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Pipeline Scoping Hearing

Let’s pack the Foothills Center on Wednesday, Oct. 24th for the added Scoping Hearing that FERC has offered up.

PLEASE GET THIS OUT TO YOUR LISTS!

Stop the Pipeline Flyer

For more information, go to http://www.stopthepipeline.org

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Fracking Heros

The following is a guest commentary by Stuart Anderson.

FRACKING HEROS

We have all been through a tough learning curve over the past months, and we have conducted successful campaigns to raise awareness and educate the people of Otego about the potential impacts of gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing in our town.

Far and away the single most influential person in this effort has been Dick Downey.  Dick was among the very first to raise the alarm about the untrustworthiness of drillers.  He made it clear that we cannot trust drillers to treat us with dignity and fairness.

Dick taught us that a driller will do only what is best for his business: he will pay you as little as possible for your mineral rights and get you to sign a lease that completely favors the driller over everyone and everything else.

Dick pointed out that drillers will do anything to tilt the game in their favor.  They will take advantage of the poverty of many landowners.  They will take advantage of our lack of familiarity with their industry.  They will rush us into decisions that we don’t fully understand.

In short, Dick has made it clear to his ULA members and all of us that drillers are not to be trusted.  Thank you, Dick, for bringing the drillers’ conniving ways to our attention.

Dick has also been instrumental in demonstrating the power that we common citizens can gain by banding together.  Without Dick’s unifying force, many Otego citizens would likely have signed the drillers’ standard leases.  Thousands more acres in Otego would now be under lease, and the landmen would continue to pick us off, one by one.  Dick has proven the value of group action.

He has also shown us the methods of grass roots activism, recruiting new supporters, bringing in persuasive speakers, organizing public meetings, and attending the meetings of various local governmental bodies.

All the while, he has kept his troops agitated with an unending flow of breaking news, tidbits from other towns and other states, conjectures on strategies, and vigorous cheerleading.  He has taught us all just how persuasive half of a story can be; he has taught us all to question the motives of speakers and self-proclaimed experts.  He has forced us to realize that the siren call of easy money can make an otherwise sane and rational man believe and profess almost anything.  Dick has taught us to be skeptical.

Of course Dick has not performed these feats alone—he’s had dedicated helpers who have also enlightened the citizens of Otego.  We’ve learned that loud, aggressive barking will get everyone to sit back in their seats and shut up, even if the message is complete nonsense.

We’ve learned that the threat of lawsuits, even with no basis in fact or law, even when based on half-truths, even when refuted and repeated and refuted and repeated ad nauseum—the threat of lawsuits will always get our public officials to pause and consider, to delay and demure, to cower and reverse course.

We’ve also learned some important lessons from our Town Board.  On the topic of gas drilling, they have one refrain: don’t blame me.  They have tiptoed along the line between pro- and anti-gas drilling with astounding skill, first being dragged into conducting a survey, then being dragged into starting a moratorium, now being dragged into actually enacting a moratorium….at every step, they can tell the pro-drillers, “Hey, we did our best to fight for you, but we had to do it…”, and they can tell the anti-drillers, “Hey, we got you what you wanted as fast as we could under the circumstances.”

We’ve seen procedural delays at every step, as if we have all the time in the world….of course the best outcome, for the “don’t blame me” quintet would be an edict from Albany that makes the moratorium moot, and if they can dawdle long enough, they may just get it.  We’ve all learned that some folks can confuse waiting  with governance.

Let me sum up the lessons we’ve learned about participatory democracy in our fracking debate:

  1. You’ve got to participate (otherwise, just shut up and take what you get)
  2. You’ve got to be very persistent
  3. You’ve got to rally supporters and actively recruit
  4. You’ve got to stick your neck out and make yourself heard, even at the risk of alienating friends and neighbors—put a sign on your lawn; sign a petition; come to the Board meetings
  5. You’ve got to make sacrifices—shorten or cut out that vacation; give up your favorite TV show and put in the hours on the phone and the internet every day, networking with like-minded activists and educating yourself
  6. You’ve got to be willing to put everything on the line, because the community that we’ve built and the lives that we’ve planned for our future here will all be taken away from us if we fail.

