Some selections from a Pennsylvania blog
“On the broadcast, Steve Corbett related how he has been unable to get anyone from EnCana to talk with him. They are about to change our world in a very surreal, industrial, and irreversible way – yet are too arrogant to address any of these potentialities with the public.
“Even if you had the perfect company doing all the right things, fracking is still a dirty, radioactive, water wasting, toxin injecting, air polluting, community disrupting, waste producing, land damaging, infrastructure intensive, property devaluing, inefficient way to produce energy. Add on top of that a secretive and entitled corporation – you are begging for trouble.”
Range Resources Corporation (hydrofrackers) filed this with the SEC in 2006 as part of their prospectus:
Our business is subject to operating hazards and environmental regulations that could result in substantial losses or liabilities Oil and natural gas operations are subject to many risks, including well blowouts, craterings, explosions, uncontrollable flows of oil, natural gas or well fluids, fires, formations with abnormal pressures, pipeline ruptures or spills, pollution, releases of toxic natural gas and other environmental hazards and risks. If any of these hazards occur, we could sustain substantial losses as a result of: • Injury or loss of life; • Severe damage to or destruction of property, natural resources and equipment; • Pollution or other environmental damage; • Clean-up responsibilities; • Regulatory investigations and penalties; or • Suspension of operations. As we begin drilling to deeper horizons and in more geologically complex areas, we could experience a greater increase in operating and financial risks due to inherent higher reservoir pressures and unknown downhole risk exposures. Source:Range Resources Prospectus
It is like a war zone up here in Dimock. Helicopters hovering overhead all the time dropping their seismic testing “pods” – spooking my horses. Workers in the fields and woods stringing miles of seismic testing wire – trucks heavy equipment driving by constantly – dust – noise – skies lit up at night from the drilling rigs – constant noise from the drilling and fracking. Drillers park their chemical trucks next door here at work and I walk over sometimes and try to read the names of the chemical containers – can’t understand the names of the chemicals but they all have skull and crossbones next to them – what would one think that means! Sorry for the rant – just have to vent once in a while. Chuck.
… our family has experienced in a very direct and personal way, the devastating impact these gas leases can have on individual property owners. Now we wonder whether anyone will want to buy my Dad’s home, and, if so, at what price? Who would have thought that the beautiful woods, meadows and ponds surrounding my Dad’s home would someday become a liability rather than an asset?
For my family, this recent experience was a wake up call. We applaud your efforts on behalf of clean water and preserving a livable environment for the residents of the Back Mountain area. These efforts serve the larger community and are clearly the more important mission of your organization. However, before it is too late, we also want to bring to the attention of Back Mountain area residents the potential impact of these leases on their property values. Like my Dad, many area residents may be unaware that a gas lease exists near their home and the activities that are allowed under the lease (testing, drilling, laying pipeline, installing lease roads, installing pumps, compressors, separators, tanks, power stations, transporting oil and gas by pipeline or otherwise, “and all other rights and privileges necessary, incident to, or convenient for the economical operation of said Leasehold Premises…” quoting from the Memorandum of Oil and Gas Lease impacting my Dad’s home). I hope that you will communicate our fears to the local area elected representatives. It is truly a scandal that at all levels – national, state and local – elected officials have failed to protect ordinary citizens with reasonable regulation of the gas industry.
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Remember how the landman said that when the drillers were done, all we’d see was a “Christmas tree”? We’d “never even know they’d been there”?
Funny, he never mentioned the compressor stations, and the access roads. Oh, and the fumes. And the poisoned water. And the traffic. And the break-ins.
see original post and larger image at
For Stephanie’s story, see Stephanie Hallowich Speaks Out at Faces of Frackland
Gas drilling will be good for business, its boosters say.
At another must-see post over at Breathing is Political:
“Mortgage Troubles on Leased Properties,” a realtor says otherwise:
Comment by Jennifer Canfield — April 20, 2010 @ 2:57 pm
Wheeling, WV Wheeling News-Register story, 3/8/2010
SILVER HILL – As Chesapeake Appalachia prepares to drill for Marcellus Shale natural gas in Oglebay Park, Wetzel County resident Raymond Renaud says those living near the proposed drilling sites may get far more than they bargained for.
