its variable and fixed costs,” wrote Jerry Goodenough, the company’s chief operating officer.

Goodenough cited wholesale electricity prices that “are inadequate for the Cayuga facility to operate economically.” The mothballing, he wrote, is a way to put the plant in “protective lay-up to limit the costs that are incurred at the facility.”

(Click to read the entire article)

If Senate Democrats win the majority this fall, the conference would move to block any attempt by the Cuomo administration to allow high-volume hydrofracking in New York, Sen. Tony Avella said on Capital Tonight Wednesday evening.

In an interview with Liz, Avella, D-Queens, said the conference would move forward with his ban bill on day one.

“…If we were in the majority, we’d pass the ban bill first day. If the governor goes ahead and allows hydrofracking, we’re going to take steps. I’m not going to say what those steps are. But we’re not giving up the battle,” he said.

“That is a commitment that we make, and my entire Democratic conference, except for I think one member, is a sponsor of my bill,” Avella added.

As Liz noted in CapTon morning memo, the strong anti-fracking stance that the Democrats in the Senate are pushing is in stark contrast to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s cautious position of waiting for the Department of Environmental Conservation to finish its review of the controversial natural-gas extraction method.

(Click to read the entire article)

A handful of Senate Democrats from New York City are on hand today for a public hearing forum in Manhattan today, where concerns about hydrofracking and emails between the gas industry and state regulators will be aired.

It’s the latest public forum—as the minority conference, they can’t hold a formal hearing—on hydrofracking hosted by the Senate Democrats (specifically Sen. Tony Avella, D-Queens, a major fracking critic).

This time, however, its expected to focus heavily on a series of emails between a natural-gas industry lobbyists and the state Department of Environmental Conservation. Anti-fracking groups say the emails represent unethical collusion; regulators say was a legally required look at the costs of their proposed regulations.

The forum—which will feature several anti-fracking and environmental groups and no gas-industry representatives—just kicked off, and can be viewed below:

Hydrofracking Forum Live Tomorrow!

Tomorrow my Democratic colleagues and I will be hosting a public forum to bring advocates, members of the community and elected officials together to call for a further investigation into the dangerous process of hydraulic fracturing (also known as “hydrofracking”). I wanted to let you know about this because we will also be streaming video of the forum live so that you can watch and hear all of the environmental panelists and testimony in real time.

Hydrofracking is a process by which natural gases are extracted by an unregulated process of drilling which can lead to grave health and seismic impacts. Recently the state has taken some alarming steps toward allowing this hydrofracking process to take place without thorough studies. Additionally, there are recent allegations of wrongdoing and a federal probe to investigate the companies that seek to drill here in New York and could end up affecting our drinking water right here in New York.

Throughout the legislative session, we brought several hostile amendments to the floor of the Senate and held several press conferences and forums similar to this one in the hopes that the Senate Republicans would stop kowtowing to the monied special interests at the expense of New Yorkers’ safe drinking water. Join us live tomorrow at 10:30AM at You can also follow updates live via our Twitter account and ask any questions at @NYSenDems.

Nationwide might be on your side, but it might not pay off if you think you've been harmed by gas well fracking.

That's not new. It never has.

What is new, is that someone posted an internal Nationwide Insurance underwriting document on Facebook.

It said, "After months of research and discussion, we have determined that the exposures presented by hydraulic fracturing are too great to ignore."

That hit a nerve in the pro-drilling camp.

"The first people who pick up on it are anti-drilling activists," said Steve Everley with Energy In Depth, a drilling industry education association. "It's not the public. Not the press releases. Not anything like that. It's anti-drilling activists that come up with it. So did they send that to them? We don't really know."

(Click to read the entire article)

Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co. has become the first major insurance company to say it won't cover damage related to a gas drilling process that blasts chemical-laden water deep into the ground.

The Columbus, Ohio-based company's personal and commercial policies "were not designed to cover" risk from the drilling process, called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, Nationwide spokeswoman Nancy Smeltzer said Thursday.

The process injects chemically treated water into wells to fracture shale thousands of feet underground and release trapped gas or oil. There are rich shale deposits in parts of Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio, West Virginia and elsewhere.

Health and environmental groups claim fracking can contaminate drinking water. The gas industry says it's safe if done properly. Nationwide said risks involved in fracking operations "are too great to ignore" and apply to policies of commercial contractors and landowners who lease property to gas companies.

The Nationwide policy first came to light when an internal memo detailing underwriting guidelines was posted on websites of upstate New York anti-fracking groups and landowner coalitions seeking gas leases. Smeltzer confirmed that the memo was genuine but said it wasn't intended for public dissemination.

(Click to read the entire article)

One day after saying it’s “inarguable” that “home rule” should be considered during the hydrofracking permitting process, Gov. Andrew Cuomo today tweaked his statement a bit, calling it “relevant, but not necessarily determinative.”

Cuomo was asked about hydrofracking following a news conference today launching the state’s revamped traffic information website,

He was asked about the state’s plan for the controversial natural-gas extraction technique should the state Department of Environmental Conservation give it the green light. The DEC has been examining high-volume hydrofracking for the past four years and is expected to wrap up soon, with all permits on hold in the meantime.

