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Interview: Former NY Environmental Commissioner Pete Grannis on Gas Drilling

Recently ousted New York environmental commissioner Pete Grannis talks to ProPublica about hydraulic fracturing, his time as a regulator and the future of natural gas drilling in America.

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Pete Grannis, commissioner of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, speaks during a interview in Albany, N.Y., on April 15, 2010. He spoke to ProPublica about hydraulic fracturing, his time as a regulator and the future of natural gas drilling in the U.S. (Mike Groll/AP Photo)

Former state assemblyman Alexander B. "Pete" Grannis, 68, served as the state's top environmental official for two and a half years beginning April 1, 2007. A graduate of Rutgers University, he received a law degree from the University of Virginia Law School and helped organize New York City's first Earth Day in 1970. During his tenure as commissioner, the Department of Environmental Conservation was criticized for underestimating the risks of hydraulic fracturing -- a controversial gas drilling technique that is temporarily banned in the state -- but also praised for creating the nation's first fracturing chemical disclosure rules. He was fired on Oct. 21 by Gov. David Paterson after a memo Grannis wrote criticizing the governor's proposed budget cuts for the DEC was leaked to the press. In the memo he said the agency wouldn't be able to perform its duties if the cuts went into effect. Grannis' sudden departure sparked outrage from environmental groups and questions about the future of natural gas drilling regulation in New York. ProPublica reporter Marie C. Baca interviewed Grannis in ProPublica's Manhattan offices on Nov. 5 and by phone on Nov. 10. The following is a transcript of those interviews, edited for clarity and length.

 

What's next for you?

I don't know. I've been out of work for two weeks -- as you know, unexpectedly out of work. I'm not ready to retire. I'm congenitally impatient. Even sitting around for just the past couple of weeks has made me nervous.

Would you go back to the DEC if you were asked to return?

I'd be very tempted. This budget stuff that got me into this mess ... I'd like to know that [the governor] is concerned about the environment. But I think Gov. Paterson and the memo and all this other stuff really highlighted that they thought that the environmental and outdoor issues -- the upstate economy as it relates to $3 billion in hunting, fishing, trapping, birding and camping and things -- I don't think they really thought that was important.

After you were fired you received a lot of support from environmental advocates. But there were times during your tenure when environmental groups treated you with ambivalence or outright hostility.

I've worked on environmental issues for more than 40 years, and while there have been times that I have had to agree to disagree with people I know and respect, the bottom line is that there are huge differences between what it is to be an activist and what it is to be a regulator. At the end of the day, I am convinced that they will find out that what we did was the best for the environment. But I think that if I had been on the outside, I might have taken a different position on some of these issues.

Which issues in particular?

I could see myself on the opposing side [of the hydraulic fracturing debate] if I didn't have the responsibility for making any of the decisions. But we took steps that no one thought we would be able to do because they were so difficult, so I'm not that concerned about some of the negative stuff. In the end, even the critics will tell you that we did a great job.

What was it like to balance two mandates from the state: to protect New York's environment, and to develop those resources for profit?

Well, there are obviously pressures on both sides. My job as a regulator was to make sure that legal activity took place in a way that didn't harm the environment. We really committed huge resources to making sure that if this process is to proceed it will be done safely. ... We were very clear that we weren't going to rush ahead and then wonder if we did it right later on.

But in the summer of 2008, the DEC seemed prepared to issue permits for hydraulic fracturing without exploring the possibility of water contamination or having a clear idea of how drillers would treat the wastewater.

That is not true. Right from the beginning we understood that this issue required additional review. We were under no obligation to push for something beyond the generic environmental impact statement, but we felt like it was the right thing to do. Some of the accusations you're talking about have been extraordinary, but the truth is that the department has a phenomenal track record of regulating drilling, and we've set the most stringent standards in the country for hydraulic fracturing.

Was there ever a time when you felt the dual mandates from the state created a conflict for you?

For most of my environmental stakeholders, the people I know and work with, there was near-universal condemnation of the possibility of drilling. I felt tremendous pressure from friends and colleagues to make sure this was done right. On the other hand, the landowners in some of these poor communities across the southern tier saw [drilling] as a salvation. They were sold a bill of goods that their payments were contingent upon drilling activities beginning sooner. They were putting pressure on us, the administration and their local legislators, to move more quickly. But I never thought of it as a real conflict. I knew very clearly what our responsibilities were. I knew there was this divide between the fact that this was a legal activity and the fact that it has considerable disruptive potential. This drilling is an unattractive, disruptive, commercial activity with requirements that need to be met. I was never in any doubt that if we found a path forward it would be in a way that didn't affect the environment.

How do you characterize the environmental impact of hydraulic fracturing?

Short-term there are very substantial concerns. It's a big industrial activity that involves heavy-duty activity on the drilling pad at the well site, truck traffic and laying of feeder pipes. The experience we've had in New York and other places is that when the activity is completed and the property is restored, things go back to pretty much normal.

Do you have concerns about drilling in the Catskill reservoirs that supply drinking water to 9 million people?

The concern is mostly about the risk to the ... certification from the EPA that allows New York City and Syracuse to use the water with minimal treatment. It's right on the margin anyway, so a little disruption during the drilling process might put that at risk. Most of the land in the watershed is privately owned, and in order to make a determination that you can't drill there, you have to be supported by law, fact and science.

What about disposing of the huge amounts of water that hydraulic fracturing requires?

It's made clear in our draft impact statement that it is an issue. But even today when people do conventional drilling they have to handle the liquid safely, and it has to be hauled by a licensed hauler to a facility that can handle the waste. You can't haul the waste without a permit from New York, and you can't dispose of it unless the facility can handle it. That has to be disclosed as part of the permit process.

Do New York waste facilities have the capacity to handle that much wastewater?

That's a problem for the drillers. Either they build the capacity themselves, find the capacity, upgrade the capacity, or else they have no way of disposing of the waste.

How about an appropriate number of inspectors to keep an eye on drilling activities?

There is going to be a direct link between the volume of drilling activity and the number of inspectors we have to monitor that activity. We would only allow the amount of drilling that could be appropriately monitored by the number of inspectors we have in the agency.

Would you welcome additional federal guidelines from the Environmental Protection Agency for gas drilling operations in New York and elsewhere?

I think our record has been extraordinary on gas drilling. Everybody wants the state to wait on the EPA study, but that's a drinking water study. Our state health department does what the Safe Drinking Water Act exclusion prevented the EPA from doing in Washington: monitoring drinking water quality and the impact [of drilling] on drinking water. I think they're not going to see things that are different than what we saw.

So, you don't see a problem with gas drilling's exclusion from the Safe Drinking Water Act?

There's a national issue with that, but for New York there has not been a problem. Our state health-department drinking water standards are greater than the standards that would have applied had the exclusion not been there. We've always held our water to a higher standard.

Who do you think should be responsible for funding emergency preparedness for gas-related emergencies?

Eventually it ought to be strict liability for the drillers, and if the state or the local government has to step in to react quickly, that ought to be fully covered by the drillers. It's not like the Gulf oil spill. Some of the biggest risks we're looking at have to do with the surface, where a tanker truck rolls over, a drill catches on fire, or a there's some kind of spill on the surface.

But there have been explosions in some of the wells. What about the funding for preemptive emergency services for something like that?

One of the things under discussion is a fund that would be pre-paid. At the end of the day, the state finds the resources for dealing with emergencies -- it's just a question of how quickly they get paid back. With the wells that exploded, some of those go back to casing problems or natural methane problems. Those are issues that are severely dangerous at the site but, as I recall, they didn't pose much of a risk beyond wherever it took place.