Renaud, whose residence lies about a mile from a Chesapeake drilling well in the Silver Hill area, isn’t talking about money. He’s talking about the impact he and other members of the Wetzel County Action Group have seen on the surrounding area and residents’ way of life since Chesapeake began drilling there about three years ago.
“Our first concern is the traffic, by far,” said Renaud. “The situation has become quite dangerous.”
The winding roads leading to the drilling sites, he noted, are simply not designed for large trucks to travel safely.
“Our infrastructure does not support the activity. Our roads are such that a tractor-trailer simply cannot maintain his lane around our turns,” Renaud said.
He added that Chesapeake has been cooperative in taking steps to minimize the danger to residents, including putting escort vehicles in front of tractor-trailers and providing security vehicles to observe traffic conditions.
“Without those steps, we would have had countless fatalities,” said Renaud. Still, he estimated three to four accidents per day occur in the Silver Hill area involving gas drilling vehicles “going into a skid, sliding across the center line and off the road.”
Renaud said Brock Ridge and County Road 89, two major access roads for Silver Hill residents, “have taken a major beating” as they’re not designed to bear the load of so many large trucks. He said to Chesapeake’s credit, the company repaved both roads at its own expense – but the repairs haven’t held.
“They finished in the late fall, and Brock Ridge is completely destroyed,” said Renaud. “Their new paving job is gone. It’s a mud road.
“We’re talking about massive road failure. … We’re talking about some pretty massive effects. If your road totally disappears, that’s a pretty massive effect,” he continued. And during the winter, said Renaud, those roads are blocked by oversized vehicles multiple times each day.
“Locals who used to drive Brock Ridge now go out of their way and use other roads,” he said, noting he’s also a member of the Wetzel County Emergency Medical Service. “It’s normally a 14-minute trip, and I was an hour and a half getting to the Silver Hill Fire Department.”
Water pollution also is a concern, Renaud noted. He said in snowy weather, the company lays down “tremendous volumes” of cinders so its trucks can gain traction. When the snow melts, the cinders mix with the water, creating “a lava flow of cinders going into the creeks,” Renaud claims.
“The worst part about this, when it dries up, you’re inhaling tremendous volumes of cinder dust. The summer irritant for us is dust. … People have to power wash their homes,” he said.
Another worry stems from an industry process called hydraulic fracturing, or “fracing,” in which million of gallons of water, sand and chemicals are blasted into each well to break up the tightly compacted shale. Once the rock is fractured, some of the water – estimates range from 15 percent to 40 percent – comes back up the well. When it does, it can be five times saltier than seawater and laden with dissolved solids such as sulfates and chlorides, which conventional sewage and drinking water treatment plants are not equipped to remove.
Chesapeake officials have maintained they “aggressively implement best practices to reduce the possibility of leaks, spills and discharges” with regard to fracing.
Another industry practice, called flaring, occurs when drilling companies burn off surplus combustible vapors.
“They literally burn it out of the stack. Our concern is, we don’t know how toxic that gas is,” said Renaud. “If you live downwind or in a hollow, it’s a gagging odor. … It’s just not very pleasant.”
Renaud believes all these factors are adding up to plummeting property values for landowners near natural gas drilling sites.
“I moved here in the ’70s,” he said. “I moved to get away from the city, to live in a nice rural atmosphere, and now I live in an industrial zone. ”
If you live on a rural road and experience 40 trucks going by your house a day, you would have a hard time selling your house. … These people are now trying to get Chesapeake to buy their property because they can’t recover what they paid for the property. Mortgages outstanding are greater than the value of the property today,” Renaud claimed.
Renaud is calling on government officials to step in and help “exploit the Marcellus Shale in a way that benefits the citizens of Wetzel County and West Virginia.”
“I really don’t fault the gas development companies, because if they went out of their way to satisfy what we’re asking for, it’s going to increase their costs,” he said. “They wouldn’t be able to compete. It’s an industrywide thing. To me, this is a social issue that requires local, state and federal government.”
Please go to the story to see reader comments section
In a story published on 8/27/09, Jon Hurdle of Reuters reports:
U.S. finds water polluted near gas-drilling sites
PHILADELPHIA, Aug 27 (Reuters) – U.S. government scientists have for the first time found chemical contaminants in drinking water wells near natural gas drilling operations, fueling concern that a gas-extraction technique is endangering the health of people who live close to drilling rigs.
