City of Rochester | News Release – City, State Preserve Pristine Reservoirs

City of Rochester | News Release – City, State Preserve Pristine Reservoirs.

Hill and Hollow Unit Management Plan

Hill and Hollow Unit Management Plan.

U.S. Geological Survey: Natural Gas Fracking Is Destroying Pennsylvania Forests – Natural Gas


U.S. Geological Survey: Natural Gas Fracking Is Destroying Pennsylvania Forests

Oct 24th, 2012 | By fjgallagher | Category: FrackingLead Articles


Natural gas drilling rigs, similar to the one shown here in Colorado, are destroying thousands of acres of forest in Pennsylvania, according to a recent report issued by the U.S. Geological Survey.

Natural gas drilling activity is destroying thousands of acres of forest in Pennsylvania, according to a recent report issued by the U.S. Geological Survey.

“This type of extensive and long-term habitat conversion has a greater impact on natural ecosystems than activities such as logging or agriculture, given the great dissimilarity between gas-well pad infrastructure and adjacent natural areas and the low probability that the disturbed land will revert back to a natural state in the near future,” the U.S.G.S. report states.

Much of the damage can be traced to the consequences of hydraulic fracturing — or “fracking,” as it is called in the parlance of our time — although the extraction of coal-bed methane has also contributed to the ongoing environmental degredation, the report notes.

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Much of the damage, the report states, stems from fragmentation of the existing forest, where a habitat is divided by roads, drilling pads, pipelines and other infrastructure development associated with fracking into smaller, less functional areas.

From the U.S.G.S. report:

Although many human and natural activities result in habitat fragmentation, gas exploration and development activity can be extreme in their effect on the landscape. Numerous secondary roads and pipeline networks crisscross and subdivide habitat structure. Landscape disturbance associated with shale-gas development infrastructure directly alters habitat through loss, fragmentation, and edge effects, which in turn alters the flora and fauna dependent on that habitat. The fragmentation of habitat is expected to amplify the problem of total habitat area reduction for wildlife species, as well as contribute towards habitat degradation.

The picture, below, (Figure 2 from the U.S.G.S. report) illustrates the effect that fragmentation has on a forest.

A photograph from a recent report issued by the U.S. Geological Survey illustrates the degree of damage done to forest land in Pennsylvania by natural gas drilling activity. The report found that natural gas driling activity is a primary force behind the destruction of Pennsylvania forest land.

The bottom line, according to the report: natural gas drilling has profoundly altered the forest in Pennsylvania.

From the U.S.G.S. report:

The overall landscape effects of natural gas development have been substantial. (emphasis added) Over 9,600 Marcellus Shale gas drilling permits and over 49,500 non-Marcellus Shale permits have been issued from 2000 to 2011 in Pennsylvania (Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, 2011) and over 2,300 Marcellus Shale permits in West Virginia (West Virginia Geological and Economic Survey, 2011), with most of the development activity occurring since 2005.

With the accompanying areas of disturbance, well pads, new roads, and pipelines from both types of natural gas wells, the effect on the landscape is often dramatic. Figure 2 (below) shows a pattern of landscape change from forest to forest, interspersed with gas extraction infrastructure. These landscape effects have consequences for the ecosystems, wildlife, and human populations that are colocated with natural gas extraction activities.

Read the complete report here: Landscape Consequences of Natural Gas Extraction in Bradford and Washington Counties, Pennsylvania, 2004–2010

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Draft Unit Management Plan for Taylor Valley

  • I just received notification of a March  public meeting in Truxton to discuss the Draft Unit Management Plan for Taylor Valley.  I think it will be important to flood that meeting with concerned citizens from the area.

    Dear Taylor Valley Unit Management Area Stakeholder,

    A draft Unit Management Plan (UMP) has been developed for the Taylor Valley Unit Management Area, which includes Baker School House, Donahue Woods, Gee Brook, Hoxie Gorge, and Taylor Valley State Forests along with Papish Pond Multiple-Use Area. The UMP process, for this Unit began with a public meeting at the McGraw Central School’s cafeteria in February 2010. This meeting was used to gather input from the public with regards to the future management of the Unit.  Input from this meeting along with a long-range vision, the principles of ecosystem management, and the current use were used to develop management activities in the UMP.