Is New York prepared for such emergencies?

I think we have pretty good emergency preparedness. We go through drills regularly for catastrophes, mostly natural ones. We've had big spills before and fires, and we certainly have the resources to respond quickly. There's also an emergency preparedness construct triggered by [9/11].

What do you think needs to take place before New York is ready for drilling in the Marcellus Shale?

We need to finish the review to make sure that we have all the facts, have anticipated every risk, have set out a way to mitigate every risk that we identify, and that we have sufficient legal and human resources to make sure that we have the authority to do what we need to do. The human resources have to be scaled based on that drilling activity. The plan was to have on-site monitors, to do test borings and testing wells around potential well sites so that we could have baselines for before and after comparisons. Obviously truck traffic is going to have an impact on the communities. That's one of the areas where our -- I'm speaking as if I'm still there but I'm not -- where there's going to be a big community impact. It wasn't really a concern with conventional drilling because it didn't take place at this scale.

Let's talk about Pennsylvania for a minute. What do you think about what that state is going through right now with regard to drilling?

As you can imagine, we are aware of every single time there's a blip on the drilling front in any jurisdiction anywhere in the country. We've been carefully monitoring that, and we knew about all these issues when we started the environmental impact statement, and it's been constantly factored in during the writing process. I think they rushed ahead and did things without the kind of attention that we're giving this very important issue, and they're paying a price for it. We're very mindful of things there and want to make sure that the things happening there don't happen in New York.

Under your tenure, the DEC came up with the first guidelines in the nation for disclosing the contents of fracking fluids, a requirement that the industry has argued would destroy their business model. Do you think there is ever a situation where that information is best disclosed to regulators but not the public?

Our position was if they thought it was so proprietary, then they shouldn't get the permit. Our existing regulations and the requirements in the draft [of the environmental review] ask for full disclosure of what is going to be used but not the mix. Health officials need to know because we need to be able to monitor. I guess the question is whether or not there's a level of proprietary information that would protect those details. I think the mix is less important than what's there, so you know where to look if something happened. We need to know what's there so we can do pre-drilling monitoring and get baseline information.

Are chemical manufacturers afraid that someone is going to reverse engineer their products? From what I understand, the various formulas for fracking fluids are very similar.

They are [similar]. I think part of it is a business plan where [chemical manufacturers] convince drillers that they have a unique product that will allow the drillers to extract more gas more quickly through this combination of stuff that they put into the fracking fluid. I mean, how different could they be? You put something in there to move the water more quickly, you put in sand, something to keep mold from growing down there, and a few other things -- it's not that complicated of a mix. My guess is that they probably are, both in quantity and in mixture, very similar. But companies are squirrely about these issues, and they think that they will somehow get the upper hand by having a magic formula that works better [than their competitors'].

The chemical manufacturers I've spoken with claim there are thousands of different detergents they could use, and the choice of detergent makes a big difference in terms of cost and efficiency. But that seems to be in direct conflict with what I've heard from regulators.

I think it's probably much ado about nothing. Drilling companies would have a lot less opposition from the public if they could prove that their fracking chemicals didn't contain benzene or whatever. If they spent less time worrying about disclosing what is in the fluids and more time coming up with safer alternatives to whatever it is they use, everyone would be happier. That being said, these chemicals they shoot at such high pressures are two miles below ground, and if the drilling process is done correctly those materials shouldn't get into drinking water.

There's been concern that the fracking process might interact with natural fissures in the bedrock and contaminate groundwater.

We need to be sure that's not going to happen -- that's part of this review process. You can't just blow something like that off.

A number of states that have only dealt with conventional forms of drilling, limited drilling or no drilling at all are now facing a deluge of companies that want to perform hydrofracking. What advice would you give regulators in those states?

First and foremost, I would hope they understand that it's better to be safe than sorry and to get it right in the beginning, because the consequences later on can be dangerous, damaging and harmful to the economy. Then, make sure you have the people on hand to make sure that the process is functioning properly. It's no good to give a permit -- the way they did to Cabot in Pennyslvania -- and then have them botch up a well bore or have them not case it properly. You need people on site who are not answerable to the driller, and not answerable to the people they are having dinner with that night, but accountable to the regulator. Last, there needs to be a very clear message that if anything does go wrong it will be 100 percent the responsibility of the drilling operations, whether that requires posting a bond or a standard of strict liability. If we're going to have a clean energy economy that's not dependent on sources outside of our borders, there are things that need to be done, and they need to be done properly. It's the same thing with windmills, solar panels, atomic energy or gas drilling. Nothing's easy because no one wants to turn off their lights and just save energy that way.

How about advice for dealing with the stress of the job?

You have to be a workaholic. I read environmental reports to relax. Well, that and go for runs.

What do you see on the horizon for natural gas drilling?

Natural gas is going to be the bridge fuel between burning heavy fuels and a clean energy economy. There are going to have to be new standards. We are a very energy-hungry country, and it's a question of making sure that our own resources are available to protect our national security interests and to clean our environment. I've looked at a lot of conventional wells in New York, and you can't even tell that they're there when you have standards in place for the restoration of the site. It's a critical component of the activity.

Are you worried about the trajectory of gas drilling in this nation, given that few states have developed standards as stringent as New York's?

Yeah, I am. I'm very concerned. I still watch the coal mining in West Virginia and the gas drilling throughout the country. We're perfectly willing to say, "Don't drill here, but let's get the gas from areas that have nowhere near our level of concern for the environment." My worry is that the constant pressure on [New York] to do the right thing means that we are going to be relying on someone else's less-than-active engagement in some of these areas. It's embedded in their economy, and they see things differently. This needs to be part of our fuel mix and our economic mix, but it just needs to be done right.

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Joseph Bhartun

Nov. 12, 2010, 9:39 a.m.

Great question (and answer) about naturally occurring fissures. Indeed, you can’t blow it off. (In fact, it should be a non-starter.)

But what’s with the tacit assumption that natural gas is required as a bridge fuel? This underlying statement just caters to the needs of the gas industry and financial stakeholders. And even if one believes it must be a self-limiting “bridge”, what about the reality that there will be no genuine incentives to wean off of the methane?

Despite a good track record, why does Mr. Grannis believe that this technology, unproven in New York, can be done with 100% safety, even under the best of circumstances?

Mr. Grannis may be trying to frame his legacy.  But the actual truth this is a legacy that will not be forgotten by those looking down the barrel of aggressive, disastrous hydraulic fracturing of gas wells. The shortcomings of the draft Generic Environmental Impact Statement issued under his watch are legion, as evidenced by the thousands of substantive comments and the rejection by the NYC DEP (http://www.nyc.gov/html/dep/html/press_releases/09-15pr.shtml).  The watersheds of all municipalities and private water sources are at risk, not just the water supply of NYC.  And on the front line for immediate impact are the unfortunate neighbors of properties that would allow this – businesses, farms and private residences. This process is already proven dangerous in several states where it has proceeded. 

The reporter should also check her facts. This process is not “temporarily banned”; there is simply a de-facto delay that could end at any time should the NYS DEC green light it.

Has anyone given this story to Josh Fox?

