NY local fracking bans upheld!

Hallelujah! The decision from the highest court in New York State just came down, affirming that towns can use their home rule zoning authority to ban shale gas extraction (aka fracking) within their borders.

On the one hand, I am very happy for the jurisdictions with bans in place. It’s a huge victory for NY fracktivists and the fantastic legal teams that have been working on these court cases at the various levels for three years.

On the other hand, I am frightened for towns like mine that have conflicts of interest on the town board with members who refuse to recuse themselves. They are on record saying that our current zoning protects us, even though it doesn’t. We need a permanent statewide ban so that the rest of the townspeople don’t get subjected to all the pollution in order for a few large landowners and related business owners to make money at the expense of our health, environment, and quality of life.

Because I live on the PA border with drilling just over the town line, we are already suffering negative impacts. Air, water, traffic, climate and other impacts don’t respect human-created borders. We need not to add to them by allowing shale drilling and related infrastructure and waste disposal to occur in New York State.

The decision is attached to this brief article:  http://polhudson.lohudblogs.com/2014/06/30/nys-top-court-says-towns-can-ban-fracking/

Buffalo News fracking story comment

We are watching a recording of the Eurovision competition, so I decided to write a fracking comment on this:  http://www.buffalonews.com/city-region/environment/a-border-tale-of-boom-and-bust-20140510

I live in Broome County in a town that borders PA. This article is misleading on a number of fronts, a few of which I will point out.

First, the PA counties are much more sparsely populated than the NY counties. Even if NY permitted HVHF, the number of jobs gained would be a drop in the bucket in terms of unemployment rate and might be offset by jobs lost in other sectors, such as tourism. The population density also would cut down how many wells could be drilled because there would need to be a lot of setbacks from homes, businesses, water sources, etc. In Broome County, the only part of the county that might be viable as methane prices rise is the southern part, which also has the highest population density and is served by a sole source aquifer.

Norse did not go bankrupt because of failed Marcellus leases. Most of its leases were for the Utica and other non-shale formations.It was engaged in vertically fracked wells and conventional wells; it just wasn’t very successful at it.  http://www.cedclaw.org/news/norse-energy-whats-happening . Also, remember that vertical fractured wells in the Marcellus could have been drilled. A company could even have applied for a horizontal well if it had completed a site-specific environmental impact statement at its own expense, as other kinds of companies do for their projects.

Because I live on the PA border, I’ve seen the impacts on PA neighbors. For people who have lost their water wells, who have been driven out of their homes due to health impacts, whose homes have lost value due to noise and other kinds of pollution, who have been unable to re-finance mortgages or sell their homes because banks won’t take the risk of drilling operations to the property value, who have seen their royalty payments drop by 50, 70, even 90% due to companies’ deducting large amounts for expenses, discovering that mechanic’s liens have been placed against their deeds because drilling companies failed to pay their sub-contractors, who were victims of the increased traffic accidents, especially with industry trucks, who were victims of the increase in crime, including sexual assault, who lost their long-time rental home when the rents tripled – no statistics on job growth can make up for the losses they have suffered. I don’t want those stories repeated in my New York community.

Groundswell Rising LTE

Below is a follow-up letter to the editor of the Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin based on this blog post.

The link to the letter to the editor itself is:  http://www.pressconnects.com/article/20140406/VIEWPOINTS03/304060005/Letter-Documentary-shows-results-fracking, but I have printed it below to keep people from getting tangled up in the subscription process for the paper.

I am assiduously avoiding looking at the comments, as I know a few locals will tear into anything I write, so I am sparing myself the aggravation.

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With over 70 other local residents, I recently watched “Groundswell Rising,” a new documentary on the effects of the fracking industry on individuals and communities and their response to it. Much of the film focuses on Pennsylvania, showing the noise, light, air and water pollution — and the health problems many have experienced as a result.