    There is a meeting scheduled to gather feedback from the public on two draft UMPs (Taylor Valley and Hill and Hollow). I look forward to receiving feedback from you at the upcoming meeting. The following announcement contains details about the meeting:

      DEC Seeks Public Feedback on Two Draft Unit Management Plans (UMPs): Hill & Hollow and Taylor Valley

    WHEN: Monday, March 11, 2013, from 6:30 to 9:00 p.m.

    WHERE: Homer Central School District’s Hartnet Elementary School Gymnasium located on Academy Street in Truxton, NY.

    WHAT: To receive public feedback on the Draft Hill & Hollow and Draft Taylor Valley UMPs.  Copies of the plans are posted on the DEC’s website at: .The plans are also available, for public review, at local libraries and DEC offices. Copies of the UMPs are available on compact discs from the Cortland DEC office and may be requested by calling (607)753-3095 ext. 217.

    The meeting will begin with an open house format, to allow the public to meet informally with staff, discuss their concerns and provide written comments. Beginning at 7 p.m., staff will briefly present highlights of the two UMPs.  Following the presentation, the public will be able to provide verbal comments about the UMPs. Those unable to attend the meeting may submit comments (until April 11, 2013) by mail to: DEC, Division of Lands and Forests, 1285 Fisher Avenue, Cortland, NY  13045 or  by email to  for the Taylor Valley UMP and  to forthe Hill and Hollow UMP.


    WHY: The Draft UMPs have been developed to address management activities on State lands. The Hill & Hollow UMP contains Morgan Hill and Kettlebail State Forests as well as Labrador Hollow Unique Area. The Taylor Valley UMP includes: Taylor Valley, Hoxie Gorge, Baker School House, Donahue Woods and Gee Brook State Forests as well as Papish Pond Multiple-Use Area.

    Henry C. Dedrick Jr.
    Senior Forester, Region 7
    NYS DEC, Division of Lands & Forests
    1285 Fisher Ave.
    Cortland, NY 13045
    Phone: (607)753-3095 ext. 218
    1-800-388-8244 ext. 218
    Fax:      (607)753-8532


    The following   action by the DEC  is proposed in  the January  2013 Draft Taylor Valley Unit Management Plan ( ).   Is the DEC anticipating a reversal of the decision not to allow surface activity associated with drilling in our state forests?     The final paragraph of page 60 says the following:


    “This prohibition is subject to change if the Draft Supplemental Generic Environmental Statements regarding Well Permit Issuance for Horizontal Drilling and High-Volume Fracturing to Develop the Marcellus Shale and Other Low-Permeability Gas Reservoirs is amended during finalization processes.”

    Here’s a more extended quote from the Draft Unit Management Plan:

    b. Consider future requests for oil and gas leasing using an open public process while protecting natural and recreational resources. Prior to leasing lands in this Unit, an open public process must be followed. This process includes coordination with the Division of Mineral Resources to determine: areas that can be leased with full rights granted (100% surface entry and no special conditions required); areas that may require special environmental and safety conditions; and areas that may be leased with no surface-disturbance/entry conditions (non-drilling clause). The following is a summary of the leasing process of State Forest lands:

    Receive requests to nominate specific lands within the Unit for leasing of mineral rights, from interested parties.

    Conduct tract assessments of nominated properties to determine where lands are able to support or accommodate related surface disturbance associated with oil and gas exploration, development, and extraction. Factors considered during the tract assessment process include the proximity to sensitive resources of the Unit. These resources include, but are not limited to certain management strategies, wetland, riparian zones, steep slopes, recreational trails and areas, unique ecological communities, habitat of rare and endangered species, archeological and cultural sites and scenic vistas and view sheds.

    o Apply a hierarchical approach that classifies areas of each State Forest into four categories as part of a tract assessment to be conducted prior to leasing.