” landowners in some of these poor communities across the southern tier saw [drilling] as a salvation. They were sold a bill of goods that their payments were contingent upon drilling activities beginning sooner.”
Mr. Grannis the southern tier landowners were not ‘sold a bill of goods’ and the insinuation that they are gullible is not accurate.  The fact is that the industry will not lay out money to lease land that may not be drillable during the term of the lease.  Why should they?  Justice delayed is justice denied.  Southern tier landowners are being foreclosed upon and will never have access to the mineral wealth they own. Delay is stealing from them, it is a regulatory taking.  We all are friends of clean air and water, but why steal from your neighbors?

NATURAL FISSURES?  HELLO! If there were natural fissures THE GAS WOULD NOT BE THERE ANYMORE!  It would have escaped LONG AGO

get a grip, the only danger of frac’ing fluid contamination is through spillage, like the time you weren’t paying attention and overfilled your car’s gas tank.  Spills can & do happen in any industry, but they are remediated & life goes on.

Amazingly, natural fissures exist, despite lessor landowner’s disbelief.  They are documented, and the Appalachian Basin is riddled with them.  The shale has not yet been fractured, at the immense pressure of up to 15,000 psi that has been reportedly used.  Five million gallons of slick water fluid (on a 5,000’ lateral), along with millions of pounds of proppant (coated with Poly Acronilitrile Butadiene Styrene?), have not yet been injected at that pressure.

That is the scenario of concern, that the fracturing of the shale may connect the new with the existing.

James L. Northrup’s description of the different risks between a vertical well and a horizontal, which we all know is now capable of being drilled and multi-staged frac’ed up to 10,000’ in length, if not more, is logical. 

Unless 3-D seismic tests are performed above the entire lateral, who knows what exists?  A vertical well is exponentially safer.  Lessors love to make the false comparison (as did Pete Grannis himself), equating the vertical shallow wells of the past, with these post 2002 multi-stage horizontals. 

It is a false comparison.

Northrup’s ‘work’ is pure fiction.  What exactly are his credentials?  He is protecting his solar power interests by promoting fear and panic regardng natural gas. First Commercial Tracking Concentrating Solar Collector “Northrup’s break-through technology was a collector[4] that used a long curved acrylic fresnel lens to concentrate or focus sunlight at a theoretical ratio of approximately 12 to 1 onto a linear flat copper tube, coated with a variant of Dr. Tabor’s “black chrome” absorptive surface. The array, approximately 10’ long, tracked the movement of the sun during the day (east to west), automatically, with the elevation generally fixed (at approximately the same angle from horizontal as the latitude of the installation). The tracking device was ingenious – it consisted of two photoelectric cells at the base of a tube with a baffle between them. Current from the cells went to a control board that controlled the tracking motor. When the cell output was equalized, the baffle and the tube would be pointing at the sun. This was sufficient to enable the array to track the sun’s azimuth and generate considerable heat, as reported in tests published in the ASHRAE Journal, which noted that “. . . the array of collectors . . .follow the sun from just after sunrise to just before sunset and often results in the collection of twice as many usable BTUs of energy at a higher temperature than provided by high quality flat plate collectors.” [5].
The early success of these concentrating collectors was due in part to grants from the Department of Energy and its predecessor the Energy Research and Development Administration
Northrup, Inc. was soon an industry leader in pre-commercial and commercial power tower and heliostat installations[11], securing grants from NASA Huntsville, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Sandia National Laboratories, the United States Department of Energy, and the Energy Research and Development Administration.

@Susan Dorsey. You are another skilled public relations person for the frackers. I hope they pay you well, because you are selling your soul, and the earth, to destroyers. Gasland nails it and so does the movie There Will Be Blood, although the latter movie is about oil men. Fossil fuel industry folks would sell their mother to the devil if they could make profits off of it. We see the same Susan Dorsey comments from people who defend Massey mining company, BP, etc. Get a conscience and a brain, ok, Susan?

I-C L-Engel

Nov. 12, 2010, 8 p.m.

Does anyone know how our NY congresspersons voted as to whether to exempt Hydrofracturing from Clean Air & Water regs?  ***icle***

This is nonsense that chemicals injected into the earth will not wind up in drinking water.  What does he think is going to happen to them? Somebody is making a lot of money on this process and it is not only the gas companies.

Mr. Grannis said: “With the wells that exploded, some of those go back to casing problems or natural methane problems. Those are issues that are severely dangerous at the site but, as I recall, they didn’t pose much of a risk beyond wherever it took place.”

It is my understanding that in NY, by state law, gas wells cannot be zoned out of residential areas. It is also my understanding that the required setbacks in NY are quite small (100 feet from private buildings, 150 ft. from public buildings).

I have seen gas wells in PA that were right beside busy roadways; I have seen others that were within a few hundred feet of homes; I even saw one well that was very close to an elementary school.

If a gas well explodes in a populated area, I think it is going to present a very substantial risk indeed, and I hope the DEC is studying this possibility very, very carefully rather than simply assuming that it will not be a problem!

Folks,

I was there in the spring and summer of 2008. I wrote the Opposition Brief to the horizontal drilling legislation A10526.

Mr. Grannis’ memory appears selective and self-servingly constructive.

The legislation came from the DEC; the DEC were extremely active in lobbying for the legislation, both with legislators and with citizens in the likely “gas patch.

The entire pitch was on how this was a well understood process (it wasnt and isn’t) and how safely the whole thing can be done. The last two years experience in PA puts the lie to that whopper.

Grannis even now maintains the fiction that when drilling is all done the site looks just about like it did before. Grampa’s well maybe, but certainly not the very large 5-acre well pads with up to 16 or more wells, drilled over a three-year period, and multiply fracked over a longer time period. Those pads will never be “restored” - if they were restored where would they park all those lines of trucks and tanks.

In 2008 the DEC was telling legislators that the legislation was environmentally friendly, and those ignorant legislators bought the whole story. One told me, “the DEC is the State’s technical arm and they say it is OK.” That person has become one of the most outspoken critics of the whole thing.

In the summer of 2008, Governor Patterson ordered the DEC to carry out a new environmental impact statement for horizontal high-volume hydrofracturing. The previous one, dealing only with “conventional” drilling was old enough to vote and was written before HVHZHF in gas shales was even contemplated. The DEC never, at least publically, mentioned this. They were cheerleading all the way.

The last point to make is that I was told that the premier gas and oil attorney in the state, Tom West, was overheard to say, when the 2008 legislation was in committee, “...I was just in the Governor’s office, it is a slam dunk.” West and other industry folks apparently wrote the legislation to favor industry. The DEC carried their water.

Only a determined push back from a few knowledgeable legislators, the water regulators from NYC, one environmental organization, and a rag-tag bunch of citizens who happened to be paying attention and understood the enormous implications caused the then run-away train to be sidetracked so that NY got the breathing room of the de facto moratorium that PA and other shale states also should have had.

Stan Scobie, Binghamton, NY

There’s that old ‘nat gas as bridge fuel’ baloney stuff again.  I am sorry, but as long as this idea has traction, we will never transition to a clean energy future.  We need aggressive planning and deployment of clean energy technology right now, and this means setting specific goals and target dates for implementation.

Michael Lebron

Nov. 13, 2010, 9:20 a.m.

Here are my recollections from my small corner of this universe regarding the spring/summer of 2008 and the so-called A10526 spacing legislation:

1- When the bill came to my attention in the spring of 08, I called the offices of my State Senator and Assemblyperson. Neither were familiar with it.