The Environmental Protection Agency found chemicals that researchers say may cause illnesses including cancer, kidney failure, anemia and fertility problems in water from 11 of 39 wells tested around the Wyoming town of Pavillion in March and May this year.
. . . . .
Evidence of a link between gas drilling and water contamination would set back development of a clean-burning fuel promoted by the Obama administration as crucial to the future of U.S. energy production.
. . . . .
“There may be an indication of groundwater contamination by oil and gas activities,” said the 44-page report, which received little public attention when released on Aug. 11. “Many activities in gas well drilling (and) hydraulic fracturing … involve injecting water and other fluids into the well and have the potential to create cross-contamination of aquifers.”
Among the contaminants found in some of the wells was 2-butoyethanol, or 2-BE, a solvent used in natural gas extraction, which researchers say causes the breakdown of red blood cells, leading to blood in the urine and feces, and can damage the kidneys, liver, spleen and bone marrow.
Greg Oberley, an EPA scientist who has been testing the water samples, said the agency did not set out to prove that hydraulic fracturing caused groundwater contamination, but was responding to complaints from local residents that their well water had become discolored or foul-smelling or tasted bad.
The investigation was the EPA’s first in response to claims that gas drilling is polluting water supplies, he said. Testing will continue.
LINK TO GAS INDUSTRY?
While the EPA team has not determined how the chemicals got into the water, many are associated with gas drilling, Oberley said in a telephone interview.
“The preponderance of those compounds in the area would be attributable to the oil and gas industry,” he said.
. . . . .
John Fenton, a farmer in Pavillion, a rural community of about 150 people, said residents blame gas drilling for a range of illnesses including rare cancers, miscarriages and nervous system disorders.
Families with contaminated water wells have been advised by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention not to drink the water, which in some cases was black and oily, with a petroleum-like sheen, and a smell of gas, Fenton said.
“The stress is incredible,” Fenton told Reuters. “People have built their lives and businesses here. What’s it all worth now?”
Does Schreiner’s ‘right’ to extract natural gas supersede residents’ right to clean water and safe homes? And does the industry’s ‘right’ to process natural gas supersede the neighborhood’s right to clean air?
These folks didn’t move into this neighborhood knowing their air and water was going to be ruined. They had good water and air. Drilling and processing of (un)natural gas by someone else has taken their property.
June 9, 2009
“Our neighbor who has been out of his house for 11 weeks brought a sample of his water from his newly drilled well up to our house, and it still catches on fire- we got video again. Plus, now there is some weird black stuff in it- it’s a little like oil but a little like charcoal or something. Very strange. Schreiner apparently didn’t know that our neighbor already tested his water, because he told him that he has great water now and can move back in! I just can’t believe that. Also, it appears that Schreiner has lied to State Representative Martin Causer’s secretary Rhonda because he told her that the Bailey family was already back in their home- definitely not true.
“Another neighbor told me that he heard that Schreiner has been kicked out of New York state and Sheffield, PA for bad practice before. I’d sure like to try and find those details.
“Another neighbor has a new well and a reverse osmosis system, and his water is still bad. DEP alluded to the idea that as long as they can get good water out of one tap in the house for drinking, then that will be all that Schreiner has to do. Ridiculous.
“The stripper plant is still way too noisy and the vapors coming off of it are not getting any better. The couple of neighbors who have detectors in their homes (I think CO2 and methane) have had the alarms go off several times. These are issues that we are going to stress at the next township meeting on the 22nd.”
June 16, 2009
“My neighbor who has been out of his home for 12 weeks now was forced to move back in tonight. His water still catches on fire, but Schreiner said that he’s done and won’t pay for a hotel anymore. DEP claims that it’s perfectly safe… even though when my neighbor runs the washer there is free methane left in the machine after the laundry is done! Unbelievable. Schreiner says he put $100,000 into addressing our problems, and even though not one house has their issues fixed, he is “done” and if we want more we just have to sue him. He’s even been giving State Representative Causer’s secretary crap telling her to stop calling him with our complaints and that he is just going to stop answering his phone.”
DEP, why do you side with industry?
It’s time to take the oil & gas industry in hand.