The most powerful segments show ordinary folks telling stories of how their lives have been changed by the industry moving into their backyards. These stories, along with a growing body of science, obligate Gov. Andrew Cuomo to stand up to the gas industry and protect New Yorkers.

Even though the people already affected will never be able to regain what they have lost, they have banded together to become the “groundswell rising,” fighting for their own health, their right to clean air and water, and their communities and ours.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

PS  I hate writing with a 150 word limit. 😉

Groundswell Rising

Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to see “Groundswell Rising,” a new documentary on the effects of the fracking industry on individuals and communities across the country and what some of those people are doing in response. You can view the trailer and get much more information, including signing up for updates here: http://www.groundswellrising.com/ .

Because I have been involved in advocacy against shale fossil fuel for several years, the information in the film was not news to me, but it was powerful to see the story compacted into an hour and twenty minutes, beginning in the West with Erie, Colorado, and moving East into the Marcellus with the impacts in Pennsylvania and our ongoing fight in New York to keep drilling – and as much of the waste disposal and infrastructure impacts as possible – out of our state.

Because my town is on the NY border with a heavily drilled PA county, we have seen impacts up close and have felt some ourselves, including heavy truck traffic, road degradation, and noise, light, and air pollution. And because much of the filming was done in NY and PA, I have had the privilege of hearing rally speeches, lectures, or debates from many of the people who appear in the film, including Dr. Tony Ingraffea, Dr. Sandra Steingraber, NY Assemblymember and US Congress candidate Martha Robertson, (now retired) Rep. Maurice Hinchey, Vera Scroggins, and Craig Stevens. There was also footage from events in which I participated, such as the the Stop the Frack Attack rally and march in Washington DC.

We were privileged to have a question and answer session after the film. Renard Cohen, executive producer/director (Resolution Films), and David Walczak, associate producer, were there to answer questions about the film itself and local community organizer Isaac Silberman-Gorn gave the NY political perspective. Most powerfully, there were four of our PA neighbors who are affected by drilling and fully engaged in the fight against it sharing their stories: Vera Scroggins, Craig Stevens, David Kagan, and Ray Kemble. When you hear such personal stories and hear the emotions in their voices, you know this is not some political-economic power play; it’s about regular folks who have had their lives and homes violated and who will never be able to regain what they have lost. It was especially poignant as the day before the screening, Vera Scroggins had been in court over an injunction that Cabot Oil and Gas had placed last fall which has kept her from setting foot on over the third of the land in her PA county. (Links to media coverage on that here:  http://www.nofrackingway.us/2014/03/26/cabot-martyrs-the-vera-for-frackcrack-photo/ . Warning: post contains photo of a gas worker mooning Vera, because they try, albeit unsuccessfully, to intimidate her at every turn.)

Fractivism feels like a David versus Goliath enterprise, a small number of the common people fighting the powerful industry that has co-opted much of the government that should be protecting us. Given that a lot of time is taken up with private research and comment writing and writing/calling government officials, it is easy to feel isolated. When you see the suffering that the industry is causing, it is easy to feel discouraged. That is why films like this are so important. For those of us in the fight, we can see the people with whom we are connected in spirit and advocacy and draw energy and inspiration from them. For those who aren’t familiar with the topic, this film presents a sobering introduction to what it is like to live near drilling.

The film’s subtitle is “Protecting Our Children’s Air and Water.” It is that vital. Please look for a screening near you or request a screening, if one isn’t yet scheduled. Watch for it at film festivals. There are hopes for cinematic release or television. I have put in an email to POV on PBS, suggesting that they include it in their series. (I’m hoping for PBS over HBO because it is easier for those of us without premium cable to see it.)

We have kept the industry from drilling in NY for over six years. People in other states are fighting hard to keep the industry out or to rein it in or put moratoria in place. By documenting the fight, “Groundswell Rising” is doing important work. Let’s make sure as many people as possible get to see it.

