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January 11 2012

14:17

A Deadline for Fracking Comments

New York State wraps up the public comment period on regulations it has proposed for policing a controversial gas extraction method.

November 29 2011

01:39

Are New York Lawmakers Poised To Throw Upstate Residents Under The Fracking Bus?

Despite last week’s temporary win protecting the Delaware River Basin and its inhabitants from natural gas fracking, the debate rages on in New York State. Lawmakers, industry lobbyists and concerned landowners have debated for over a year about whether or not to open up the state to the Marcellus Shale fracking bonanza.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s stated commitment to vote no in the Delaware River Basin vote was promising, but it is offset by the fact that he has assembled a secretive 18-person “fracking panel” which Food & Water Watch executive director Wenonah Hauter recently alleged is comprised of many “strongly self-interested and industry-biased” individuals. Some environmental groups are concerned that this panel seems rigged to give the green light to fracking in New York.



At previous public hearings, tensions have already run high with both supporters and opponents lining up hours beforehand to ensure their turn to speak out on this highly contentious issue.



Most of the proponents of gas fracking continue to argue the economic mantra of job creation and domestic energy security, even though multiple reviews have debunked the gas industry’s lofty job projections. Food & Water Watch released a report indicating that many of the jobs created would likely be short-term and favor contract workers from outside the state. Other watchdogs of industry rhetoric, including Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), point out that the industry's rush to export gas from the fracking boom will lead to much higher gas prices for Americans, contradicting the industry's alleged commitment to domestic energy security.

There are also important questions about just how much gas there is underneath New York to warrant such extreme energy development.  After a recalculation of the resource potential of the area, geologists at the U.S. Geological Survey dropped their estimate of the recoverable gas by a quarter. They determined that the amount of reasonably recoverable gas would only meet US demand for four years instead of sixteen.

Residents who had initially accepted gas leases have since voiced their regret, stating that the lease payments from industry weren’t worth the impacts on their land, water and communities.



Meanwhile, citizens concerned about fracking in upstate regions question the fact that Governor Cuomo is adamant about protecting New York City’s watershed, yet he seems dead set on allowing fracking upstate, in effect creating ‘sacrifice’ zones that would imperil water supplies for upstate communities in favor of protecting city residents.


"I resent the fact that the water of New York City and Syracuse is deemed by the DEC to be more important than the rest of the state," State Senator James Seward (R-Milford) told The Daily Star newspaper of Oneonta, NY.



"What's the difference between New York City kids and my kids?" Kim Jastremski of Cooperstown said at one meeting, according to the Wall Street Journal.



Even more discomforting is a page on the DEC’s website attempting to explain “What We Learned From Pennsylvania”. It not only passively admits that mistakes were made in PA, but also seems to loosely translate the problem as, “we screwed up there” but “next time we’ll make it better.”

NYDEC Commissioner Joseph Martens believes that fracking can be undertaken safely in certain areas despite reports questioning the effectiveness of any of the state’s proposed regulations.



Perhaps the Commissioner and Governor should visit the DEC website more often. Ironically, there’s a whole page dedicated to NY State’s watersheds entitled, “We All Live in a Watershed" that shows every inch of the state belonging to some kind of watershed. If that’s the case, and Governor Cuomo actually intends to stand by his word of “keeping fracking out of the watershed,” he should clarify why he’s leaving most of the state’s watersheds vulnerable to contamination from fracking upstate.



Next add NYC Mayor Bloomberg to the mix, whose $50 million donation to the Sierra Club to take on Big Coal is laudable, but some have questioned whether it was, in part, a strategic attempt to gain support for gas extraction by pitting dirty coal against “clean” gas.

“At least natural gas is better than coal!! Do you really want coal?” Mayor Bloomberg said recently, trying to turn this into some kind of false, fossil fuel Sophie’s choice.

It’s true that gas-fired power plants release less carbon dioxide, but that’s only part of the picture. Studies that have attempted to take into account the full life-cycle impact of gas development, including potent methane emissions into the atmosphere during the drilling and transportation phases, indicate that gas may in fact pollute the air much more than coal and oil.

Bloomberg has also referred to natural gas as an “alternative” energy source, attempting to equate this dirty fossil fuel with wind, solar and other renewables. While it is an “alternative” energy in that it is a difference choice from coal, it is still a filthy form of reckless energy that threatens our water, air quality and the global climate.



Many citizens are waking up to the fact that the gas fracking rush is not a true solution to our energy problems. Switching from coal to gas still leaves us addicted to dirty fossil fuels, when the real solution is to focus on transitioning to a truly clean energy future that will create better jobs and safeguard our communities against the pollution threats that all fossil fuels pose.

The fireworks are sure to continue at public hearings this week in Loch Sheldrake and New York City on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively. 



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July 01 2011

19:44

Americans For Prosperity Sues New York For Participating In Regional Climate Pact

The Koch brothers’ corporate front group, Americans for Prosperity (AFP) filed a lawsuit on Monday in New York’s State Supreme Court seeking to reverse a core piece of state action on climate change.  

New York joined the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) in 2005 when former governor George Pataki (R) approved the state’s participation in the program. The suit alleges that New York is illegally (coercively) taxing residents by taking part in the market-based 10 Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states’ Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). The AFP complaint also asserts that carbon emissions trading is unconstitutional because it infringes on federal authority to set rules on air pollution and electrical power transmission across states. 