 

I’m too old, too invested, and too attached to Otego to just take the money and start over someplace else.  I want my grandchildren to spend their summers with me here in our little corner of paradise, and not wonder if I’m risking their health with the water we drink, the produce from our gardens, and the air we all breath.

Thank you, Dick Downey, for making me question what is really important in my life.  I hope I can return the favor someday.

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The Otego Scream

This from Stuart Anderson, who’s stylized version of  ”The Scream” sits on his property on Main St., reminding us of the horrors of what we’d be doing to our town if we allowed horizontal hydraulic fracking to invade Otego:

Painted in 1893, The Scream is Munch’s most famous work and one of the most recognizable paintings in all art. It has been widely interpreted as representing the universal anxiety of modern man.[40]

Painted with broad bands of garish color and highly simplified forms, and employing a high viewpoint, the agonized figure is reduced to a garbed skull in the throes of an emotional crisis.

With this painting, Munch met his stated goal of “the study of the soul, that is to say the study of my own self”. …from Wikipedia on Edvard Munch (1863-1944) The Otego Scream is 8 feet by 12 feet, acrylic latex on strand board.

The Otego Scream

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Gas Pipelines: What Municipalities Need to Know

Tompkins County Council Of Governments and Cornell Cooperative Extension Tompkins County present:

Gas Pipelines: What Municipalities Need to Know

WHEN: Thursday, May 17, from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m.
WHERE: Borg Warner Room, Tompkins County Library, 101 E. Green St., Ithaca, NY
COST: Free

Twenty interstate natural gas pipeline systems crisscross the region from West Virginia to Maine. As gas drilling operations expand, thousands of miles of new pipelines will be needed to connect existing pipelines to gas wells.

Learn:
-the difference between gathering, transmission, and distribution lines;
-what agencies have jurisdiction over the various types of lines;
-how pipelines are permitted, regulated, and monitored;
-how municipalities can prepare for an increase in pipeline networks.

Presenters:
-Sharon Anderson, Environmental Program Leader, Cornell Cooperative Extension Tompkins County
-Jim Austin, Environmental Certification and Compliance, State of New York Department of Public Service
-Deborah Goldberg, Managing Attorney, Earthjustice Northeast Regional Office
-Meghan Thoreau, Planner, Southern Tier Central Regional Planning and Development Board

Co-sponsored by Cornell Cooperative Extension Tompkins County and Tompkins County Council of Governments.

For more information see http://ccetompkins.org/calendar/12/04/25/gas-pipeline-forum or contact Sharon Anderson, ska2@cornell.edu, (607) 272-2292.

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Unadilla Gas Forum

Right click here or anywhere on the image above to download a printable poster.

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FRACKING ISSUES IN OTEGO NY

There is a cynical, intentionally misleading letter going around to people in Otego. It was sent by people who wouldn’t mind seeing Otego ruined in order for a very few people to make a fast, unearned buck.

Nothing wrong with a fast, unearned buck, but not if you have to lie to the rest of the town to make it seem like it’s good for them, with no danger of pollution and destroying land values and turning the the town into an industrial sacrifice zone.

The intention of the letter is to manipulate well-meaning people who don’t understand much of the issue, yet. A lot of landowners have been wooed by the lies about “free money.” The letter in question, written by shills for the gas drilling in our area, makes a lot of unsubstantiated claims about how “safe” gas drilling is, and they leave out all the cases of pollution, endocrine decease, greenhouse effects, etc. They conveniently ignore science, and would like you do do the same.

Fortunately, there was one tell-tale truthful statement in the letter – it mentioned that fracking really did effect water quality. (It must have missed their “non-truth-o-meter.”)

You can find out some of the ways that the shills for the gas industry lie at http://otegony.com/spinning-the-truth-about-horizontal-fracturing.

 

Below. you will find a guest post from Stuart Anderson rebutting some of of the gas-propaganda in the above-mentioned letter.