2- The Assembly Speaker was an important ally in the loft tenant struggle that I was active in during the 80s. I called his office, said I was a member of the Lower Manhattan Loft Tenants, but was concerned about an upstate issue that would impact water quality for NYC, asked about the bill, and was told that “it was a technical piece of legislation that held no significance”. I told them I absolutely disagreed with that assertion. Their back-up was that the bill was tied up in committee and was not going anywhere during that session.

3- To my shock and surprise, I learn that the Assembly Speaker’s office was being even less straightforward than I had given them credit for, that in fact A10526 was being fast-tracked.

4- The bill passes. In the aftermath, it seems clear that most legislators voted this through without understanding the implications at all, just took the DEC’s word at face value (see comments by Stan Scobie), that is, what the Assembly Speaker’s office initially told me.

5- I was able to arrange for a 45 minute meeting with some of the governor’s staff in his Manhattan office on the afternoon of Friday, July 18th, I believe it was 4:00PM.

6- In the meeting, I was told that the governor had two choices: sign the bill or veto it, that since “it’s the governor’s own bill”, he is unlikely to veto it. I told them there is a third way: sign the bill but stipulate that it does not go into effect until a new SGEIS is conducted and adopted, essentially the approach The Sierra Club - the one enviro group that was on top of this game at this point as I recall - was backing. I was told “the governor does not have that authority”. I told them that assertion was at 180 degrees from my understanding. We went back and forth, mainly on that point.

7- I left the meeting feeling not particularly satisfied that I made any headway. I sent a contact memo to the governor’s office the following Monday morning. I copy Judith Enck. I try to have the memo distributed as widely as possible among key Senate and Assembly member offices.

8- I get a press release from the gov’s office around 5:45PM, I think it was Thursday the 24th that the gov signs A10526 with the caveat that has become our de-facto moratorium.

Arthur Michael Ambrosino

Nov. 13, 2010, 10:42 a.m.

Surface freshwater impoundments and supply infrastructure are safer, more practical and manageable than water wells. Developing or enlarging existing freshwater impoundments are the smart way to solve these lingering worries and may be necessary should gas extraction cause problems.
You can see one such effort by visiting our website; http://www.gsldeepening.com or searching GREAT SACANDAGA LAKE DEEPENING PROJECT.

Re the issue of natural fissures: The NYC DEP concluded that natural faults and fractures in the rock may provide pathways that would allow migration of methane and of fracturing fluids. See section 2.4, “Faults and Other Brittle Structures” in the NYC DEP’s “Final Impact Assessment Report” on shale gas extraction, which is available for download in the “Natural Gas Drilling” section of the NYC DEP’s website.

Rebecca DeWitt

Nov. 13, 2010, 1:54 p.m.

There were many aspects of Mr. Grannis’ interview that burned me up, but the people above have covered those points very well. I’d like to say something about the last answer in the interview.
  To imply that NYS is obliged to do its share - both in terms of providing energy and financial benefits, is to take rights away from residents in individual states. It’s unfortunate for Pennsylvania that they were gong ho until they started to see the problems. The same thing can be said for other states out west.
  The bad environmental record has been accumulating and we now have a large amount of scientific data from some of the finest scientists in the world, that supports the notion that SWHVHF is a technology that has already shown itself to be non-biodegradable and is very damaging to peoples’ health. We don’t even know the long-term effects of exposure as yet, though some scientists are in the process of designing/implementing long-range studies.
  Alternative bio-fuels are very exciting and not very far off when it comes to implementation. Exxon and Chevron have already invested several hundred million dollars because they see the future and want to be part of it. Why isn’t our federal government offering further incentives to energy companies so they can develop safe alternatives. In the meantime, NYS should invite some promising companies in and offer tax-cut incentives, so they can improve the job market and the economy overall in our state. Trying to dredge out the last droplets of fossil fuel beneath the earth’s crust, when alternatives are close at hand, makes no sense to me whatsoever.

Barbara Abbott King

Nov. 13, 2010, 9:22 p.m.

I demand full disclosure of the chemicals being transported daily to the Auburn wastewater treatment Plant. NOW…Mr. X-DEC who is not concerned about the ‘mix’, but the ‘chemicals’.

I also asked Pro-Publica to investigate this matter in early 2008.

Lindsay Groves

Nov. 14, 2010, 11:26 a.m.

Why doesn’t anyone ever think farther ahead than the next 10 years? The longevity of these casings can’t be really tested-that would take decades. What about the next hundred years, when freshwater is sure to get scarcer? Testing the ground water for a month for benzene and solvents and declaring a gas well safe is just absurd. New York has tiny earthquakes-that’s why the shale layers are unpredictably discontinuous. Career academics teaching geology to college students in industry-funded institutions of higher education actually come to believe in their own infallibility-that they know what’s under there, give or take a thousand feet, and how it’s layered and cracked.  Their colleagues and former students at the DEC are ok with betting our future health on that. No thanks.

Having read through the various comments regarding the interview with Pete Grannis ” the states top environmental official” and hearing his educated opinions on New Yorks regulatory changes to the EIS, I am left to ponder the following thoughts. Why aren’t the extremist commenting seeking to stop the production of such proven dangerous items as automobiles (remember all those injured by toyota’s in the last couple of years) or the huge surface impact the wind energy is having across our country (as the road wear and tear is not only in hauling these beast into position but must be maintained virtually forever to keep them up and running) which means the surface used from the beginning of these projects, often once adorned with lush vegetation are lost forever. It’s been my experience (of course I’ve only been at this for some 30 years) that incidents of groundwater contamination scientifically proven to be a direct result of hydraulic fracturing in horizontal wells are extremely rare. The Cabot issue in Dimock, Pa., has been proven to be cause by either surface spillage (due to a lack of experience in the area, which they now have) or a possible surface casing failure, which is an extemely rare occurance in wells this expensive to develop. Actual residents in the area are now coming forward saying that their water had been containing “surface methane” since they were first drilled 50 years ago. I assure you this is not the responsibility of a company that had been in the area a few years. When I first arrived in New York in 2008, a local TV station was running a story about a person (without any drilling activity anywhere around) lighting their faucet water on fire. Somehow this too became a part of the “Natural Gas Drilling” story although it clearly had nothing to do with exploration in their area as there had been none. The first complaint was the “huge amounts of water used” in this process. It was then determined that the amounts of water used versus the amount flowing into the hudson bay unused would be uneffectual on the areas. Then it was the problem of disposing of all of this 3-4,000,000 gallons of water used to frac these wells, which the industry quickly proved that only 15-18 percent of it ever comes out of the shale. By the way, we now have onsite recycling that allows us to reuse approximately 96 percent of this leaving only .72% (thats POINT .72%) or less that 1% that will be needed to be disposed of and New York has local business owners saying that they already have the means to extract the usable chemicals and make brine for salting iced over highways and such and sell the other valuable ones that they remove. There will be needed disposal of non-valuable minerals they recover.
  Over the past 2 1/2 years I have been dealing with landowners in Broome County, New York (many of who now face loosing their land due to increased taxed value, based on the lands increased value based on it’s natural gas potential) and can tell you they are the both environmentally concerned and well educated as to the impact of drilling on THEIR LAND, but they have lost their bought and paid for rights to make these decisions. As a child, I was taught that there was a Constitution and Bill of Rights in the United States that gave me certain rights (of course they ended at the point where they started to infringe upon the rights of others). In my opinion the rights of those who have put their blood, sweat and tears into the land have been greatly ignored while the elite few, who drive through their beautiful areas in route to sip wine on weekend trips to upstates numerous vineyards and weekend retreats by huge megaphones to shout their objections to what might be an unbearable eyesore for a few months. Has any of these wonderfully concerned extremist started a movement to pay the land taxes for those who might be effected? Have they given any consideration to the landowners that have fought to maintain their beautiful drives northward? If you own land and don’t want drilling on it, just say no, but please remember that your perspective might not be your neighbors.