    § Category A ‐ Compatible with well pad, road, and utility development. These areas can be considered the least sensitive to surface disturbance and should be considered first for well pad development to limit the overall impact of development. Examples of Category A areas include open fields, conifer plantations, and even-aged management areas.

    § Category B ‐ Uneven-age Management Areas with one well pad per State Forest. These areas are being managed for species that require large blocks of un-fragmented (diameters of temporary openings in the canopy shall be no larger than 2.5 times the height of surrounding trees) forests.

    § Category C ‐ 250-foot stream and designated recreational trail buffers. Not compatible with well pad development; may be compatible with road and utility development.

    § Category D – Infrastructure Exclusion areas. Not compatible with well pad, road, or utility development. These include: ponds, wetlands, spring seeps, and vernal pools with appropriate 250-foot buffers; slopes greater than 15 percent; archeological and cultural concerns; and areas being managed as Natural Areas.

    o Prohibit surface disturbance associated with high-volume hydraulic fracturing. This prohibition is subject to change if the Draft Supplemental Generic Environmental Statements regarding Well Permit Issuance for Horizontal Drilling and High-Volume Fracturing to Develop the Marcellus Shale and Other Low-Permeability Gas Reservoirs is amended during finalization processes.

    Is it a coincidence that there has been heavy logging in the state forest next to my home for the past two summers? Well-pad sized sections have been clear-cut or significantly thinned in Kennedy State Forest, and pipeline-width corridors have been cleared of debris.   It could be coincidence,  but this logging activity was well ahead of scheduled logging in the management plan for Kennedy State Forest  (according to conversations I had with the forester).    The clearing areas are congruent with the Department’s 2008(?) published maps of “Areas compatible with drilling. ”  Now the Draft Unit Management Plan  for Taylor Valley  shows that the DEC is planning for a possible reversal of the prohibition against surface activity associated with hvhf.  Has the DEC planned to allow drilling in the state forests all along  -despite claims to the contrary in the revised SGEIS?


    U.S. Geological Survey: Natural Gas Fracking Is Destroying Pennsylvania Forests – Natural Gas

  • Full Report:

Gas drilling destroying Pennsylvania forests – The Daily Collegian Online

Gas drilling destroying Pennsylvania forests – The Daily Collegian Online.

DEC, major gas company locked in land battle | The Ithaca Journal |

DEC, major gas company locked in land battle | The Ithaca Journal |

DEC, major gas company locked in land battle

8:17 PM, Aug. 5, 2011  |
Jon Campbell

ALBANY — One of the country’s largest natural gas producers and the state of New York appear headed for a battle over a soon-to-be-expiring contract for the natural gas rights on state forestland.

Chesapeake Energy is contending that the company’s gas leases on 15,472 acres of state-owned land in central New York and the Southern Tier should be extended as the state decides how to regulate hydraulic fracturing to extract natural gas.

The leases, which were signed in 2006, are set to expire Nov. 15.

In a letter obtained by Gannett’s Albany Bureau, Chesapeake wrote to the state Department of Environmental Conservation in February that the leases should be extended until the state starts issuing certain drilling permits.

Because the state has yet to allow high-volume hydraulic fracturing — a newer technique used with natural gas drilling — the company believes it has legal ground to prolong the lease, wrote Henry Hood, the company’s senior vice president.

“Chesapeake regrets these circumstances, including the need for this communication,” Hood wrote. “Chesapeake looks forward to the time when it can move forward with the safe and responsible development of the shale resources in New York State.”

The company made the claim under “force majeure,” a legal clause inserted in many contracts that allows either party to extend the length of the deal if unforeseen circumstances prevent it from being carried out. For the state’s leases with Chesapeake, the clause includes “acts of God, work stoppages due to labor disputes or strikes, fires, explosions, epidemics, riots, war rebellion, sabotage or the like.”

In a statement, the DEC didn’t rule out legal action to end the leases in November.

“We are in the process of determining our next steps,” spokeswoman Emily DeSantis said.

Similar attempts to extend gas leases have ended up in the courtroom.

Chesapeake is battling two lawsuits in federal court by Southern Tier landowners who received force majeure letters about their leases in recent years. The original expiration dates on those leases, which date back a decade, have already passed. The landowners want to end them permanently — in large part because the land would be more valuable under a new deal.