An excellent discussion of tax revenues to local governments is available at:

http://www.tompkins-co.org/detail.aspx?ContentID=1935

The gist of the article seems to be that there is currently a lack of taxation schemes to bring on such revenues, and that they will be slow to develop.  For wells that are drilled but not extracted (temporarily capped while waiting for gas prices to improve) the wait for tax income (and royalties) may be many years.

The impact of gas drilling on property values appears to be a yo-yo effect.  First gas speculators drive up local land values in hopes of making money on gas leases and royalties (this phase has already passed.)  Then prices for small residential properties fall as banks are reluctant to issue mortgages on homes that may be impacted by drilling and fracking.  See: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/20/us/rush-to-drill-for-gas-creates-mortgage-conflicts.html?pagewanted=all  and http://thedailystar.com/localnews/x161015780/Agents-Gas-leases-affecting-land-values

Once the gas is gone, it is hard to imagine that the experience of having been fracked and pipelined will have done anything to enhance the value of area properties.

Comparisons with Chautauqua County in far western NY

(see here: http://andyarthur.org/fodder/energy/whatdoesnatural.html

and here:  http://www.pressconnects.com/article/20100404/NEWS01/4040356/Activist-challenges-DEC-claim-few-gas-drilling-problems

Over 6,000 holes dot the landscape of this scenic county, as the typical drilling area is only 40 acres.  The gas-bearing stone is not easily fracked in horizontal holes, so these wells are all vertical-only, and have required small scale fracking.  Thus the wells of Chautauqua County have been fracked with only a few truckloads of fluids per well, not the hundreds per well that are needed for horizontal fracking.

While 5,000 of these wells are listed as “currently active”, in reality this number is greatly inflated: the gas companies only have to putter a little around each wellsite once each year to renew the “active” status for another year, regardless of how little (if any) gas is being extracted.  They do this to delay the costs of permanently sealing the well if it becomes “inactive.”

Local roads are likely to suffer under the great increase in heavy truck traffic required to move water to and fracking wastes away from the drilling sites.  The DEC has yet to specify what is to be done with the waste.  The following is excerpted from a letter sent to the Otego Town Board after their February meeting:

You heard it from Ms. Westfall’s [the Town attorney, a partner in Coughlin & Gerhart LLP, which advertises on WSKG promoting their gas leasing services] own lips at your February meeting—if Delta has a conflict of interest in a court case between a driller and the Town, they will have to recuse themselves and we [the Town of Otego] will be searching for other representation.  I’d be curious to know just what Delta said about the current condition of our roads.  Do they report the surfaces look generally good but that they are unable to adequately assess the condition of the sub-base in most areas?  When heavy trucks destroy roads, it is the sub-base that gives way, which then allows the surface to break up.  When Delta walks away from us, the drillers will subpoena Delta’s report that says our roads were flawed to begin with, and we will be hung out to dry.

As for the County having, in Ms. Westfall’s words, “thoroughly vetted” Delta’s credentials and abilities, that will not do us any good at all if, when push comes to shove, Delta feels conflicted and decides to no longer represent us.  Her claim to not know who Delta’s other clients “might be” is turning a willful blind eye towards a critical issue.  Who but a gas driller pays an engineering company to do “gas well permit surveys and mapping”?  Delta may very well be deep in the drillers’ pockets and may consider their efforts “on behalf of the Town” as reconnaissance work for the drillers.

Hiring the fox to guard the henhouse is worse than a poor plan; it gives the fox a look at the security system and guarantees his success.  Ms. Westfall should be providing better advice for her fee.

The pro-drillers frequently offer job creation as a benefit to all, even non-landowners, in the region.  While there can be little doubt that a “boom-town” atmosphere can be a short term boon to jobs in gas stations, motels, restaurants, and stores, there can also be little doubt that when the boom is over, those jobs will vanish in short order.  If the Boom also happens to drive away the tourists who flock every year to our regional attractions, then the net may well be a loss of jobs.  As for the “high paying” jobs, those jobs travel with the drilling rigs and the tankers.  Gas wells require extremely little in the way of “high paying” maintenance jobs once everything is plumbed up and running.

