Gas pipeline expansion should alarm homeowners – The Washington Post

Gas pipeline expansion should alarm homeowners – The Washington Post.

Preble Takes a Stand

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A model for other Cortland Co. towns?  There are actually over 200 NY towns/cities/counties that have imposed bans or moratoria on various aspects of fossil fuel extraction, production, transportation and infrastructure.  Except for very specific bans on selling municipal water and processing fracking waste at the Cortland’s municipal treatment plant, this is the first ban in Cortland County and one of the most comprehensive state-wide.  This ban is based on the town’s comprehensive plan and on a revision of the zoning code,  local and external legal and technical consultation and extensive official and citizen participation.

Preble’s ban recognizes that the threats to its agricultural and rural character extend far beyond the drilling of gas wells because explosive fossil fuels require massive industrialization–pipelines, storage facilities, surface transportation by trucks and rail, compressors, etc.  Even if the NY hydrofracking ban remains in place, the fossil fuel infrastructure will continue to expand.

Concerns go beyond “worry” about water contamination, explosions, health dangers, economic boom and bust and destruction of existing economies.  Research from PA, CO, TX and other heavily industrialized fossil fuel production areas is providing proof that these impacts are real and significant.  This week’s fatal gas main explosion in New York City reminds us that continuing to rely on fossil fuels and our aging infrastructure is a dead end.

Preble Bans Fossil Industrialization

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Fracking’s Achilles’ Heel –

Fracking’s Achilles’ Heel –

The rime of the upstate anti-fracker Daily Star 4/9/11

April 9, 2011

The rime of the upstate anti-fracker

Anonymous By Art Siegel The Daily Star Sat Apr 09, 2011, 03:24 AM EDT

In Samuel Coleridge’s oft-quoted late 18th-century poem of the violation of nature and Christian redemption, “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” the title character laments, “water, water, everywhere, Nor any a drop to drink.”

An albatross, a good luck omen to sailors, had been pursuing the mariner’s ship for days. The mariner thoughtlessly kills the great seabird, invoking the wrath of the spirits of the sea.

The ship is tossed into the windless doldrums, where it remains until the ship’s water supply is exhausted and the crew severely dehydrated. The vengeful crew wrapped the seabird around the mariner’s neck as a kind of “Scarlet Letter.”

While the fantasy of this faraway mariner’s life-threatening dehydration may seem irrelevant to the risks posed by rural life in upstate New York or urban life in New York City, this fantasy may be a far more imminent possibility than most New York state residents can yet imagine.


Some of the nation’s richest reserves of natural gas are trapped in the tight, difficult-to-access shales of the Marcellus Formation, some of which lie several thousands of feet below the surface in a broad, 18,000-square-mile swath across New York state’s Southern Tier. The formation covers 95,000 square miles across several states, including Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

The oil and gas drilling industries have already leased tens of thousands of acres in the watersheds that supply 27 million consumers in five states _ New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Maryland _ with clean, potable and mostly unfiltered and affordable water.

Using a relatively new, aggressively intrusive method _ horizontal hydraulic fracturing _ well drillers penetrate the earth vertically to reach the tight shales, then extend horizontally for up to a mile.

The 3 to 8 million gallons of water for each individual well are drawn from local aquifers, streams and rivers to facilitate the drilling process. Eighty to 300 tons of “proprietary” chemicals, the identities of which are unknown to the public, are used with the drilling water.

The Federal Energy Policy Act of 2005 exempts the oil and gas industries from disclosing chemical drilling recipes, and exempts them from regulation under the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Water and Clean Drinking Water acts.

However, the EPA labels oil and gas drilling by-products as the most hazardous industrial wastes in the nation.

Approximately 1 million gallons of drilling wastewater laden with toxic chemicals, normally occurring radioactive materials (NORMS) and total dissolved solids (TDS) will be recovered from the well bore and stored on site until they can be removed and processed at an appropriate wastewater processing facility _ the type of which only exists in a few locations in the entire country.

After drilling, the gas is released from the shale by water and sand under explosively high pressures. Some of the recovered methane, a greenhouse gas 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide, along with a miasma of volatile organic compounds, will be “flared off” at the wellhead before the useable gas can be contained.

With an economy of scale throughout the full range of the Marcellus’ 95,000 square miles _ 6 to 10 wells per square mile _ the gas drilling industry claims it can provide enough gas to

See Frack on Page D2

meet the nation’s current gas consumption needs for 100 years. Yet the U.S. population of 310 million will reach 450 million by 2050, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. That implied increased consumption would considerably shorten that projected supply period, even if current per capita use remained stable.