From Calvin Tillman’s blog: http://www.baddish.blogspot.com/
When taking over as mayor of DISH, the first question that was asked by the local media outlets was to respond to the fact that our property values as a whole had decreased considerably from the past year. This is where small towns and cities get the bulk of their funding, through taxes on these property values. Therefore, if the taxable value goes down, naturally the revenue for the town does as well. Now I must say that I am opposed to unnecessary taxation, and therefore have done everything I can to make the taxes here the lowest in the area, and succeeded. However, the town has doubled in size over the last couple of years, yet the taxable value continued to drop. This baffled me how essentially the total value of the town drops every year, while were experiencing massive growth.
Not only did it baffle me, but it concerned me. As most small towns do, we use the county tax assessor’s office to perform the tax collection service for us, so they were my first call. When they explained the mineral values were the cause of this drop, and that was sixty percent of our tax base, I was again stunned. As you know we are located in the middle of the Barnett Shale, and have had a great deal of exploration in this area. So what would cause the values to continue to drop? This was also during the timeframe when natural gas prices were climbing to all time record highs.
As I investigated the source of the decline in my town it all started to become apparent. The property values not tied to minerals have continued to drop. I believe this is mostly due to the massive natural gas compressors, pipelines and metering stations. They have all but made the surface property here worthless; however, that does not account for the minerals which is over half of our taxable values. I then found that on average, each well drilled loses fifty percent of its production after the first year. That is a huge drop in production in only one year. So that tells me that the only way to maintain the same mineral value is to drill fifty percent more wells every year. So if you have ten wells this year, you would need to drill five more next year just to maintain the same production.
Many of the local cities have went on a sort of spending spree with the new found wealth from the natural gas minerals, and are now finding themselves in a financial crunch. The facts that I taught myself through this simple question from an intuitive reporter has made a world of difference on how I approached this problem here in DISH. We are frugal at best here, making the most of every dollar we get. We have cut the town debt in half, built a massive park, a library, repaved roads and performed substantial upgrades to town facilities and done this while lowering taxes and not dipping into the emergency fund we have in only two years.
To the real point, is what do minerals play into all of this? As previously mentioned we have over half of our tax dollars that come from the minerals, more specifically the revenue we received in 2007 was made up of 56% mineral values, in 2008 that number jumped to 64%. We have not gotten the completed numbers for 2009, but they will likely be similar. The dollar figures for this are 14, 500,000 in 2007 and 22,277,000 in 2008 in property values from mineral.
On the surface the benefit from this industry seems huge. We are a small town and they double our value. But I also compare this to the drug “heroin”, due to seeing the other towns which have gotten addicted to th e drug and when the drug goes away, (when they price of natural gas goes down 75% as it has), they find themselves in a financial crisis. Also, most people do not take into account how much it costs to have this activity going on. I can only explain what goes on in DISH, TX, but will attempt to explain the drugs side affects.
First and foremost this exploration destroys roads, which are very expensive to maintain and replace. None of the existing roads were designed to withstand the constant pounding from an 80,000 pound waste-water truck. Nor were they designed to handle the larger equipment that is used to drill and refracture the wells. To build roads to handle this traffic can cost millions of dollars.
If the municipality owns the roads, they can force the companies to sign a road use agreement, which forces them to pitch in and help the roads. Most of the cities in the area have agreements like this in place. If they do not, then they are foolish, and are likely costing20their taxpayers a great deal of money by not forcing the companies to pay. However, the drilling companies are going to take whatever measures they can to keep from paying damages to the roads. The City of Argyle found out the hard way when they were sued by XTO over road work.
Here in DISH many of the roads are not owned by the town. This is both good and bad; it is good because we don’t have to pay for the major upkeep of these roads. However, if we don’t own the road we don’t have much control either. For example, we have implemented a weight restriction on all of the roads that we do own, but we can not enforce this on roads that we do not own. Unfortunately, the county does not have the capability to force these companies to have road agreements and pay for what they destroy. Therefore, the replacement and repairs come from the general taxation, or bond elections, not directly from the gas companies. So as you might guess it is a juggling match20for the counties to keep the roads drivable for the average vehicle.
One example of that is Eakin Cemetery Road, which goes through part of DISH, but is owned by the county. A pipeline was being installed in this area, and the equipment used in this process is massive. Please note that the pipelines must be included in the cost of this exploration, even though they contribute little to the towns or property owners, and take a lot in return. I will discuss how bad they hurt the towns later.