Effects on population:   In a report by Christopherson, S. & Righter, N.(2011). How should we think about the consequences of shale gas drilling from Cornell University http://www.greenchoices.cornell.edu/downloads/development/marcellus/Marcellus_SC_NR.pdf

they present this information on pages 24-25 of the report:

a) In 26 counties in the western United States where gas drilling has occurred, 16 of the counties lost population.

b) In Pennsylvania, from 1990-2008 the population in counties where gas was drilled had a 2.5% decrease in population contrasted with a 3.2% increase in population in adjacent counties.

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Gas Lease Workshop

We are pleased to forward this announcement for an upcoming Gas Lease Workshop for Current, Potential, and Expiring Leases. The meeting is free and open to the public, and will feature the following speakers:
Joseph Heath, General Counsel for the Onondaga Nation and environmental attorney
Ellen Harrison, Director of Fleased
Ron Guichard, Realtor

Join us on Sunday, March 18 from 2:00-4:00 pm at the Sidney Fire Department (74 River Street Sidney, NY). Bring a copy of your lease to learn about its status and terms.

Fleased is happy to be co-sponsoring this meeting. If you are interested in holding an informational workshop for leased landholders in your area, please get in touch with us (fleasedny@gmail.com | 607-539-7133). We’d be delighted to learn about what kinds of resources are needed in your area and how we might be of assistance.

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FRACKING AMBITION

Guest post by Stuart Anderson of Otego, NY

New York State has a long history of problems with money—high income taxes, high property taxes, and a high lifestyle in Albany that seems to attract lots of politicians with high, even Presidential, aspirations. Over the decades, our politicians have managed to suck up enormous amounts of wealth from businesses and individuals, and redistribute it in ways that ensure their continued political employment. The Empire runs on MONEY. Anyone not living under a rock in New York State should, if they reflect upon it, be able to figure out how the fracking debate is going to play out over the next few months in Albany.

Governor Cuomo is first and foremost a politician, and one defining characteristic of a politician is the ability to find the opportunities hidden in every dilemma and disaster that befalls the state. As fracking is arguably the biggest, most contentious, and potentially most lucrative event to vex voters in at least a generation, it presents the biggest political opportunities that our ambitious leader is likely to stumble across in his lifetime. How can Andrew Cuomo wring the most political capital out of the fracking debate? What has happened so far?

First, Cuomo has appeared to remain wisely above the fray. He does not want to be perceived as openly supportive of Big Industry over Little People, but he does not want to scare away the Big Money that Big Industry can provide; it’s a fine line to walk, as he must be careful to say nothing that he’ll have to retract later. Consequently, while the pro- and anti-drilling forces muster their troops, fund their campaigns, and draw up the battle lines, Cuomo has remained deferential—he posits that he’ll do what’s right according to the scientific evidence as interpreted by the State Department of Environmental Conservation, and he’s given a wink and a nod toward those annoyingly vocal anti-drilling demonstrators by failing to include well inspection and oversight costs in his proposed 2013 budget. (Politicians know the value of a head-fake.)

Second, Cuomo has deftly employed the “divide and conquer” tactic. His henchmen in the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) have banned fracking in the two largest drinking water sources in the state—it’s a stroke of genius that offends only a tiny minority of landowners, mostly on the very fringes of the Marcellus shale region. The watershed ban severely weakens the anti-drillers by letting a large majority of the wealthiest New Yorkers safely ignore the whole issue because their water supply remains safe. Downstaters with little or nothing to gain personally from fracking might have been very supportive of Upstate anti-drilling groups if the watershed ban had not been enacted—now safely vaccinated, they can be manipulated to support drilling in the vast wilderness beyond the reservoirs.

Third, Cuomo has demonstrated to the Little People in the state’s potential fracking zones that our state government is in dire financial straits. He’s re-jiggered the school aid formula to take away funding from the neediest districts (out in the wilderness) and made those monies available to districts across the state (even the wealthy districts) on a competitive basis…how can a poor rural district with a meager slate of course offerings compete on the basis of academic achievement with the likes of Briarcliff Manor and Katonah and Northport? Cuomo has again curried favor Downstate at the expense of Upstate. But much more importantly, he has set the stage for his next act in the gas opera. With our small rural schools facing cut-to-the-bone austerity next fall and literal bankruptcy in 2013, will taxpayers have any choice but to let the frackers have their way? Can we turn away “free money” when faced with dire FINANCIAL NECESSITY?