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (D), along with the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, are all named as defendants in the suit.

The RGGI is the first state-based cap-and-trade program requiring electric utilities to purchase state emissions permits (credits) which are used to fund clean energy initiatives, create green jobs, lower energy bills, improve energy efficiency and home weatherization programs. Over the last three years New York alone has raised $320 million from its participation in RGGI, adding an average of less than 50 cents a month to a resident’s power bills. In all, the 10 participating states have raised $770 million [pdf], while adding a mere 0.4% to 1% on average to electricity bills. The RGGI also amplifies initial investments since ratepayers end up saving $3 to $4 for every dollar invested.

Peter Iwanowicz, a former DEC commissioner and head of the state Office of Climate Change, as well as an affiliate of the American Lung Association, is challenging the dirty energy interests attacking RGGI: "It is clear that those who are behind the suit are standing up for polluters and their profits, and they care very little about the people in New York."

Contrary to the Kochtopus lobbying campaigns to deny climate change and efforts to overturn the RGGI, a Koch subsidiary, Koch Supply and Trading of Wichita, participated in the very first RGGI trade of carbon allowances [pdf]. In fact, according to the Albany Times Union, Koch Industries traders took part in at least three of RGGI’s first nine emissions credit auctions.

And What About New York’s Neighbour New Jersey?

In May New Jersey governor Chris Christie (R) vowed to abandon the RGGI by the end of 2011. Formerly a supporter of strong action on climate change, Christie now looks more like the many fellow Tea Party Republican climate deniers who were elected in droves last November.

Challenging the governor, this week, the New Jersey Assembly followed the state Senate in passing several bills aiming to prevent the state from leaving the RGGI. 

John McKeon, chairman of the Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committee, told SolveClimate News that the legislation "absolutely clears up any ambiguity of [Christie] being able to pull us out unilaterally." 

Unfortunately, the slim margins the bills passed by will do little to dissuade the governor from using his veto.

McKeon adds that pulling out of the RGGI disregards “…the intent of the Legislature which required New Jersey to be a member of RGGI,” and that “Governor Christie is ignoring the will of the people…” 

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NDRC) conducted a poll revealing that 74% of New Jersey voters support keeping New Jersey energy dollars in the state rather than spending this money on fossil fuels; 60% say they would be willing to pay an additional 75 cents on their monthly energy bills to curb power plant pollution and invest in cleaner, local energy sources like wind and solar; and 47% also said that leaving the RGGI would be inconsistent with the governor’s earlier commitment to clean energy as a way to rebuild the state’s economy and workforce, with only 33% thinking it would be consistent.

In all, New Jersey has raised more than $105 million from auctioning carbon credits since 2008.

 

June 02 2011

05:44

ExxonMobil Drilling Plan Threatens Drinking Water In Delaware River Basin

The Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) held a public hearing today to review a proposal from ExxonMobil subsidiary XTO Energy to remove massive amounts of water from the Delaware River Basin for unconventional gas exploration.

The dirty energy giant is hoping to withdraw up to 250,000 gallons per day of surface water from Oquaga Creek near the Farnham Road bridge crossing on Route 41 in Sanford, New York. Roughly 300 residents showed up to comment on the proposal, which has stirred public anger and concern over the potential impacts on the local environment and water supplies.
 
The Exxon subsidiary’s draft docket stipulates that the surface water will be used for unconventional gas drilling via hydraulic fracturing (a.k.a. fracking). XTO says the clean water will be used to mix cement and create a “drilling mud/fluid” cocktail. No waste problem, of course.

Beneath the Exxon PR spin, the true costs of withdrawing a quarter million gallons of water per day are estimated at around $17,700 - just for a tiny patch of land.

Consider the fact that the fracking rush is exacting these very same direct costs on many North Americans. <!--break-->

Recently, ExxonMobil has continued with its misleading media blitz to pacify the public’s real concerns around the dangers of unconventional gas exploration. Exxon’s misdirection appeared this month on TV and in full-page ads [pdf] in The New York Times and Washington Post. The ads falsely presented fracking for unconventional gas as a time-tested way to unlock “cleaner-burning” fuel from shale rock. The problem with Exxon’s efforts to greenwash unconventional gas is that according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) [pdf] as well as a recent Cornell study, unlocking this dirty energy is perhaps just as polluting if not moreso than coal. Unconventional gas, despite what Exxon would have us believe, is just another polluting fossil fuel.

Access and review the Draft Docket, XTO Energy Surface Water Withdrawal for Natural Gas Exploration and Development Projects Oquaga Creek Withdrawal Site Town of Sanford, Broome County, New York [pdf].

Information on XTO Energy's Surface Water Withdrawal Application.

May 13 2010

22:43

From Budding Poets, an Ode to Water

The Water Resources and Poetry Contest, a competition for fourth, fifth and sixth graders, helps raise awareness about the importance of quality drinking water and what it takes to maintain New York City's water supply and wastewater treatment systems.

April 22 2010

13:45

From the Streets to a Powerful State Perch

A conversation with Pete Grannis, the commissioner of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, who was one of the 20 original signers of the Earth Day proclamation.
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