The company’s force majeure claims are significant because the acreage sits above the massive, gas-rich Marcellus and Utica shale formations. The state leases are on gas rights below state forests in Broome, Tioga, Chemung, Cortland, Schuyler and Steuben counties.

In 2006, the DEC took bids on about 19,000 acres of gas rights below state-owned forestland. Chesapeake and Fortuna Energy (now Talisman Energy) were the winning bidders, paying a combined $9 million up front to the state with a promise of 12.5 percent royalties on any gas produced.

Since then, technological advancements to the hydrofracking process — which injects water, sand and chemicals deep underground to break up shale formations — have made the Marcellus accessible to gas companies.

The value of the gas rights on the land above the formation, such as the state forestland in dispute, has skyrocketed.

In July 2008, then-Gov. David Paterson announced that the state couldn’t issue permits for high-volume hydrofracking until the DEC completed an environmental review and set up permitting guidelines. Last year, he called for the DEC to put out a second draft of its review for public comment, which is set to kick off later this summer.

The DEC is expected to complete its review at some point next year, but put out a preliminary report last month. Chesapeake says the length of the lease has essentially been on pause since July 2008 and will restart when permits are issued.

A Chesapeake official said the company is trying to protect its investment, and the state’s decision to hold off on hydrofracking prevents the company from “fulfilling its obligation for natural-gas production on these properties.”

“Chesapeake has taken reasonable and legal measures to extend the terms of many of our leases in New York State,” Paul Hartman, the company’s director of state government relations in New York, said in a statement. “These measures are based upon the original lease agreements, which can allow for extensions of the original lease term for various reasons.”

Talisman has not filed an extension claim on any of the 3,754 acres of state gas rights it has leased until November. A spokeswoman for the company did not return a call for comment.

Talisman has faced criticism for trying to enforce its expired leases. In 2009, the company agreed to a $192,500 settlement after then-Attorney General Andrew Cuomo found it was misleading customers with its force majeure claims.

Attorneys for private landowners have argued in lawsuits that the state’s permitting freeze doesn’t prohibit Chesapeake from upholding their end of the contract. They have contended that other gas-producing formations — such as the Trenton Black River and the Herkimer sandstone formation — are still accessible and can be drilled without high-volume hydrofracking.

Because the leases date back a decade, the gas-rich Marcellus and Utica formations weren’t on the company’s radar screen at the time, the lawsuits argue.

But while the private landowners’ lawsuits against Chesapeake seek to have the force majeure claims thrown out and allow their below-market-value leases to expire, the situation with the state-owned land could be more complicated.

A draft of the DEC’s proposed regulations for high-volume hydrofracking proposes a ban of surface drilling on state land, despite the existing Talisman and Chesapeake leases. About 32,500 acres of other state-owned gas rights — mostly in the southwest corner of the state — are also under lease to energy companies so long as existing wells on those properties continue to produce natural gas.

The new technology, however, allows companies to drill on a private piece of land before turning the drill bit horizontal and burrowing under neighboring properties. So if the company holds the rights to a private parcel near the state land, it could obtain gas from that state land by drilling horizontally — despite the surface-drilling ban.

But the DEC holds a significant trump card.

Since the department decides whether or not to grant permits, it could simply decide to reject any applications from Chesapeake that includes any drilling on the forestland in question.

Chesapeake declined to discuss specifics, but Hartman said the company would prefer drilling for gas rather than debating over contract language.

“Chesapeake would much rather be drilling wells and creating value for New Yorkers, especially in the Southern Tier where economic development is much needed and for the whole state where clean energy is much needed,” Hartman said.

Once the Chesapeake and Talisman leases do expire, the DEC could choose to put them out for bid again to generate revenue for the state, with a provision banning drilling on the surface of the state’s properties.

The department spokeswoman, however, said it’s not currently in the cards.

“While this would be possible under the revised draft (regulations), we have no plans to do so at this time,” DeSantis said.

Campbell is a staff writer for the Gannett Albany Bureau.