Now that the Gov has us tied over a barrel, what should we expect? If you’re not scared, you haven’t been paying attention. But fear not! Andrew Cuomo is going to save us all! In a lightning series of moves, his DEC will conclude that drilling and fracking can be done safely, provided the State siphons off enough of the proceeds to fund all the necessary costs of oversight, testing, monitoring, etc., etc. In a legislative flash, the State will institute a wellhead tax, a veritable fountain of money that will flow to the general fund, thereby allowing politicians of all stripes to disperse the largess to their constituents, including those very needy school districts that were teetering on the brink of insolvency. The MONEY from fracking will solve all of Andrew Cuomo’s immediate problems—the budget will return to balance, the schools will stay open and maybe even offer French along with Spanish, and those annoying whiners that want clean water and air will be so fed up that they’ll move away and bother someone else. And by the time the fracking chickens come home to roost, Andy will be packing up to move to Washington, and drilling the Marcellus will be little more than a fond memory of an opportunity well played.

Of course the best laid plans, even of politicians, sometimes get derailed, and Andrew Cuomo’s number one worry right now has to be Home Rule. Within the next few months or so, the courts will decide which body of law takes precedence: the zoning laws that give localities the right to control what goes on in their neighborhoods, or the DEC’s exclusive right to regulate the oil and gas mining industries. Legal scholars generally agree that in New York the right to zone is sacrosanct; but historians can cite innumerable cases where MONEY has effectively trumped mere legal formalities, especially when that MONEY is buttressed with arguments of FINANCIAL NECESSITY. Being a practical man, Governor Cuomo probably hasn’t ordered new luggage yet, but I bet he’s been looking at the brochures.

So if you don’t feel like consigning our children to a developing nation school system, and you can’t afford to move, what can you do? SPEAK UP! Go to your town board meeting and let them know how you feel. Email or call your state Senator http://www.nysenate.gov/senators and tell them to support Senator Seward’s Home Rule bill. Call or email the Governor  http://www.governor.ny.gov/contact/GovernorContactForm.php and tell him to stop playing games with our children’s education. If you don’t get off the barrel, you’re in for a real fracking.

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Natural Gas on Clusterf**k Nation

James Howard Kustler just posted about this on his great blog Clusterf**k Nation:
   …  Mr. Obama keeps telling nationwide audiences that “we have a supply of natural gas that can last America nearly 100 years.” That is just not true. If he believes it then he is either 1) getting treasonously bad advice from dishonest advisors or 2) not reading reports issued by his own agencies or 3) just making shit up. This was the same week, by the way, when the US Department of Energy dropped its estimate for the Marcellus shale gas play by 66 percent, while the estimate for all US shale basins went down 42 percent. The shale gas industry is another Ponzi bubble that is about to founder on a scarcity of investment capital. Just watch.
     The “energy independence” trope is a lie, too. At least in the sense that Mr. Obama means – that we can run the suburban clusterfuck and all its accessories by other means than fossil fuels. He just says it because it makes voters feel better. By the time they find out it was just a story, he won’t need their votes anymore. Meanwhile, we’ll do nothing to prepare for a different way of life, and so, necessarily, the result will be an obscene scramble for power…
Although I don’t agree with Mr. Kunstler on some other things, it’s kind of hard to argue with this one. Why is Mr. Obama selling out certain areas of the country to be “sacrifice zones” for a plan that makes no sense to begin with?
It just goes to show that presidents who are (much)  better then the competition have some of their own glaring faults.

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Al Qaeda is coming…

Al Qaeda is coming.  And they have an evil and diabolical plan to destroy our homeland.  It’s absolutely true.  I have seen their secret strategy and plan outlined in careful detail.  They are lining up armies of men, trucks and heavy machinery at the border and they are planning to charge across the frontier and totally devastate our landscape…

This is how a recent post from http://patryantravels.wordpress.com. Sure, it’s facetious, but that doesn’t make it any less prescient. Read the rest at Pat Ryan Travels.

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