Moreover, subsidizing the gas industry with costly tax exemptions and EPA exemptions that threaten public health and safety are tantamount to feeding the world’s most consumptive society’s insatiable fossil fuel addiction, instead of treating it with heavier subsidies for genuinely renewable energy sources such as wind and solar. The Rocky Mountain Institute asserts that if the 40 least electrically efficient states in the U.S. were to achieve the electrical efficiency of the 10 most efficient ones, national electricity use would be cut by one-third _ the equivalent of shutting down 372, or 62 percent, of the nation’s 600 coal-fired power plants.

Exclusive use of LED (light-emitting diode) lighting in the U.S. would reduce electrical energy use for lighting by 75 percent. Worldwide exclusive use would reduce global electrical energy consumption by 12 percent. And that’s only the beginning.

The New York City Department of Environmental Protection’s Final Impact Assessment Report (released in December 2009 by a hydrological civil engineering company) details a host of additional risks posed by hydraulic fracturing to the purity of the 1 million-acre New York City watershed in the Catskill region.

Many thousands of trucks laden with toxic wastewater would be simultaneously plying town, county and state roads adjacent to streams, rivers and reservoirs. Naturally occurring and hydraulic-fracturing-related fissures and fractures in rock formations would provide pathways through which highly toxic drilling chemicals and NORMS could migrate under pressure to aquifers and aqueducts.

The “ancient mariner” in Coleridge’s fantastical poem was ultimately redeemed by his own contrition and the forgiveness of Christ, even though all his crewmates perished by dehydration because he had violated the natural law of the sea. Our elected state officials may not benefit from that same kind of redemption and may be compelled to wear an albatross of shame if they fail to act at this decisive moment.

While the DEP report has been available since 2009, two governors, the state Legislature and the state Department of Environmental Conservation still have not acted decisively to ban hydraulic fracturing in New York state. They produce only moratoriums, fatally flawed drafts, and hearings in public auditoriums where concerned citizens speak to DEC stenographers who mechanically record their eloquent remonstrations on an otherwise vacant, unresponsive public platform.

When I interviewed state Assemblyman James Brennan of the 44th Assembly District, he characterized the proposed hydraulic fracturing in the New York City watershed as “the industrialization of the region.” Brennan courageously sponsored a bill in the Assembly that would cut the Gordian knot of disparate opposition and effectively ban hydraulic fracturing in anyone’s watershed. A similar bill, SO 1234, was sponsored by Sen. Tom Duane in January. The bill is now with the Senate’s Environmental Conservation Committee, with little or no support.

This is no time for quibbling over an industrial process that is inherently dangerous, regardless of the most restrictive regulations or oversight, which no state agency has the staff to implement. Budgeted to the bone, the DEC has 19 staff to supervise what could become tens of thousands of hydrofracking wells in the state. Let’s get real.

All that glitters may not be gold or oil or gas, but the sparkling surface of a pristine river or reservoir.

Art Siegel is a certified tree farmer with The National Tree Farm System and an independent filmmaker. His film “Parcelizing the Catskills and the Boiled Frog Syndrome,” which features interviews with local, New York City and state elected and agency officials on environmental issues affecting the Catskill Region, is being screened at the Frank W. Cyr Center in Stamford on Saturday.

Poll – Fracking for Natural Gas Is No Longer Obscure –

Poll – Fracking for Natural Gas Is No Longer Obscure –  Dec. 21, 2010

The institute, a nonpartisan Massachusetts think tank that advocates solutions to climate change, found that those who have heard of the process often called “fracking” are concerned that the process is not well regulated.

“Americans now understand that, especially with the allure of gas production from unconventional gas plays, even ‘getting it right’ from a technical and regulatory point of view might still be wrong in terms of clean drinking water,” said Cornell University engineering professor Anthony Ingraffea, a critic of the fracturing process who joined the institute’s press conference call to release the poll.

The survey (pdf) of 1,012 people conducted Nov. 26-28 by Infogroup/Opinion Research Corp. found that among those who are “very aware” or “somewhat aware,” 69 percent are very or somewhat concerned about water quality issues.

The survey found such concern among members of both major political parties — including 57 percent of Republicans, 74 percent of independents and 86 percent of Democrats.

Industry groups said the poll’s questions preordained the answers and established a false choice between energy production and environmental protection.

“Natural gas is a clean, abundant and domestic energy source that holds vast potential to improve air quality, grow local economies and enhance energy security in the United States and, increasingly, around the world.” said Dan Whitten of America’s Natural Gas Alliance.

In the press call, Ingraffea and the institute’s officials noted that in the public’s mind, the specific process of “fracking” has become intertwined with drilling in general.

“When we use the word ‘fracking,’ we don’t mean the one hour that fracking is taking place far underground,” Ingraffea said. “It’s really a placeholder for the whole process.”

In fracturing, crews inject tanker-loads of water and sand underground to blow apart the rock and release gas. A small fraction of that concoction is a mixture of chemicals as mundane as ice cream thickener and as toxic as benzene.