Respects,

Dean Lowry

Dean Lowry writes, ” I assure you this is not the responsibility of a company that had been in the area a few years.” ASS.U.RE is too self-evident an oversimplication.
I guess philosophers can use the US
Constitution to justify abusing the right of others to live in a world free of envioronmental pollution and species diversity degradation.  After all, those rights are not guraranteed in the Constitution, but maybe are in the Bible, i.e. in the hearts of humanity?  It is a divisively spurious argument, used again and again, to say that activists AKA extremeists should abandon speaking up for causes when there are more obvious pressing flagrant assaults needing attention. Join all those causes, and fight whatever U see to be unjust, if U have the time and energy to do so.  Otherwise, pick your issues, and leave others the freedom to do the same.  ***micle***

In reply to Mr. Lowry: I AM a landowner in Broome County!

My husband and I have lived in Broome County year-round and paid taxes here for more than a quarter of a century. We love this area; it has been a wonderful home to us for a long time. Our home here is the first home I have ever had that was not a rented apartment: I do not come from a wealthy family. Both my husband and I have worked very hard for this home; we sacrificed and saved to buy it, we improved and maintained it largely with our own hands, and we planned to stay here for the rest of our lives.

Sadly, now we can no longer plan a future here in Broome County with any reasonable assurance that our home will remain a safe and pleasant place in which to live. We wonder if we will be able to safely bathe in or drink the water that comes out of our tap. We wonder how the hills around our home will look when they are pockmarked with cleared, five-acre gas well pads and the network of pipelines needed to move the gas to market. We wonder if the wildlife in this area will still be here ten years from now. We wonder how many nights we will lie awake, unable to sleep because of the noisy truck traffic passing by outside on its way to 24/7 drilling operations. We wonder how much time we will waste and how much stress we will experience driving on roads that are dangerously clogged with drilling traffic. We wonder if drilling-related air pollution will make it impossible for my mom, who has asthma, to visit us here. We wonder if illegal dumping of toxic drilling waste will occur in our area—-a real possibility given the low staffing levels at the NYSDEC. We wonder if someday we will be told to evacuate our home because of a nearby gas well blowout or a chemical spill. We wonder if it will even be possible to find a buyer for our home should we finally give up and leave in search of a safe, peaceful place in which to live. We certainly could not blame prospective buyers for deciding against life in Gasland! So in the end, our peaceful life here and every penny and all of the time and effort we have invested in this home may be taken from us, all because of gas drilling. If those who are having difficulty paying their property taxes could make money from gas drilling WITHOUT adversely affecting everyone around them (including their own children!), that would be a different story. But the noise and air pollution and water pollution and traffic and loss of green space and gas well blowouts will affect us all, for generations to come. 

Our concerns about gas drilling are based on careful research that has revealed a serious lack of regulation of the shale gas industry and the resulting problems that have occurred in areas where shale gas drilling has taken place. Before the problems in Dimock had surfaced, I had already read about drilling-related problems out West. I was, needless to say, dismayed to see the same, sorry mess playing out in Dimock. I have visited Dimock and followed the situation there very closely.  I have read every news release issued by the PA DEP in regard to Dimock. Anyone who wishes to read those news releases can do so by going to the PA DEP’s online news release page. There they will find that Cabot has been fined by the DEP for numerous violations in the Dimock area, that DEP lab tests that show that the gas that entered water wells in Dimock was from a deep Devonian layer, and that more than one Cabot gas well in the Dimock area was leaking methane (the DEP recently released video to WBRE-TV showing two leaking Cabot wells). At least one of the news releases also mentions that PA has a law that holds gas drillers responsible for any methane contamination that occurs within 1000 feet of their gas wells, a law that surely would not exist if drilling-related methane contamination of water wells were an extremely rare occurrence. You are evidently either unaware of these facts, or you have conveniently chosen not to mention them in your above comment. Or perhaps you consider the PA DEP to be among the “extremists”?

There is one and only one way that the shale gas industry can improve its reputation, and that is to stop calling those who point out serious problems “extremists” and to start cleaning up its own act.

@Karl, I must have a common name.  I have never commented about BP anywhere.  I do not work in PR or work for the gas industry.  I just happen to be against terrorism.  Terrorism is using fear to get what you want.  Gas drilling opponents are creating a reign of terror to convince people that their tap water will poison them.  I guess when I read ‘Karl Stevens’ comments in future I can expect more name calling and personal attacks rather than fact.
GasLand the Movie, is exactly that, a movie, a piece of entertainment.  JFox should have been satisfied with that and not called it a documentary.  If it is art, fine, but a documentary is held to higher standards like fact checking.  GasLand is FULL of innuendo & misleading assertions, it is NOT factual.  Many of the segments in the film were not only debunked by state environmental authorities in various states, but they were brought to Mr. Fox’ attention BEFORE the film was released yet he chose not to include the facts.  http://www.energyindepth.org/2010/06/debunking-gasland/.  Walter Hang says he cooks with natural gas and heats his home with natural gas.  Since he lives in Ithaca & the chance of accident increases with the distance to the end user, I guess he’s just another NIMBY HYPOCRITE for obstructing development of our natural gas resource here in NY.

@Karl, I must have a common name.  I have never commented about BP anywhere.  I do not work in PR or work for the gas industry.  I just happen to be against terrorism.  Terrorism is using fear to get what you want.  Gas drilling opponents are creating a reign of terror to convince people that their tap water will poison them.  I guess when I read ‘Karl Stevens’ comments in future I can expect more name calling and personal attacks rather than fact.
GasLand the Movie, is exactly that, a movie, a piece of entertainment.  JFox should have been satisfied with that and not called it a documentary.  If it is art, fine, but a documentary is held to higher standards like fact checking.  GasLand is FULL of innuendo & misleading assertions, it is NOT factual.  Many of the segments in the film were not only debunked by state environmental authorities in various states, but they were brought to Mr. Fox’ attention BEFORE the film was released yet he chose not to include the facts. 
Walter Hang says he cooks with natural gas and heats his home with natural gas.  Since he lives in Ithaca & the chance of accident increases with the distance to the end user, I guess he’s just another NIMBY HYPOCRITE for obstructing development of our natural gas resource here in NY.

Mr. Lowry is right on.  Moratorium is delaying the inevitable just long enough to allow a land grab.  NIMBYs prediction of a vast industrial wasteland is a self-fulfilling prophesy.  Keep farm families from being able to access the very asset that is raising their tax assessments, and who will bake for the bake sale?  who will man the volunteer fire depts.? and who will be there to watch your kids after school while you slave away at 2 low pay jobs to make ends meet?
If you are leaving anyway Ms. Sweeney, do us a favor and leave now. 
Last one out of NY turn out the lights - if the electric hasn’t been shut off already.

Mary Sweeney

Nov. 14, 2010, 5 p.m.

To Ms. Dorsey: No matter what you may believe, gas drilling in Broome County is not inevitable, and that is why I have decided to stay and fight not only for my own home and health, but for the homes and health of all current and future generations.