My response to EDF’s climate confession email

This message from the Environmental Defense Fund: http://support.edf.org/site/MessageViewer?dlv_id=65441&em_id=35201.0
really upset me. They have been giving cover to the oil and gas industry to keep fracking, so I took their invitation to write to them and sent the following:

I am distressed with your climate confession email because your hopeful graph isn’t telling the whole story. The graph only tells about carbon dioxide emissions from the energy sector. It ignores other sectors and, even more disturbingly, ignores the emissions of other greenhouse gases, such as methane. Methane is a much more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide and is particularly damaging in the twenty year timeframe, which is the critical time period in which we can temper climate change to make it only damaging to the planet and its inhabitants, instead of catastrophic.

It sickens me that EDF has fallen into the trap of the oil and gas industry to push ramping up unconventional fossil fuel extraction by HVHF in the name of helping the climate when what we really need to do is withdraw all support for fossil fuels and convert to renewable energy as quickly as possible.

comment to Nat’l Geographic on “green” fracking

After I had already commented on this article:  http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/energy/2014/03/140319-5-technologies-for-greener-fracking/#, a call went out from a fracktivist blogger that we should also blog our comments, so here is mine:

No fossil fuel can be green. Period. All of the things that are in this article have been around for several years and get trotted out by the industry to try to give themselves cover, but they are not widely implemented and some of them are not widely implementable. Fracking with gelled propane is not only more expensive, it is also much more dangerous and cannot be used close to people because of the explosion hazard. Most of the methane that leaks is not from the wells, although some is, but from processing and underground pipelines. The horrible explosion in NYC recently highlights the deplorable state of methane infrastructure in the US. The only green choice is to stop going after unconventional fossil fuels and use remaining conventional sources as we move to renewable energy sources as quickly as possible.

comment on PSB guest viewpoint by Phil Kraft

Below is my comment to this (Binghamton NY) Press & Sun-Bulletin guest viewpoint by Phil Kraft on the Jan. 31, 2014 presentation on the Potential of Shale Gas in New York State:  http://www.pressconnects.com/article/20140212/VIEWPOINTS02/302120101/Guest-Viewpoint-Deception-surrounding-gas-drilling-offers-important-lesson?gcheck=1

I was able to attend the presentation. What most impressed me is that this presentation was based on actual production data from the Northern Tier PA counties using HVHF in the Marcellus, which was then correlated with the geologic features of the shale. Using calculations of depth, thickness, thermal maturity, and organic content, the PA well data could be projected to NYS. There were also industry maps that show the expectation of drilling companies for NY’s potential, and none of them extended much beyond the NY/PA border for either the Marcellus or the Utica. Many gas production companies have core samples of both the Marcellus and Utica because they have had to drill through them to reach the Trenton Black River formation; the companies already know which areas are too thin, too shallow, or too thermally immature or overmature to yield enough methane to justify the enormous expense of HVHF. Industry has already concentrated their drilling in PA to areas around a couple of sweet spots, one to our south in the Northern Tier, although not extending up to the NY border, and one in SW PA. Older shale plays followed a similar pattern, with drilling dispersed throughout the play initially, but then concentrating in a small area when the sweet spots were discovered.

Unfortunately, a lot of expectations are still based on the original draft SGEIS, when it was expected that shale plays would be more uniform in their production. That is why it is so important for NYers to examine the actual production results and experiences of extraction in PA, so that we have the best available data to decide what to do in NY. Everyone is invited to view a video of the presentation:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fKRWbyhskh8

Comment on methane emissions and leakage

I just sent the following comment to this article: http://theenergycollective.com/sierenernst/330521/quantifying-impact-multiple-avenues-methanes-underestimation . It’s my first time commenting on this site, so moderation may take a while. I thought I’d post here because I spent so much time on it, I figured it might as well appear somewhere.

