Category Archives: Energy

Tonko on D.C. arrest of ‘Gasland’ director

Rep. Paul Tonko was in the Congressional hearing room when Josh Fox, the director of the Oscar-nominated and controversial hydrofracking documentary “Gasland,” was arrested by Capitol police; he was subsequently charged with unlawful entry.

“I thought it was overreach in a situation where tolerance would have been more appropriate,” Tonko said in a phone interview.

House Republicans explained to the AP that Fox tried to film the proceedings of the Science, Space & Technology subcommittee without seeking proper media credentials. He’s currently is at work on a “Gasland” sequel.

Today’s meeting was devoted to the EPA’s draft findings on groundwater contamination near fracking wells in Wyoming; the subcommittee’s own account of the hearing on its home page suggests a concerted EPA beatdown.

“It seemed to be an attack on EPA,” said Tonko, who called it a sign of a depressingly political cast to a subcommittee that used to be dominated by science.

“If you’re secure in your position and secure in your science, you shouldn’t be threatened by a film crew,” Tonko said.

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Big-time lobbying groups weigh in on hydrofracking (UPDATED)

Mark it down: Today is the final day to comment on the Department of Environmental Conservation’s hydraulic fracturing recommendations.

And with the final day of commenting comes a wave of highly technical comments from some of the lobbying and governmental groups that have been paying close attention to the hydrofracking debate in New York.

The wave actually began yesterday, with thousands of comments dropped off at the DEC’s Albany headquarters both by environmentalists and landowners.

The Joint Landowners Coalition submitted their 26-page document yesterday, including dozens of suggestions on how the DEC should change its 1,500-page set of proposed guidelines and regulations, including the elimination of drilling bans within primary aquifers and the New York City and Syracuse watersheds.

UPDATED: The gas industry’s main New York lobbying group, the Independent Oil & Gas Association of New York, just weighed in with comments of their own.

In short, the group says, many of the DEC’s recommendations are “arbitrary,” with prohibitions and setbacks putting 50 percent of the Marcellus Shale off limits. That would result in $21 billion in lost lease and royalty payments in Broome, Chemung, Steuben and Tioga counties, and a $5.8 billion decrease in state and local tax revenue, IOGA estimates.

“In its current form, the draft Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (SGEIS) imposes permit guidelines that fail to strike a balance between the future exploration of New York’s vast natural gas reserves and the appropriate, necessary protection of our environmental resources,” IOGA executive director Brad Gill said in a statement.

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Drill date ‘hard to predict’

State Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens raised doubts Tuesday that the state will be ready to issue permits next year for the controversial natural gas drilling technique known as hydrofracking.

Emerging from a meeting of the governor’s advisory panel — assembled to advise the state on how to organize staff and resources needed to oversee a likely drilling boom in the gas-rich Marcellus Shale — Martens said the group will miss its planned Nov. 1 deadline for a report, likely by months.

Hydrofracking opponents on the panel welcomed the news as a sign the state is slowing efforts to have drilling commence next year, while an industry group said it remained optimistic. The controversial technique involves a high-pressure mix of chemicals, water and sand pumped deep underground to break up rocks and free trapped bubbles of natural gas.

Martens said the High-Volume Hydraulic Fracturing Advisory Panel still has no estimates on what resources will be needed by four major state agencies: Health, Transportation, Agriculture & Markets, and Public Service.

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For Cuomo’s Southern Tier council, natural gas is not the answer

When Gov. Andrew Cuomo unveiled 10 regional economic development councils in July as part of his $1 billion competitive grant program, we asked: Is natural gas development the answer for the Southern Tier council?

Late Friday, we got our answer.

As part of a Power Point slideshow detailing the Southern Tier council’s “draft strategic plan,” the group said in a statement that it wouldn’t request state aid for gas-drilling projects or infrastructure as part of its application for the competition.

Here’s the statement:

“High-volume hydraulic fracturing for natural gas is an issue being studied very closely by the US EPA and currently under regulatory review by the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation. The outcomes of these proceedings will have profound impact on the Southern Tier economy and most of upstate New York. This Regional Economic Council will pay close attention to the developments at the state and federal governments. Until there is a regulatory structure in place, we would not want to prejudge the experts and our regional council is not requesting state resources at this time.”