The truly poor in this area are not the landowners who are complaining about their taxes—they are the people who rent apartments because they cannot afford homes. These people have no land to lease, and they are likely to end up homeless on the street when their rents are driven up due to temporary gas workers searching for housing in the area. This has already happened in other areas around the country. As I mentioned in my earlier post, I know what it is like to live in rented housing; I also know what it is like to live from one paycheck to the next. To hear landowners complaining so loudly is amazing to me: if my family had owned 1/4 acre of land when I was a girl, we would have felt very rich.

There can be little doubt that farm families are suffering due to many questionable national policies that have made factory farming the norm. But polluting the land will make things worse, not better.

Further, there are, in fact, very, very few farm families in Broome County. Most of the people in the county live in the city of Binghamton or commute to jobs within the city. Some of the Broome landowners who have leased or who plan to lease don’t even live here.

Finally, I was and am opposed to Broome County’s decision to retain the mineral rights of properties foreclosed on for taxes. I think that creating a “split estate” situation will be very, very bad for the county if drilling does occur here.

Gas development is inevitable, the only question is when not if, and who will be your neighbors.  Split estate situations are created through DELAY.  Wake up & smell the coffee and take some responsibility for the conveniences you enjoy through burning fossil fuel. NO ONE IN THEE WORLD will oversee the harvest of energy resources more safely than the NYS DEC.  Where does YOUR energy come from, under what kind of supervision?  Why are you OK with that?
NIMBY HYPOCRITE OBSTRUCTIONISM is UGLY, how can you look yourself in the eye in the mirror?

Mrs. Sweeney,
I assure, I too come from quite humble beginnings and I too am a landowner in Broome County. I do however make my living in the Oil & Gas Industry and have for many years. I presently live in Fort Worth, Texas where (within the city limits) there are presently over 1,000 wells that were drilled using the technology that you so oppose. I, nor anyone I know, have suffered any ill effects of their presence and our water remains unchanged. As I am sure you read in Mr. Grannis’s comments above, the State of New York, through it’s DEC has already supplemented it’s drilling permitting process to exceed even any anticipated changes from the current EPA study. The days of driving through areas like West Texas where companies drilled Oil Wells side by side for miles and miles to vertically extract Oil and gas for our countries energy needs has been replaced by technology that allows us to extract clean burning Natural Gas from several square miles utilizing one 3-5 acre surface location. These locations in your area will not include a lot of excess equipment as the gas in your area is very dry and needs little or no treatment prior to flowing into pipelines. I guess you are saying (if you believe the process used in other states is harmful to people) that it is ok for them to suffer (I assume you still heat your home and use lights and other forms of energy that come from these places) as long as you don’t have to be burdened by it. My only argument is that many of the people taking extremist stances against developing the Marcellus in New York seem to have little or nothing to gain from it. Unless you consider a great influx of economic growth into a fairly depressed area a gain. Most people I know from Texas are not willing to relocate to the cold north for jobs, so we will need to train local people to fill the positions needed. Landowners who start receiving bonus moneys and royalties will want to eat out more often, make repairs to existing homes (or purchase new ones), purchase new auto’s, farm equipment, home furnishings and possibly even start new companies. All of which will provide job opportunities and incomes for those people living check to check as you say. The Gas Companies developing the area will be watched very closely and we certainly don’t want to spend our profit margins cleaning up spills and paying damages for negligent operations or run the risk of loosing hundreds of millions of dollars of our investments. If people are waiting for the industry to become “perfect”, it will be a long wait, but why impose that level of standard to only one industry. Why use energy if you find it’s development such a destructive presence. Just turn off your heat and lights, start walking to work and chopping firewood to heat your homes. Encourage your friends and neighbors to do the same. The demand for natural gas will diminish (and your beautiful trees will all go up in smoke, I wonder if there is a health issue there) and the Natural Gas Industry will likely fold.
Just another perspective, but I do in fact have a vested interest.

Respects,

Dean Lowry

Susan, for many years now I have watched people in Broome County wasting energy as if there were no tomorrow. Suddenly the shale gas rush comes along, and everyone is talking about the need for responsible energy use and generation. I guess we’re supposed to believe it’s just a coincidence that the people who are so suddenly concerned about energy also hope to make money from shale drilling.

My husband and I have been extremely careful to conserve energy over the past 25 years. We drive small, high-mileage cars, consolidate errands, and walk or bike instead of driving whenever possible. We hardly ever fly (only twice in the past 25 years). We have insulated our home and we heat it very sparingly. We have never owned an air conditioner. We eat almost no meat. We do not waste food, because the process of producing food is very energy-intensive. We buy energy-efficient appliances and use them as little as possible. We are constantly on the lookout for more ways to save energy. We recently discovered, for example, that we can run our water heater for only a couple of hours per day and still have a sufficient amount of hot water. When the rest of Broome County is as careful about conserving energy as we are, then I’ll take these energy hypocrisy arguments seriously.

And no one, not even the gas industry, believes that shale gas can supply a huge fraction of the country’s energy any time soon. The most likely effect of all of the false promises of shale will be to delay the energy conservation and renewable energy programs that should have been started 30 years ago and that are needed ASAP. That is the delay that we should all be concerned with.

For those of you who are reading these comments but who do not live in shale areas, I think if nothing else, it should be apparent to you by now how shale gas drilling can tear a community apart. Fossil fuel industries may make a small number of people wealthy, but they do not produce healthy, thriving communities.

Mary, must be nice to be so self satisfied and so sure you know what is right for others.  You may have convinced yourself that it is right to import your energy from out of the area.  Wars over foreign oil that are conveniently out of view on the other side of the planet must be ok too.  Your recycling and consolidating errands does not impress me much.  Is this supposed to justify being a NIMBY?  Grow up and act responsibly before you take it upon yourself to preach to others.

Susan, at this point I’m not feeling particularly self-satisfied at all, as I wish I had spent more time over the last 25 years trying to help more people learn to conserve energy!

But the main point here has nothing to do with either preaching or with feelings of self-satisfaction. The main point is that it is simply a fact that even if the highly speculative estimates of how much shale gas is in the ground in the U.S. turn out to be correct, one has to look at not only the total amount of gas in the ground, but at how quickly that gas can be recovered. Unless many, many, many more gas rigs are built and tremendous amounts of acreage are drilled, and vast networks of pipelines and gathering lines are constructed, there is simply no way for the shale gas industry to get enough gas out of the ground per year to supply more than a small fraction of our nation’s total energy needs. So the wars over oil will continue and the coal mining will continue and the deep sea drilling will continue, and along with all of that we will also have all of the dangers and destruction that accompany shale gas drilling.

If we are truly serious about breaking our addiction to fossil fuel, then we must all immediately begin using less energy. That is the fastest, surest way to create a “bridge” to a safer, cleaner energy future. And when I say “all,” I mean “all,” including my husband and myself, because there are always more ways to save energy and I certainly can’t claim we have exhausted all of the possibilities.

Please understand, too, that a very great deal of money will have to be spent to get appreciable amounts of gas out of shale. That is money that would be better directed toward the development of safe, renewable energy sources. The longer we delay a really serious effort to move away from fossil fuels, the worse our situation will become.

The tone of conversation has become too unfriendly for me to continue to read these comments.  It’s not an issue of personalities, nor black and white issues of right and wrong.  Haliburton and its pals started out on the wrong foot by exempting gasdrillers from the requirments of the Clean Air & Water Acts.  If that isn’t enought to make objective observers suspiciuous, what is?  Sadly, I predict that $$ will win in the end, and that the landscape of Marcellus Shale NYS lands will be despoiled forever.  To NYC Watershed stakeholders, at least get started at building those filtration plants ASAP, and get the Hydrofractors to put up or shut up regarding their confidence in “little or no impact” on the water quality.