When this line went in the companies used Eakin Cemetery Road to access the route. They completely destroyed this road and virtually made in impassible for the average vehicle. You could literally see the grooves where the truck tires that hauled massive equipment went. The pavement was cracked and torn from this equipment and the pipeline companies did nothing to prevent or repair this. And though the county does work hard to keep the roads in reasonable shape, when something like this happens in takes a while to plan the repair; therefore, the citizens here were forced to drive on the impassible road for quite a while until repairs were made.
There is another impact that can be recognized quickly, and that is the affect that the exploration has directly on surface values. I am sure that there are some who believe the propaganda and are fine with having a well or pipeline in their front yard. However, regardless of what you may have heard, they are the exception not rule, especially if you have a small population of mineral owners in your community. The average person will not purchase the property right next to a well site or compressor, providing they are made aware of it. Unfortunately, most of the mineral owners in this area have kept the minerals and moved on to someplace else. However, when they have tried to sell their property with wells and pipelines on them, it has not been successful.
Although you may see a boost in your tax rolls for the short term, you will pay in the long run with the drop in property values. For a small growing community like DISH it especially provides an obstacle for quality growth. There have been four large tracts of property for sale in DISH for several years with no real interest in purchasing the property. If you do manage to get some interest in the property, it will likely be something like a pipeyard or something else that continues to devalue the surrounding property. So getting quality growth in an area that has a large amount of exploration proves to be a large hurdle if not impossible.
The above paragraph dealt with the exploration of the mineral, now we must consider the pipelines, and appurtenances to these pipelines, such as compressors or metering stations. These facilities have dealt us a very harsh blow without giving much in return. This is highlighted by a previous illustration of the pipeyard. The gentleman who unfortunately lives next door to this compressor site sold off a piece of property to a developer who built 18 homes that average around $200,000 each. However, after the compressors were there, he has not been able to give his property away. He was only able to lease some of it to a company that stores pipe. That is the best he can do now, and that in itself is very low quality growth and makes the area even less desirable.
Another illustration that has been used by me before is the gentleman who has had 63 acres for sale now for several years. He purchased the property as an investment, and now has three pipelines and an above ground valve. He can not give this property away. As he reaches retirement age his retirement has been stolen from him. This is no different than Enron or any other scandal, only it has been made legal thievery. There are two other pieces of property that have been for sale for several years, one of which is a large parcel of about 70 acres and the other is about 10=2 0acres.
The above examples are heart wrench when you look at how much it has cost the property owners, and only one of the above mentioned owners has any substantial mineral interest. Therefore, they others are merely victims of circumstance. However, as this gets to the point of whether this all is really worth it, I believe that if all of these property were sold and developed it would add somewhere around $20,000,000 in property values, which is more than the average in mineral values over the last few years. I also believe this is a very conservative estimation, it could be more.
So would you rather have homes than minerals? Homes in theory will increase in value over the long term while minerals will drop. Although, this has not been case the last couple of years, in the long term this has held true. Also, natural gas is a commodity, and its prices are much more volatile than housing. For example=2 0in the last couple of years the lowest price of natural gas is about 25% of the highest; therefore, you have seen a 75% drop in prices in a little over a year.
In DISH we have focused on overcoming the boom and trying to get quality development. We have worked with a number of developers to annex their property into the city. All three of the major annexations we have had since I became mayor, have been solely to protect them from the development of the minerals and total destruction of the surface values that accompany it. This is not saying that we do not allow drilling; we just force the companies to do it responsibly. We have a pad site that is right in the middle of one of these subdivisions and it really does not look that bad. It is lined with an eight foot concrete fence and most of the stuff inside including the tanks is not visible beyond the fence. However, the companies will only do this when they are forced too, they will not volunteer it.
So how about all those mineral owners who have gotten filthy rich? Here in DISH there have been some folks who have made a great deal of money on the minerals. However, most of them had lived here their while life, and had property handed down over the generations, otherwise they only have a small portion of the mineral rights. Therefore, there are only a few that are still alive that have a major portion of the mineral rights, and as previously stated most of them have moved away to someplace that they do not have to deal with the mess that is left behind.