High-volume hydrofracking, a controversial technique used with gas drilling that has been at the center of heated debate between environmentalists and industry, is on hold until the DEC finishes a review, which is expected at some point next year.

Here’s the council’s “draft strategic plan.” The statement on natural gas is on the seventh slide:

Southern Tier Regional Council Draft Strategic Plan Final 10-21-11

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Board of Supervisors
Canandaigua, New York 14424

Supervisor Luckern offered the following resolution and moved its adoption:

RESOLUTION NO. 600 – 2011

WHEREAS, New York State recently enacted legislation known as the Power of NY Act of 2011; and

WHEREAS, Said legislation amended the public service law by adding a new article 10, which establishes a New York State Board of Electrical Generation Siting and the Environment; and

WHEREAS, Said Board will have the authority to permit the siting of electrical generating facilities in the State which have a nameplate generating capacity of twenty-five thousand kilowatts or more; and

WHEREAS, Previously, while various state agencies had regulatory oversight for such facilities, as a home rule state, New York’s local municipalities, by virtue of decisions made by locally-elected representatives, could ultimately decide whether such development was in their residents’ best interests; and

WHEREAS, The Power of NY Act of 2011 removes said decision making from local municipalities, and puts that authority into the hands of a bureaucratic State board which will have nominal representation from affected communities, and even that representation cannot be from
elected representatives of those communities; and

WHEREAS, The new Board will have the authority to ignore “any local ordinance, law…or any local standard or requirement…if it finds that…such is unreasonably burdensome…on ratepayers whether located inside or outside of such municipality”; and

WHEREAS, The new law further states that “no…municipality…may require any approval, consent, permit, certificate or other condition for the construction of operation” of such facility; and

WHEREAS, While the law provides for the set-aside of funds for pre-hearing research on behalf of the affected communities, said funds are controlled by the Board and will be allocated as it sees fit; and

WHEREAS, The large majority of the Board’s membership will have no connection to the affected communities and will not be directly affected by their decisions; and

WHEREAS, While municipalities may be a party to the siting hearings, so may any individual within 5 miles of the proposed facility’s site, and therefore the municipality itself, which purpose, by law, is to represent the residents who elect its officials, is diminished to the level of each individual within the 5 mile radius, whether or not he/she lives in the affected municipality; and

WHEREAS, Said law follows a disturbing trend in New York State to remove powers from local jurisdictions and therefore from the affected electorate and transfer such powers to a faceless bureaucracy which has no constituency; now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED, That the Ontario County Board of Supervisors opposes, protests, and expresses its deep disappointment and concern over the establishment of said siting Board and of the enactment of the Power NY Act of 2011; and further

RESOLVED, That certified copies of this resolution be sent by the Clerk of this Board to the Finance Department, Senator Michael Nozzolio, Senator Patrick Gallivan, Assemblyman Brian Kolb, Assemblyman Sean Hanna and Governor Andrew Cuomo.

RESOLUTION NO. 600 – 2011

I do hereby certify that I have compared the preceding with the original thereof, on file in the Office of the Clerk of the Board of Supervisors at Canandaigua, New York, and that the same is a correct transcript therefrom and of the whole of said original; and that said original was duly adopted at a meeting of the Board of Supervisors of Ontario County held at Canandaigua, New York, on the 6th day of October, 2011.

Given under my hand and official seal October 7, 2011 .
Karen R. DeMay

Clerk, Board of Supervisors of Ontario County, NY

FOIL seeks Cuomo meetings with Indian Point, shale gas interests

An environmental and food safety advocacy group is using the state Freedom of Information Law to uncover the history of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s meetings on natural gas hydraulic fracturing and the Indian Point nuclear power reactor.

The Washington, D.C.-based Food & Water Watch filed its request Thursday for written records kept by the governor concerning meetings that dealt with hydrofracking and the nuclear power plant that supplies New York City.

Wenonah Hauter, executive director of the group, said there was “insufficient public information” on past meetings — including who met with the governor on those topics — that the governor has reported on a state website that provides an edited version of his daily schedule.

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Naples village enacts fracking ban

The Village Board this week unanimously passed a moratorium prohibiting hydrofracking and is urging the Town Board to follow suit with a temporary ban on the controversial natural gas drilling method.