There have been several recent NOAA-partnered studies showing high levels of leakage (from 4% to 9+%) in the Denver-Julesburg, Uintah, and Los Angeles basins. These were measured from atmospheric rather than surface instruments, so they would show leakage from drilling operations along with the immediate processing infrastructure. They also were able to categorize the methane associated with drilling from that from other sources, such as landfills and agriculture.   http://www.nature.com/news/air-sampling-reveals-high-emissions-from-gas-field-1.9982  http://blogs.agu.org/geospace/2013/08/09/scientists-observe-significant-methane-leaks-in-a-utah-natural-gas-field/   http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/solving-the-case-of-californias-extra-machine/

We also need to consider that in some plays, such as the Bakken, methane is treated as a byproduct that isn’t worth the dollars and effort to capture, so it is flared or even vented for months on end while the companies concentrate on the much more lucrative oil. This contributes to atmospheric carbon dioxide with absolutely no beneficial use to society and currently unmeasured amounts of methane and other hydrocarbons and VOCs escaping to the atmosphere and adding to the greenhouse gas load.

There are some studies in big cities, such as Boston, New York, and Washington, that show thousands of leaks in the distribution lines, causing leakage rates up to 3%. The distribution companies who should be maintaining these lines don’t hurry to fix them because their customers are being charged for the leaked gas as part of their rates.   http://www.bostonglobe.com/business/2013/07/31/gas-leaks-costing-mass-consumers/5nIv3FsJaZRwscJ48jGMsI/story.html  Unfortunately, the climate comes out as a loser.

Plus, there are the thousands upon thousands of miles of pipelines and the compressor stations and other infrastructure that are venting and leaking gas, which is not being measured. Methane plumes sometimes form in areas where drilling has occurred. http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/study-airborne-methane-plume-found-near-bradford-county-gas-migration-site-1.1335347 And let’s not forget the methane emissions that are inherent in the production, storage, transport, and use of LNG.

Even if every driller used best practices with every new well going forward, there would still be much higher total leakage rates than the current EPA estimates. With so many sources of leakage, they would not be easy or cheap to fix. The comparison with coal is low-ball. Instead of comparing one fossil fuel to another, let’s compare, as the original Howarth/Ingraffea/Santoro paper does, to solar, wind, and other energy technologies. That will give us a better idea of the wisest places to concentrate our resources in the fight to keep global temperature rise below two degrees Celsius.

my latest missive to Gov. Cuomo

Dear Governor Cuomo,

I am a voter who lives in Vestal on the PA border. I am very concerned about the public health impacts of gas drilling, infrastructure, usage, and waste disposal.

Dr. Shah is currently conducting a review of the DEC’s work for the SGEIS, but that is not adequate for the immensely complicated issue at hand, especially with so much scientific research ongoing.

Please halt the fatally flawed health review and SGEIS process and initiate a Public Health Impact Assessment, conducted with transparency and public input according to national/international standards.

Please include in that a study of impacts that are already occurring in New York, such as air pollution from PA operations, waste dumping/disposal in NY, road spreading of wastewater, and impacts on ground and surface water, especially regarding hydrocarbons, heavy metals, and endocrine disruptors, which have been found in numerous studies to be elevated near drilling and waste processing activities.

The Southern Tier is making progress through our Regional Economic Development Council and other initiatives, but we need to be seen as an area that is a healthy place to live. The threat of drilling occurring under the current flawed SGEIS process is very real to us and a high priority in deciding for whom to vote. I want to remain in the area for decades to come, but will leave the state if I or my family’s health is jeopardized by proximity to gas drilling, processing, and transport activities.

I know that you are committed to following the science on this issue. I have researched and read extensively about it and know that the science is increasingly documenting many negative health and environmental impacts. The only reasonable, scientifically valid choice is to permanently ban all aspects of unconventional fossil fuel processes, including waste disposal, from the state.

I would appreciate hearing from you regarding your thoughts on this issue which is vital to so many NYers, both the voting public and those who are still too young to vote.

Sincerely,
Joanne Corey

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