This area was the beginning of the Barnett Shale, if I am not mistaken the first gas producing well in the Barnett Shale, was within 20 miles of DISH. Therefore, the minerals were purchased several years ago, and the leases were quite low in comparison to the massive leases signed last summer. The lease here is somewhere around 16% royalties with anywhere from $1,000 to $1,500 per acre, not the 25% and $25,000 per acre that have been publicized.
So what does the 16% royalty get you? From what I understand, for someone who owns four acres and has a quarter of the mineral rights, they average less than a $100 a month. Therefore, if you have one acre with 100% of the minerals you would get something similar. Therefore, unless you have a massive amount of land with 100% of the minerals, you are not going to get much money. If you are part of the lease, you must also consider the truck traffic, odor, noise, and you just might be fortunate enough to have a high pressure gas pipeline run through your front yard. All of these things accompany the hundred bucks a month. I do not have any mineral rights, if anyone has another illustration please add it to this posting.
So to the point of, is the juice worth the squeeze? From my perspective as a small town mayor and a property owner, I say no! Not in the manner in which it is being done in Texas. I think that with minor regulation it could both provide the natural resources that we need as=2 0well as not totally destroying the surface values and destroying the growth of these areas. For example, there is no process in Texas for the laying or routing of pipelines. The pipeline companies can literally put them anywhere they want without concern for surface owners and other natural resources. Municipalities do have some limited control over the placement of the wells, but not the pipelines.
The items that were discussed were only the things that are easily recognized. I am still learning the affects on air and water quality and to explore the possible health of affects of this exploration. Although I have recently learned that the companies with the compressor site have learned a loophole that allows them to virtually go without regulation in regards to the air emissions they produce. I will share more on this subject as I figure out the specifics. I have the documents; I just have not digested everything yet.
This also does not include the tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees it takes to offer the citizens some minor protection from these companies. Nor does it take into account the hundreds of hours of my time spent researching and campaigning for more regulation for no pay. So you must ask yourself; is the juice is worth the squeeze? I can support any statement that was made in this posting; therefore, if you have more specific questions, please let me know and I will clarify it for you. To those of you who have visited DISH, I doubt you have any questions in regards to the impact the Barnett Shale has had on us.
Mayor, DISH, TX
“Those who say it can not be done, should get out of the way of those that are doing it”
Hamilton, NY 13346
February 13, 2009
Re: Statement Concerning Final Scope ( the “Scope”)for Draft Supplemental Generic
Environmental Impact Statement on the Oil, Gas and Solution Mining Regulatory
SENT BY REGULAR MAIL
Governor David A. Paterson
Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo
Commissioner Alexander B. Grannis
Director Bradley J. Field
I am sending this via e-mail to additional individuals who work for you for whom I have
found e-mail addresses. I would very much appreciate it if you or they would forward my
comments to any and all additional individuals in the Legislature, the Governor’s Office, the
Attorney General’s Office and at the Department of Environmental Conservation who may
have any interest in the above-referenced subject.
I am an attorney living in Madison County. My husband’s family has lived in this area for
fifty years. I have numerous friends and clients who live in the Town of Lebanon, not far
from where I live. In the Town of Lebanon alone, there are currently approximately fifty
drilled wells and yet another thirty are in various stages of development, according to the
Town Supervisor. I have just read all fifty-six pages of the Scope. As a constituent and a
concerned citizen, I am compelled to express my point of view, a point of view that I share
with others in this community, about the need for strict regulation of the gas and oil
industry in Central New York.
While I applaud DEC for considering those issues that are addressed in the Scope, I am
distressed that it is so limited. For this reason, the Scope is a disappointment. While DEC
explains its rationale for limiting the Scope to such a degree, I can’t accept this rationale.
The Scope states that “it is not the Department’s intention or objective to re-open the 1992
Findings for any activity that was reviewed in the GEIS [the 1992 Generic Environmental
Impact Statement] and which will remain consistent.” (Scope at 8). This approach fails in
First, it would seem that DEC made a judgment prior to preparing the Scope – without
considering current evidence – not to revisit the 1992 Findings. DEC apparently assumed
that drawing upon many additional years of experience was not necessary or advisable.