“The last phrase is everything—‘contingent on DEC deciding that you should go ahead.’ What I said yesterday was, if DEC came out with a report saying we should go ahead, then I believe home rule is relevant,” Cuomo said.

He continued: “Home rule is one of the basic, essential elements of our democracy. If DEC said, you can do this, you can do it safely, we have the initial discussion and we’ve made the decision on the first fork in the road, then I believe home rule is relevant. Is it necessarily determinative? No. But is it relevant? Yes.”

Cuomo was then asked if—assuming the DEC allows the technique—he supports a floated plan to allow a limited number of permits in five counties near the Pennsylvania border, he declined to weigh in.

“I don’t really want to talk about if you get past the first ‘if,’ ‘because…’” he said. “Let’s have a discussion on the facts, because you could say, yes we’re going to go ahead, but DEC could say, yes but, with the following conditions.” (Side note: This was a very difficult quote to punctuate, but it should be more clear when you watch the video below.)

Hydrofracking debate continues

The Cuomo administration has been weighing whether or not to allow the controversial gas extraction method, known as hydrofracking, in New York State. Supporters want the economic benefits, opponents said it could pollute water supplies. Now, Democrats are accusing the administration of consulting the industry before certain regulations were made public last September.

"The environmental groups found out that proposed regulations were given to the oil and natural gas companies prior to being given to the public. That's an absolutely disgrace," said Tony Avella, (D) Senate-Queens.

Democratic Senators sent a letter to the state's Department of Environmental Conservation, asking for an explanation of what exactly was shared with the industry before being made public.

"I don't believe they should be given advance notice, they should be given information that wasn't given to the rest of the public, nor that they should have the ability to comment and potentially change those draft regulations," said Liz Krueger, (D) Senate-Manhattan.

The DEC referred us to a letter they wrote last week which said, "DEC provided industry with a summary, not the text, of the draft regulations...those regulations were not changed as a result of the exchanges DEC had with the industry prior to the publication."

"The industry has not proved they can do this safely in New York State. We know that there is not a shortage of natural gas on the marketplace at this time. And we know that the gas will be down there, underneath the marcellus shale forever," said Krueger.

Republicans, who have been largely supportive of hydrofracking, argue that it will bring jobs. However, the counter-argument to that is that any jobs created would be temporary. The companies would come in, drill, extract their natural gas, than move on. The towns that are in favor of this though, said any economic impact, even a minimal one, would be welcome.

A group of Senate Democrats is the latest to pile on the state Department of Environmental Conservation for allowing the natural-gas industry a sneak peak at a pair of hydrofracking documents before their public release.

The lawmakers, led by Sen. Liz Krueger, D-Manhattan, sent a letter to DEC Commissioner Joe Martens today, requesting a “full explanation of DEC’s actions in this case.”

“We believe this action on the part of DEC has seriously undermined the legitimacy of these regulations, as it has given the natural gas industry an advantage in shaping the proposed regulations to its own benefit,” they wrote.

The letter is in response to a report from the Environmental Working Group last week, examining DEC emails that showed the agency shared a draft of its proposed hydrofracking regulations and a stormwater runoff permit with an industry lobbyist a month before it was released last September.

A DEC spokeswoman said last week that the agency was complying with the state Administrative Procedures Act by asking the industry to provide cost-related information on the permits.

2012-07-05 Letter to Martens Re Regs Release

Gov. Andrew Cuomo promised to decide whether fracking has been proven safe based upon science rather than politics, but he is about to strike a politics-based deal with Sen. Thomas W. Libous to allow fracking to take place in (at least) those places represented by the senator. Libous is deputy majority leader of the Republican-controlled state Senate and an ardent patron of the fracking industry, and the Democratic governor needs the support of the majority leader and his deputy to achieve legislative goals that the governor hopes will burnish his credentials to be president.

Whatever your position on gas drilling, everyone needs to understand that the Cuomo-Libous fracking plan will have a devastating effect on the concept of private property rights for Southern Tier residents.

The compulsory integration law, in the context of shale gas extraction, is nothing short of an unembarrassed, uncompensated transfer of private property rights to the gas industry.

Many people assume that companies are legally allowed to frack only on properties where they have obtained leases and that if you do not want to allow your property to be used for fracking, or haven't yet decided, you can stop them from doing so. But as the governor knows, this is not the case.

(Click to read the entire article)

Two Upstate Coal Plants Change Hands

Upstate New York Power Producers received final regulatory approval Friday to purchase two coal-burning power plants in Niagara and Tompkins counties.

The company, a group of bondholders that bought the plants from the bankrupt AES Corp. for about $300 million, said it will take ownership of the Somerset and Cayuga power plants.

“We are excited to have both facilities up and running,” said Jerry Goodenough, chief operating officer of Upstate New York Power Producers, in a statement. “The Somerset and Cayuga facilities are well positioned to play a vital role in their respective communities by continuing to provide well paying jobs, support for local governments and school districts, generating significant commercial activity, and producing clean, affordable, safe and reliable power to businesses and residents in New York State.”

The move comes during a tenuous future for coal plants in New York. Gannett’s Albany Bureau reported last month that state lawmakers have been in talks to lower New York’s cap on carbon emissions, a move that would likely boost costs for coal-fired power plants.

(Click to read the entire article)

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