When Congress exempted fracturing from the Safe Drinking Water Act in 2005, it attracted little attention because few had ever heard of it. But the increase in drilling in the more densely populated Northeast has raised awareness, along with the anti-drilling documentary “Gas Land.” It has also been featured recently on the CBS news show “60 Minutes” and a full episode of the popular network television show “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.”

Improvements in fracturing technology have opened the vast shale formations in Pennsylvania and other states that were previously considered too difficult and expensive to tap.

But the rapid expansion of drilling and fracturing has intensified fears that the toxins and carcinogens in fracturing fluid might contaminate drinking water. Environmentalists and congressional Democrats have pushed not only for public disclosure of fracturing chemicals but also for stricter federal regulation of the practice.

Drilling companies, though, say fracturing is safe and existing state regulation is sufficient. They stress that the fracturing fluid is injected thousands of feet below drinking water aquifers and maintain that there has never been a proven case of groundwater contamination from the fracturing process.

Still, one drilling group said it should do more to get its message to people who live amid the drilling boom.

“One thing is clear: Our industry must continue to educate communities about the steps we’re taking each day to protect and strengthen the environment while delivering clean-burning, job-creating energy to American consumers,” said Kathryn Klaber, president of Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale Coalition.

With the Republican takeover of the U.S. House, legislation calling for increased federal regulation and disclosure is likely a non-starter. But the Obama administration is considering requiring drillers to disclose the chemicals they inject under public lands. And industry and states are looking at increased disclosure of fracturing fluids.

The institute’s survey found that 19 percent of respondents described themselves as “very aware,” 25 percent said they were “somewhat aware,” and 13 percent were “not very aware,” adding up to 57 percent. A minority said they are “not aware at all” about fracking concerns.

When compared to the 43 percent of Americans who are “very/somewhat” aware of fracking, 49 percent of Republicans and 47 percent of independents knew about the issue, contrasted with 39 percent of Democrats.

The pollsters looked more closely at Pennsylvania and New York. The New York survey (pdf) found that half of New York state residents were “very aware” (22 percent) or “somewhat aware” (28 percent) of fracking as a “water pollution issue.” The numbers roughly reversed in New York City, where more than half (53 percent) of residents were unaware of fracking as an issue, with 38 percent “very aware” (16 percent) or “somewhat aware” (22 percent).

In Pennsylvania, where the Marcellus Shale drilling is most intense, the survey (pdf) found that 60 percent of respondents are aware of fracturing.


Copyright 2010 E&E Publishing. All Rights Reserved.

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OP Ed Pages

Recent opinions expressed by local citizens and submitted to the media

WORLD WATCHING NYS ON FRACKINGCortland Standard. Opinion, Dec. 21, 2010, Jim Weiss, Marathon.

In his letter (“New York state lost”), Mr. Ken Diaz criticized Governor Paterson’s extension of the ban on hydrofracking for another 6 months. If Mr. Diaz had his way, there would be well drilling rigs all over the county by now.

Lets ignore the fact that 14,000 comments were submitted to the DEC on their proposed guidelines, including four from Cortland County (Legislature, Planning Dep’t., Health Dep’t, and Soil/Water Service).

Let’s ignore the fact that in Pennsylvania, besides Dimock, gas migration is being investigated in some 20 other Pennsylvania communities and that Cabot Oil was just fined $4 million to rehabilitate contaminated water wells.  (Personally, filling up my basement with water purification equipment doesn’t sound all that attractive.)

Let’s ignore the fact that Pittsburgh’s public water supply is measurably saltier due to contamination of the Monongahela River with waste brine from hydrofracking.  Pittsburgh just enacted a ban on the process.

Let’s ignore the fact that there were over 500 violations of Pennsylvania regulations by gas drilling operations in the first half of  2010 and over 1000 trucking violations logged by the state police (even a close call with a school bus).

Let’s ignore the fact that Pennsylvania hastily enacted new regulations on gas drilling because the existing ones had holes big enough to drive a drilling rig through.

The current conflict over high volume slick water horizontal drilling hydrofracturing is not just about New York State.  The gas industry has run roughshod over communities all around the country, and drillers are pushing forward in other countries as well.  The world is watching how this plays out in New York.  We all owe a debt of gratitude to the people who put the industry on notice that business as usual is over and New York State will not be abused.

Chris Applegate. This Landowner Makes a Choice on Gas Drilling.  Nov. 26, 2010 Press & Sun Bulletin.

Response to Palmerton op ed in July 7 Syracuse New Times: On Jul 13, 2010, at 11:02 PM, Mary wrote:
In response to Palmerton in New Times July 7th:  we’ll see if it sees print…

To the Syracuse New Times

Let’s Get It Fracking Straight

David Palmerton, of the Palmerton Group, a champion of natural gas drilling, would like us to believe that drilling for natural gas is nothing new and it is very safe.   He accuses Josh Fox of misrepresenting the facts in his volatile film Gasland. Mr. Palmerton himself presents the facts halfway. Read more of this post