The local law keeping hydrofracking out of the village for one year is a crucial step, said Village Board member Mark Donadio.
The gas industry is putting a lot of money and energy into slick promotion of hydrofracking and lining up leases in preparation for when the drilling technique is allowed in New York, he said.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation is in the final approval stages for the drilling method that mixes water and chemicals to release natural gas from the Marcellus Shale that runs under a large swath of New York state, including portions of the Finger Lakes. Gas industry representatives are hosting a public forum at the Canandaigua Middle School auditorium on Oct. 26 at 7 p.m. during a tour promoting fracking across upstate.

“This is the most important issue I have ever seen,” said Donadio.

At a Town Board meeting earlier this month, residents pressed the board to enact a moratorium in the town over concerns shared by many in the region who see hydrofracking as a threat to the water supply and tourism industry, as well as causing environmental havoc such as truck traffic and noise.

The Village Board also passed a resolution urging the Town Board to impose a moratorium at its meeting Nov. 14, following a public hearing on the matter.


Naples sets public hearing on fracking moratorium

Several dozen residents voiced strong opposition Monday night to hydrofracking, urging the Town Board to impose a moratorium on the natural gas drilling method. Many also urged the town to ban the process over environmental concerns.

After nearly two hours of listening to concerns and discussion, the Town Board unanimously voted to set a public hearing on whether to enact a moratorium.

The public hearing is set for Nov. 14 at 7:10 p.m., tentatively at the Naples Fire on Vine Street.


In online chat, Cuomo says replacement energy can be found for Indian Point

In his inaugural online chat on his newly launched “town hall” website, Gov. Andrew Cuomo reiterated his call to close the Indian Point nuclear power facility, saying that replacement energy can be found if the plant is the Westchester County plant is forced to shut its doors.

Indian Point is said to provide about a quarter of New York City’s total energy needs, but Cuomo and others say it poses too big of a safety risk to keep open. The plant sits near the Ramapo fault line.

“There is no doubt that we need replacement power if we are to close Indian Point,” Cuomo wrote in response to a question from a Queens resident. “There is also no doubt that we can find it. We can retrofit old plants, we can site new plants, we can improve transmission lines. So if we want to find replacement power, we can.

“The replacement power issue is not a justification to keep Indian Point operating,” Cuomo added. “And my point has always been safety first and the reward doesn’t justify the risk.”

Cuomo answered questions from his New Castle, Westchester County, home with the assistance of his spokesman, Josh Vlasto. You can find the full chat transcript here.

Vlasto said Cuomo received “hundreds” of questions for the chat. The governor and Vlasto were “going down the list of questions, picking ones that are informative, but not hypertechnical or redundant,” Cuomo said in the chat.

Despite some early technical glitches, the governor answered questions about a variety of issues, from the state’s new property-tax cap to life in the governor’s mansion.

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Attorney General takes on drilling companies

As a panel of state lawmakers, environmentalists and industry officials met privately in Albany to discuss possible regulations for high-volume hydraulic fracturing, state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office issued subpoenas to determine if large energy companies oversold how much natural gas New York actually has. Now, this could complicate matters down the road for the state. As New York’s top lawyer, Schneiderman would have to defend the state against expected lawsuits related to hydrofracking.

“I think the attorney general obviously wants the industry to disclose properly and if he’s subpoenaing information toward that end, it’s perfectly appropriate. And that is not DEC primary concern. Our primary concern is to conduct this activity in a way that’s safe and safeguards New York’s natural resources. I don’t have any concerns about the attorney general representing us. He obviously wants this industry to disclose properly and that’s the information he’s seeking,” DEC Commissioner Joe Martens said.

The controversial natural gas extraction process commonly known as hydrofracking involves blasting a mixture of chemicals and water in order to access natural gas from underground. Energy companies say allowing high-volume fracking, but environmentalists warn it could damage drinking water. Concerns also linger as to whether the DEC has enough people to oversee high-volume fracking if it’s ever allowed in New York.

“It’s a daunting workload. It could mean as much as doubling the DEC’s budget,” said Robert Moore of Environmental Advocates of New York.

The DEC’s work on developing those regulations for high-volume hydrofracking is continuing and Martens said a new draft should be due out by the end of August.