“The giant advantage of a quick conversion from coal to gas is the quickest route for jumpstarting our economy and saving our planet.” - Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

During a visit to Dimock, PA, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. was quoted as follows (excerpt below is from the Scranton Times-Tribune, June 4, 2010):

“But he [Kennedy] cautioned the Dimock residents that his experiences have taught him never to trust ‘any of these gas companies.’

‘They all seem to be pathological liars,’ he said. ‘You can make deals with them, and they’re going to break the deals. You’ve seen that happen at the local level; I’ve seen it at the national level.’”

God help your sold-out soul, “Susan Dorsey.” Your shilling for the earth destroyers and water polluters is obvious and horrendous. I have seen people such as yourself using the same shallow, greed-motivated talking points on so many topics, always justifying projects and practices that ruin life for humans and the land. I just wish you gas industry shills had a love for something other than profits. It must be terrible not to have a conscience.

we’ll see who God helps Mr. Stevens

Folks,

In the end w all live on the same planet. Let us try and reason together.

Stan Scobie, Binghamton, NY

Halliburton announces CleanStim frac formulation, “a first-of-its-kind fracture fluid system comprised of materials sourced entirely from the food industry”

I agree with Stan. We all live on the same planet, and we have climate change and energy issues we need to deal with. Biogeochemist and ecosystem scientist Robert Howarth’s ongoing study on GHG emissions (Nov 15th, 2010) from fracked gas reports:
“Using the best available science, we conclude that
natural gas is no better than coal and may in fact be worse than coal in terms of its greenhouse gas footprint when evaluated over the time course of the next several decades.”

These findings cannot be taken lightly.

Susan Sullivan

Nov. 16, 2010, 10:41 p.m.

Regarding the role of the Department of Health, which Mr. Grannis leads us to believe is our real safeguard, and even better than putting fracking under the Safe Drinking Water Act…...he failed to mention that at least in my part of upstate New York, the county level Department of Health has neither the staff or funds to do the aforementioned water monitoring.  I attended both Public Hearing held in Sullivan County NY, and heard the Director of Public Health tell the DEC, TWICE,  at two separate hearings, that they were shifting the responsibility for water monitoring to an agency that could not do it.  We need to pass the FRAC Act, and make this industry accountable to the EPA. Also thanks to those who mentioned NYC DEP’s study, which clearly describes the intrinsic dangers of the fracking process.  Thanks, Propublica, for a great job as always.

Susan Sullivan

Nov. 16, 2010, 10:45 p.m.

Regarding the role of the Department of Health, which Mr. Grannis leads us to believe is our real safeguard, and even better than putting fracking under the Safe Drinking Water Act…...he failed to mention that at least in my part of upstate New York, the county level Department of Health has neither the staff or funds to do the aforementioned water monitoring.  I attended both Public Hearings held in Sullivan County NY, and heard the Director of Public Health tell the DEC, at two separate hearings, that they were shifting the responsibility for water monitoring to an agency that could not do it. This seems typical of the way DEC has handled this issue, and it has cost them the trust of New Yorkers.  We need to pass the FRAC Act, and make this industry accountable to the EPA. Also thanks to those who mentioned NYC DEP’s study, which clearly describes the intrinsic dangers of the fracking process.  Thanks, Propublica, for a great job as always.

I would hope this would help ease some of the fears that people have. Both the State of New York and the Oil & Gas Industry have worked very hard to address the issues most frequently discussed. It does seem however that some people are going to continue spreading false information in an effort to further delay development in upstate New York. Companies have developed not only “on-site water recycling systems” to drastically reduce road traffic created by hauling water but now even Haliburton has completely disclosed their newest formula for frac fluids which all the ingredients come from various “food groups”. (see the link below) 

http://www.halliburton.com/public/news/pubsdata/press_release/2010/corpnws_111510.html?SRC=MP

The City of Fort Worth has developed a well monitoring system which allows them to detect and gas leakage utilizing infrared cameras mounted in helicopters to alert companies of any valve failures (or human errors) that might occur to further decrease any possibility of air contamination. It’s my belief that all activity in New York will now (if allowed) use “closed looped” systems that keep all drilling and fracing fluids in closed containers throughout the drilling process and even these tanks will set atop heavy plastic sheathing designed to capture any spillages that might occur. Americans are truly quite resilient and have overcome many mistakes made in our history by numerous industries. I applaud New York’s DEC and it’s landowners for being so diligent in it’s efforts to educate each other in advance of development in the Marcellus Shale (it’s potential is even better than originally thought) but can’t we all agree, at this point, that the problems have been solved and move forward towards a more energy independent United States of America.

Respects,

Dean Lowry

I very much appreciated Mr. Lowry’s disclosure, in one of his comments, that he has a vested interest in this matter. I sincerely wish that everyone who works for the gas industry, or who makes or hopes to make money from leasing would disclose that fact every time they write about or discuss this issue.

Thanks Mary, I value honesty in every area of my life. Although it seems my doing so has now caused my post on this site to me monitored prior to being posted. I would recommend to all the reader here that they take a look at what other’s motivations might be as well. Some (maybe even those funding this site and their close friends) could stand to loose a great deal should America develop it’s Natural Gas Resources. Maybe a little research as to who funds ProPublica and with whom they have ties could serve it’s readers well. I would think someone like George Soros (with all his investments in coal and overseas oil & natural gas development and plans to import it to the US) wouldn’t much like New York producing so much of it. These things are always “just follow the money” as to who, what, where, when and why. I guess it’s just bad timing for those upstate New York Landowners who could so desperately use a little economic impact right now.

Respects,

Dean Lowry

Dean, I think honesty in all walks of life is indeed very important. After having been personally involved in the shale gas extraction issue for more than two years now, it is my experience that the opposition to shale gas extraction in NY and PA is very much a grassroots movement. I think there are very few people who are following the lead of ProPublica or any other news source or, for that matter, any large environmental organization. In fact, I think the large environmental organizations had to be convinced by us little guys to pay more attention to this critical issue.

In all honesty, our main source of information has been the people who have already suffered because of shale gas extraction. Many of us have also seen with our own eyes what shale gas extraction does to the land and its people. We have seen the well pads and we have seen the water tanks sitting beside the homes that no longer have reliable water supplies. Further,  because of the Internet, we have been in regular and frequent contact with people from all across the country who have suffered because of gas drilling. Some of those folks have visited NY and PA and spoken to various concerned groups here.

All that anyone really has to do is to talk to someone who has suffered the bad consequences of drilling to find out what a terrible impact those consequences can have. And yes, there are some people who get rich from the drilling, and many of them are quite pleased. But the price that is being paid for that wealth is too high. We all want our nation and our own regions of the world to prosper. That is one of the reasons I am opposed to shale gas extraction. I think that in the not-so-very-long run,  shale gas extraction will create more poverty and hardship than wealth. I was raised in PA coal country and I am very familiar what the bust phase of a boom/bust cycle feels and looks like. I think our country can and should do better, but as long as corporations like Halliburton won’t even cooperate without a subpoena, nothing is ever going to improve.

Mary,

Do yourself and a vast many others a favor and with an “open-mind” read the “fact” listed on the attached url…

http://marcellusdrilling.com/2010/05/energy-in-depth-sets-the-record-straight-on-hydraulic-fracturing/

It’s easy to pass hearsay off as fact as long as it’s what we want to hear.

