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No economic boom, inadequate tax revenues, low royalties, wrecked roads, bad water.

So what else is new?

From NewsInferno.com 9/13/2010:

Fracking in Arkansas Falling Short of Promise

It appears that hydraulic fracturing in Arkansas’ Fayetteville shale isn’t living up to past promises. According to a report in Arkansas Business, depressed natural gas prices have eaten away at royalties and at the state’s severance tax, which was designed to raise revenue to offset the damage the industry causes to roadways.

A gas industry-funded study released in 2008 promised that fracking in Arkansas would have an $18 billion economic impact over five years. The year the study was released, the price of natural gas peaked above $11 per thousand cubic feet (MCF). Since then, Arkansas Business says the national average wellhead price has rarely topped $5 per MCF. That’s significantly cut the amount of royalties gas drillers have paid to mineral rights owners.

When the severance tax was increased in 2008, it was projected to bring in $57 million in its first year. But between the law’s passage in April 2008 and its effective date on Jan. 1, 2009, the price of gas dropped by half. That means that dollars available for road repair have been in short supply, Arkansas Business said.

. . . . .

While the economic boom promised by fracking has yet to materialize, environmental concerns are mounting. According to Arkansas Business, complaints to the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) surged in fiscal year that ended on June 30, 2009. That year, ADEQ’s Water Division received 108 complaints related to oil and gas activities and performed 216 inspections. As the 2010 fiscal year drew to a close in June, the number of complaints was about 80.

. . . . .

Some… water contamination incidents that have come out of Arkansas since fracking took off there … include:

• In 2009, a Bee Branch family reported their drinking water turned gray and cloudy and had noxious odors after fracking of a nearby natural gas well owned by Southwestern Energy Company.

• A Center Ridge family reported that in 2007, after hydraulic fracturing of wells owned by Southwestern Energy Company, their water turned red or orange and looked like it had clay in it.

• Another Center Ridge homeowner reported that after hydraulic fracturing of a well owned by Southwestern Energy Company in 2008 his water turned brown, smelled bad, and had sediment in it.

• In 2007, a family in Pangburn reported contamination of drinking water during hydraulic fracturing of a nearby natural gas well owned by Southwestern Energy Company. The water turned muddy and contained particles that were “very light and kind of slick” and resembled pieces of leather.

• In 2008, Charlene Parish, another Bee Branch resident, reported contamination of drinking water during hydraulic fracturing of a nearby natural gas well owned by Southwestern Energy Company. Her water smelled bad, turned yellow, and filled with silt.

See entire piece at http://www.newsinferno.com/archives/23905

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EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson: “Natural gas is an important part of our nation’s energy future, and it’s critical that the extraction of this valuable natural resource does not come at the expense of safe water and healthy communities.” -EPA press release, 9/09/10

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Okay.  Most of the conventional natural gas is gone.  What’s left?  Unconventional natural gas such as coalbed methane and shale gas.  What does production of unconventional gas require?  Yup, hydraulic fracturing.

If EPA doesn’t know if hydraulic fracturing is safe, and it’s just embarking on a study to determine whether it’s safe, how can Jackson say, “natural gas is an important part of our nation’s energy future”?

Isn’t that putting the cart before the horse?

Or, in fact, is the study’s outcome already determined?

You could be excused for thinking so.   EPA’s meetings around the country have been carefully engineered to avoid meaningful citizen participation, with 2-minute time limits on comments, and a slot-assignment system that prevents a group of citizens from ceding pooled time to a designated speaker who could then make a comment of reasonable length that would allow significant content.

We have a news flash for you, Ms Jackson: Natural gas extraction is already coming at the expense of safe water and healthy communities.   It has been for years.  And while which aspects of the extraction process are responsible for which health and community effects are nice distinctions that bureaucrats not living with gas extraction think they have the luxury of debating at length, a lot of Americans in 32 states living in a personal hell because of  natural gas extraction think those distinctions are a bit academic.  They don’t care whether the contamination of their water is due to drilling or fracturing.  They don’t care whether their air is being poisoned by fracking waste ponds, drilling compressors, or condensate tanks.

They’d just like to have their lives back.

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From the Desk of Senator Tom Libous
April 27, 2010

Dear ———-,

DEC announced last week that permit applications in the Syracuse and New York City watersheds will be excluded from their environmental review process. All applications for horizontal drilling in these watersheds would need to be reviewed on a case by case basis.

You can read DEC’s full announcement by clicking here.

What does that mean to us? With Syracuse and NYC watersheds having extra protection, this could do two things:

1) Help stop some of the New York City opposition to drilling.

2) Free up DEC’s review efforts to focus on permit applications outside of those areas.

We might see safe gas drilling begin sooner than we thought.