Furthermore, the 1992 Findings are based on research and analysis that took place from
1988 until 1992. Thus, the DEC has made a conscious decision to treat findings and
conclusions that are based upon twenty year old data as current and not worthy of a fresh
look. WHY? The internet revolution had only just begun in 1988. Certainly, no one would
argue that current decisions about IT should be determined by what was state of the art in
the IT world in 1988 or 1992.
Second, Central New York has changed substantially during the past seventeen to twenty
years. Demographics are quite different as is population density. These wells are being
drilled in populous residential areas. I can’t think of any land use planner or zoning board
in the country that wouldn’t think long and hard before permitting an industrial use in a
residential area. The Scope states that the overall well site density is not likely to be
greater now than it was in 1992 (Scope at 39); yet the fact that population density and
development is far greater now than in 1992 has been conveniently ignored. In short, DEC
and the State have lost an important opportunity to conduct a thorough analysis and create
a coherent overall policy concerning oil and gas drilling in this State that would be relevant
in the twenty-first century.
The Scope states: “The State of New York’s official policy, enacted into law, is to ‘conserve,
improve and protect its natural resources and environment…’” (Scope at 2). In addition,
DEC’s job is to protect public health and ensure safety. The very nature of gas drilling in a
populated developed area is incompatible with these policies. Yes, the Environmental
Conservation Law requires DEC to prevent waste of New York’s oil and gas resources and
provide for recovery of those resources. But at what cost and at what degree of risk?
These are questions that absolutely MUST be asked and addressed by our State
government. If DEC does not consider these questions to be within their purview, then it is
incumbent on DEC to prohibit widespread drilling (no matter what technology is being
proposed) and take serious steps to prevent the waste and destruction of our relatively
unspoiled environment until our State government establishes policies and creates laws to
more thoroughly regulate the oil and gas industry.
To be more specific, the interests and needs of the public must be addressed first. Why
must the gas and oil companies (the “Companies”) hold all of the cards while the State’s
people and property are put at risk. Laws need to be amended and/or enacted and
regulations promulgated to accomplish the following:
- The Companies must be accountable to local authorities concerning local issues
and local government must be given the power and authority to enforce local laws,
to which the Companies should be subject just like any other business. The
Companies must be required to carry their weight like any other taxpayer. They
overburden our roads, our first-responders and our resources without contributing
- A state trust fund must be established and funded with Company revenues to be
used in case of damage or destruction to property, wetlands, aquifer, streams,
wildlife, etc. Believe me, the inevitable will occur and our tax dollars should not be
used to clean up the mess.
- The Companies are spending money to influence the outcome of local elections in
an attempt to unseat local officeholders who are working to educate and protect
their constituents. This behavior should be criminalized. The Companies should
stay out of local politics. Local officeholders should be required to disclose
contributions received from the Companies.
- The laws regarding compulsory integration must be revised to make it possible
for a property owner to REFUSE to be forced into a spacing unit. Every property owner
whose property is used to create a spacing unit should be included only
voluntarily. The companies are using compulsory integration law as a weapon
against the people that it was initially designed to protect.
- Seismic testing must not be permitted anywhere along the road right of way
without notification and prior written consent of the owner of the property
adjacent to the right of way. The State should adopt the law of seismic trespass.
- Well drilling within one mile of a municipal water supply or a private well should
be strictly prohibited. If a one mile buffer zone excluding drilling can be created to
protect New York City’s water supply, why would the State not create an equally
large exclusion to protect the water supply of its citizens upstate?
- The chemicals and other additives being used in the hydraulic fracturing process
(or for that matter in any drilling process) must be listed on DEC’s website and
otherwise be made available as a matter of public record. If laws need to be
amended to make this possible, then amend them. The use of known carcinogens
and other chemicals and additives that are a threat to public safety and the
environment should be strictly prohibited.
- State laws must be enacted to ensure that State standards and requirements are at
least as stringent as, if not more stringent than, federal Clean Water Act and Safe
Drinking Water Act requirements from which the oil and gas industry were
exempted by the Bush administration.
- Municipalities must be prohibited from leasing municipal land for drilling and oil
and gas development. This practice presents a clear conflict of interest.
- State lands likewise must not be leased to the Companies. These lands should be
held in trust for the use and enjoyment of the people. First and foremost, the State’s
goal must be the protection of State land for all of us and for future generations, not
for profit. Again, it presents a conflict of interest.