Respects,

Dean Lowry

Dean,

I am well acquainted with Energy In Depth and I read their “information” routinely. They are a gas industry group, with a clear vested interest in promoting hydraulic fracturing. This is how their own “about” page describes their organization:

“Who We Are

America’s natural gas and oil producers – the majority of which are small, independent businesses with less than 12 employees- are committed to strengthening America through the safe, responsible and environmentally-friendly development of domestic energy resources. Together, we’re working to keep energy affordable here at home, creating new jobs and minimizing our dangerous dependence on foreign oil.”

I assure you that my own information is not based solely on “hearsay” as you put it. As I explained above, some of it is indeed information gathered from landowners across the country who have suffered the ill effects of shale gas extraction, but I have also seen with my own eyes what shale gas extraction has done to Dimock, PA. In many cases I have also verified accounts provided by those in other parts of the country by reading numerous news articles from those parts of the country. Moreover, I have read analyses written by and heard lectures given by engineers, scientists, and economists with relevant expertise who are gravely concerned about the effects of shale gas extraction. I also read the very informative comments and analysis provided by the NYC DEP, which expressed many scientifically-grounded concerns about shale gas extraction, some of which were specific to the NYC watershed but many of which apply to the entire state.  The Council of Scientific Society Presidents, which represents the leadership of more than 1.4 million scientists in over 150 scientific disciplines, had this to say about shale gas extraction: “The production of natural gas (methane) from shales represents a major new domestic energy resource that can reduce reliance on imported crude oil. However, the development of methane from shale formations is another example where policy has preceeded [sic] adequate scientific study. Economic recovery of methane from shales requires the drilling of long-reach horizontal wells and the high-pressure injection of millions of gallons of water with chemical additives to release the gas
through a process called hydrofracking. Despite the utilization of millions of gallons of and the flow back to the surface of these injected fluids, hydrofracking is exempted from the Clean Water Act. Exploitation of the Marcellus Shale Formation in the Appalachian basin, recognized as the
largest shale-gas reserve in the U.S., could occur across a five-state region. Prior, thorough science-based studies are required to evaluate the
impact of massive shale development on rural land uses, water supply and quality, and full-life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions.``

Instead of spending so much time and money trying to convince the general public that unsafe shale gas extraction is safe, I think the shale gas industry should go back to the drawing board and spend its time and money there. The shale gas industry is its own worst enemy: it will never improve its very serious shortcomings if it keeps trying to deny that those shortcomings exist.

Regards,
Mary

Mary,

  I guess it’s futile to discuss our different perspectives on the technology. I would say that it, like so many others, is getting better over time. We are learning from our mistakes and will continue to do so. My greatest objection to the prolonged moratorium is that it has suspended the rights of many landowners, who have educated themselves on the risk versus the rewards and would like to capitalize on their mineral “rights”. Maybe if all of the people opposed to drilling on their land would sign up on a list saying “we are never going to develop my mineral rights” and place no value on them. The great state of New York could figure out a way to compensate those that wish to for their loss of their rights. At today’s “low natural gas prices”, they are only losing approximately $60,000 per acre in lease signing bonuses and royalty payments. It probably doesn’t mean much to someone that has a home sitting atop a half acre lot, but can you imagine if you were about to lose you 100 acre farm because you can’t pay the increased taxes?
  I was watching a program on Gasoline filling stations tank leakage the other day and saw where additives to gasoline that were engineered to increase gas mileage and performance have found there way into various water tables in and around a city in California. I don’t believe the Scientist that discovered the additives effect on the gasoline ever considered how hard it would be to remove from the water if it was to find it’s way there or that it even would. The cost to the Oil Companies to purify the water in the area is around $300,000,000, which they have agreed to pay and are constructing plants to do so. I hope the Natural Gas Industry isn’t held accountable for that as well. 
Respects,

Dean Lowry

Rebecca DeWitt

Nov. 20, 2010, 4:33 p.m.

Dean, I’ve read your arguments with complete dismay. First, let me say that if what you say is true that ONLY .72% of the fresh water used in the natural gas drilling process (and I do question your sources but that’s another matter), when you do the math of even .72% of billions of gallons of “frack waste,” it becomes a huge amount of non-biodegradable fluid to contend with.
  Second, I’m a landowner in an adjoining county and we chose not to lease our land, even though we could certainly use the money. Yet because so many others in our area have chosen to lease, we suffer from regulations such as compulsory integration that take our mineral rights away. What about our constitutional rights in this instance?
  And finally, I would just say that I support a complete ban for reasons that have been spelled out very well by others before me. We’ll have to agree to disagree on that point. Yet this moratorium was approved so the issues of contaminating the earth, water, and air that all of us must share can be thoroughly studied; is this not a fair decision? We all stand to suffer from the well-documented pollution associated with natural gas drilling, whether people own land or not. And further, we will all pay for damage to roads, and other infrastructure, regardless of whether we have land to lease or not. It’s too bad this has become such a divisive issue - neighbor to neighbor - but I’ll close by saying I recently attended a lecture given by a world-class Cornell engineering faculty who’s made it his life’s work to study fracture mechanics…long before Slick Water High Volume Hydro-fracturing was ever dreamed of. His estimate is that the process is 98.5% safe. That sounds good until one works out what that percentage actually means: 1 out of every 150 wells will have some major failure. Would you go up in an airplane if 1 out of every 150 planes were likely to be victimized by terrorists? Personally, I’d stay home.
Respectfully, Becky

Becky,

Seriously? Did they really say “major” failure? In reality, Hydraulic Fracturing has been used in this country over 1,100,000 times. To date, there are 16 cases where it has been linked to ground water contamination. Once again “in reality” the Marcellus Shale may be the safest shale in the US to fracture as it is what is termed “a tight formation” meaning that is has been trapped between two hard limestone formations, the “Onondoda” beneath it and the “Tully” on top, which prevents the fracing process from having any effect on the other mile of various formations between it and the surface. As far as these “horribly dangerous toxic chemicals” contained in frac water, our engineer raised a lot of eyebrows when he told how he generally sticks his hand in the flowback and sticks it to his tongue to test for salt and sand in it. I would assume that 1.5% of incidents would include a variety of accidents which seldom would be considered of much consequence as it certainly isn’t an accurate depiction of “Major” incidents. So far, in Pennsylvania alone, there have been around 2,150 Marcellus Shale wells drilled in the last 4-5 years. Have you seen 325 “major” incidents? No, you haven’t and in fact the real problems we’ve seen are due to surface spillage (mainly fluid pits dug to shallow to allow for rainfall and runoff) which closed-loop drilling completely eliminates. As for your airplane analogy, I remember hearing George Carlin say one time that the odds of someone carrying a bomb on a plane are like 1 in a million while the odds of there being two people carrying a bomb on the same plane are astronomical like 1 in ten billion, so he always carried one just to increase his odds.

Respects,

Dean Lowry

This article is part of an ongoing investigation:
Fracking

Fracking: Gas Drilling's Environmental Threat

The promise of abundant natural gas is colliding with fears about water contamination.

The Story So Far

The country’s push to find clean domestic energy has zeroed in on natural gas, but cases of water contamination have raised serious questions about the primary drilling method being used. Vast deposits of natural gas, large enough to supply the country for decades, have brought a drilling boom stretching across 31 states. The drilling technique being used, called hydraulic fracturing, shoots water, sand and toxic chemicals into the ground to break up rock and release the gas.

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