But, we still face opposition from New York City Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. You can read his statement on www.SafeDrillingNow.com. We have to keep fighting.

Best wishes,

Tom

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Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? : Two maps, two standards, part 2

Then again, maybe he reads our blog…

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MB writes:

I just attempted to call Grannis about this decision to do separate
reviews for NYC and Syracuse. I told the operator what my call was
about and I was transferred to the Division of Mineral Resources. I
asked them to please transfer me back to Grannis’s office. After I was
on hold for several minutes, someone answered my call and when I
explained that I was calling to register my displeasure at the plan to
give unequal treatment to different parts of the state, I was told
that they are not taking calls on this matter except through the
Division of Mineral Resources. She said that I could email my concerns
to Grannis, and then they would be documented. I told her I knew the
decision was not hers and I was not angry with her, but that I was
furious that the commissioner’s office is not taking calls on this
matter. I went ahead and told her that I was opposed to the unequal
treatment–she said she was keeping no record of the call. I told her
that I understood that, but I was telling her my position so that if
she got many, many similar calls, she could go and tell her superiors
that she had gotten a lot of calls in opposition to the unequal
treatment, even if the individual calls were not recorded. I also told
her that I have lived in and paid taxes in NY for over 25 years, and
that I bet if Chesapeake were to call about something they would get
through.

People calling about Walter Hang’s effort to get the dSGEIS withdrawn
have been getting similar treatment.

We live in this state and they are not taking our calls! Are they
deliberately trying to piss us off or what? Do they think this will
make us LESS determined to stop this nightmare? If I sound furious,
that’s because I am.

If you have not already done so, please consider calling and sending
emails to the appropriate officials to express your displeasure at the
DEC’s recent decision to create separate regulations for the NYC and
Syracuse watersheds. Phone numbers and email addresses are:

DEC Commissioner Alexander “Pete” Grannis:
518-402-8545
pgrannis@gw.dec.state.ny.us

EPA Region 2 Administrator Judith Enck:
212-637-5000
enck.judith@epa.gov

Governor David Paterson
518-474-8390
governor@chamber.state.ny.us

When contacting Grannis and Paterson, you may also wish to complain
about the fact that, as of last Friday, Grannis’s office was NOT
accepting phone calls on this issue: they were instead transferring
the calls to our “friends” over in the Division of Mineral Resources.

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Last week, high-profile news stories indicated that “DEC won’t allow gas drilling in ‘the watershed.’”  Is that true?

You may have heard or read that the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has decided not to allow gas drilling within the Catskill and Delaware watersheds, which supply water to NYC.

Don’t believe it.

On April 23rd the DEC announced that it will exclude unfiltered water supplies from its generic environmental impact statement. Instead gas drilling applicants will have to go through their own environmental review process to obtain permits. [1] In the 1992 GEIS there are other situations which trigger an additional environmental review.

The main question is why did the DEC decide to release this statement now, instead of including it in the final Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (SGEIS)?

Here are three good reasons for this public relations stunt:

1. To diminish public opposition

Late last October, just before the start of the public review of the draft SGEIS, Aubrey K. McClendon, the head of Chesapeake Energy, announced that his company would not drill in the Catskill and Delaware watersheds. However, he was not willing to tear up their current leases, or sign a binding agreement never to drill there. Nor could he speak for the dozens of other gas drilling companies. The public saw through his maneuver and submitted over 14,000 comments to the draft.

It seems that Pete Grannis has been taking lessons from the CEO of Chesapeake Energy.

2. To try an end run around current proposed legislation

Over two dozen bills have been introduced in the NYS legislature about gas drilling. One that is gaining momentum calls for a state-wide moratorium until 120 days after the EPA finishes its report on hydrofracking. [2] Another proposed bill calls for a state-wide ban.

The last thing the DEC and the gas industry want is a multi-year moratorium. This press release is merely an attempt to stop these bills.

3. To try to avoid some legal requirements of their environmental review

NYS is in a very difficult position because no matter what they do they are going to get sued once the SGEIS is finalized. This move is an attempt to avoid some of those legal issues. However, it’s not likely to succeed since it simply creates a new legal challenge.

The point is this: gas drilling would still be allowed in unfiltered water supplies. The DEC’s decision does not block gas drilling anyplace, and it may not be legal.

[1]. DEC Press Release: DEC Announces Separate Review for Communities With “Filtration Avoidance Determinations”

[2]. Englebright bill, A10490

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Today, two maps to ponder.   Tomorrow, why.

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Toxics Targeting reports:

See un-naturalgas.org’s Resources & Documents page for
Pennsylvania DEP cease & desist order against US Energy

So, why is US Energy still allowed to do business in New York State?

And DEC thinks it can handle

more drilling?

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