- The Companies are wantonly destroying timber in the process of building access
roads and pipelines. This timber is irreplaceable in our lifetime. Erosion and
sedimentation controls should focus on preserving our forested land, and laws must
be enacted to this end restricting timbering by the Companies.
- Wetlands consisting of less than 12.4 acres should be protected.
- Contrary to statements (Scope at 11) in the Scope, water supplies have been
contaminated, perhaps not by hydraulic fracturing, but I would argue that that
qualifier is of little consequence to those affected. Brookfield is a notable example.
There was a gas well fire in Smyrna at the beginning of the year. Clearly, more
regulation and disclosure is required.
- DEC needs only to rely on a Company’s affidavit, submitted without evidence or
back-up, when considering a permit application. This is ludicrous. Appropriate
measures must be taken to place the onus on the companies to demonstrate
compliance at all stages of the permitting and production process. DEC needs to be
funded at a level that will permit frequent inspections and oversight at the well
sites. If this is not possible, then permitting and production should be slowed and
regulated to the point where adequate oversight and inspection can take place with
the current resources at DEC’s disposal.
- Standards for leases and other legal documents need to be established. Control of
the contents of these documents should not be left in the hands of the Companies
and their often unscrupulous agents. It should be recognized as a matter of public
policy that people with limited resources should not be forced to incur substantial
legal expenses in order to protect themselves against unconscionable practices. If
the State’s policy is to encourage drilling (as it appears to be) then the State first
needs to protect its residents. The Companies and individual people are hardly
evenly matched and State policy and law should take this obvious fact into
consideration. The prices being paid for lease rights and pipeline rights of way
must be a matter of public record. The State must not countenance the Companies’
practice of pitting neighbor against neighbor. This is definitely not sound public
- The Scope cites potential positive impacts from gas development in the 1992 GEIS.
I can’t say the inhabitants of Madison County have felt them. Legislation should be
enacted to require the Companies to put something valuable back into the
community since they are removing something valuable with little or no
compensation to the community. So far, the quality of life of my friends and
neighbors is being adversely affected as they sit by, without any recourse, during a
time of economic uncertainty and watch their property values diminish even
- With respect to areas of historic, architectural and archaeological significance, the
State Historic Preservation Office has determined that portions of Madison County
are indeed eligible for nomination to the National Register. This work was funded
by Stop NYRI, a private local group dedicated to stopping the construction of
proposed power lines. The PSC is the lead agency on this. DEC should interface
with SHPO and take this information into consideration. It is insufficient for DEC to
review only those sites that are listed on the National Register. A declaration of
eligibility should be sufficient, since the only difference is the substantial cost
involved in obtaining the listing, and those maps do exist.
- Minimum setback requirements should be established at boundary line
perimeters. All too often, the Companies are building their access roads right at the
lot line, thereby hurting the adjacent landowner. At the very least, the Companies
should be required to adhere to a setback policy and to mitigate the visual and noise
impacts on the adjacent landowner. The Scope states that “in the absence of any
evidence of environmental degradation having occurred from the lack of …
setbacks…,” recommendations for setbacks are not included in the Scope. I doubt
that you would feel this way if your property were the one being adversely affected.
- Each of the leases being signed has the potential to last for a very long time and
thus to qualify as a taxable transfer under the New York State Real Property
Transfer Tax Law. This is an issue that should be looked into. Again, the landowner
must be shielded from potential liability for these taxes and the Companies should
be contributing something to the State’s coffers if they want the legal protections
afforded by placing their document of record.
The Scope states that the DEC has “far-reaching enforcement authority over the activities it
regulates.” It continues: “It is not, however, the purpose of an environmental impact
statement to provide enforcement recommendations or policies” (Scope at 51). I tend to
agree with this statement. But, then whose responsibility is it and what is being done to
address the points that I, and others before me, have raised. In fact, the Scope, in its final
pages, presents a list of concerns which “require legislative action” – not as comprehensive
as mine, but it’s a start.
Where is the political will to actually address these policy issues and take the legislative
action necessary to level the playing field between the gas companies and your own
constituents? Where is the leadership? By the time you wake up and start thinking about
these things, it will be too late for the people of Central New York. Do you care?