Why is Broome County hiring a lobbyist at taxpayer expense, against the interests of most of its citizens, to lobby for a wealthy & powerful industry that wrote the book on lobbying? (and does very, very well all by itself)

An e-mail from one citizen & taxpayer to Barbara Fiala:

I am writing in regard to Broome County’s decision to hire a lobbyist
to urge Albany not to get “bogged down” in its environmental review of
drilling in the Marcellus Shale.

The shale gas drilling techniques that have come into use over the
last decade were developed in an atmosphere of very poor regulatory
control. A May 19 press release on hydrofracturing from Congressman
Maurice Hinchey
(see http://www.house.gov/list/press/ny22_hinchey/morenews/051909HydraulicFracturing.html)

“More than 1,000 cases of contamination have been documented by
courts and state and local governments in New Mexico, Alabama, Ohio,
Texas, Pennsylvania, and Colorado. In one case, a house exploded after
hydraulic fracturing created underground passageways and methane
seeped into the residential water supply.

A 2004 EPA study, which was haphazardly conducted with a bias
toward a desired outcome, concluded that fracturing did not pose a
risk to drinking water. However, Hinchey noted that the more than
1,000 reported contamination incidents have cast significant doubt on
the report’s findings and the report’s own body contains damaging
information that wasn’t mentioned in the conclusion. In fact, the
study foreshadowed many of the problems now being reported across the
country. ”

We have recently seen drilling-related methane contamination of water
wells in nearby Dimock, PA. Questions still remain as to exactly how
the water in Dimock became contaminated. Once an aquifer is
contaminated, it may be extremely difficult or even impossible to
clean it up. Fortunately, so far, no one has been killed by the
drilling-related explosions that have occurred in water wells, and, in
one case, in a home. But there is certainly no guarantee that we will
continue to be that lucky.

It is often said that New York’s environmental regulations regarding
drilling are superior to those of other states, but a review of the NY
regulations does not bear out that claim. For example, NY’s setbacks
from residences and bodies of water are much smaller than those in
many other areas. Water is becoming increasingly precious as shortages
occur around the world and in other parts of our own country. Areas
possessing clean water are likely to be increasingly desirable in the
future. Our water is our area’s most valuable natural resource and we
should not endanger it.

Last summer and fall, the NYSDEC demonstrated that it did NOT have a
good grasp of the multiple issues involved in shale gas drilling.
Rather, it was members of the public and of local environmental groups
who researched the damage that has occurred from this type of gas
drilling in other areas and then made the NYSDEC aware of that damage
through the informational meetings and draft scope SGEIS hearings held
by the NYSDEC. The NYSDEC received thousands of comments on its draft
scope. Many, many of those comments were NOT in support of drilling.

I do not believe that the NYSDEC is getting bogged down in
bureaucracy. They are understaffed and do not have the resources
needed to deal with this issue in a truly thorough manner. Even if
they had sufficient resources, the environmental review would still
require a great deal of care and time. This is an extremely complex
and technical issue; the drilling’s impacts will be long-lasting and
wide-ranging and are likely to negatively affect not only our water,
but our air, the health of our forests and farmlands, the nature and
desirability of our communities, and the health of our people.

Many Broome County residents are not in favor of this drilling. While
the pro-drilling landowners’ groups may be well organized, it is
important to recognize that most of the residents of this county do
not own large tracts of land, will see little or no financial gain
from the drilling, and may suffer serious personal and financial
losses if their quality of life, their health, and/or the value of
their homes are negatively impacted by the drilling.

I would also like to point out that the current price of natural gas
is quite low, that some experts expect it to remain low for some time,
and that the first few years of production are usually the highest for
any given shale gas well. It is therefore quite likely that if Broome
County’s land is drilled in the near future, the county will be
selling a large fraction of its recoverable gas at bargain-basement

We have all seen the results of the TCE contamination in Endicott. Our
area does not need more of the same. Frankly, given the track record
of the gas industry and the high well density needed to recover
appreciable amounts of gas from the Marcellus Shale, it seems
extremely likely that Broome County will end up with a number of
seriously contaminated drilling sites, several areas in which homes
have no reliable water supply, poor air quality, a loss of green
space, lowered residential property values in areas where drilling
occurs, a loss of residents who prefer not to live in an
industrialized area, difficulty attracting new and highly skilled
residents to the area, additional costly health problems among its
residents, and probably a whole host of unforeseen problems as well.

We should not rush into this. The gas is not going anywhere. And I
would add that, in any case, the gas industry is well able to afford
its own lobbyists.

For all of the reasons explained above, I do not think it is in Broome
County’s best interest to spend taxpayer dollars to hire a lobbyist to
push for gas drilling.