The Fracking Beat

Friday, June 08, 2012

Central New York journalist Tom Wilber, author of Under the Surface: Fracking, Fortunes, and the Fate of the Marcellus Shale, looks at the energy companies, landowners, scientists and politicians with stakes in the fracking controversy.


Tom Wilber

Comments [11]

The biggest point glossed over carelessly by the media and intentionally by the GOP is that we don't have a gas shortage right now. Natural gas is trading at just over $2 right now and many companies aren't even covering the cost of production right now. (The only profitable wells are the ones also giving significant byproducts of NGL's like propane and butanes that are priced more in accordance with oil prices than gas). The market is saying their is no current shortage.

Jun. 11 2012 11:16 AM
Tom Wilber from Binghamton, New York

In response to Philip Simpson

Thanks for listening. You are correct that the state Supreme Court (the state’s lower court) has upheld fracking bans imposed by Dryden and Middlefield. The industry has appealed. The outcome of the case in the appellate division is a critical test of local governments’ jurisdiction over banning or controlling the placement of shale gas wells. In short, the law of the land, which I mentioned in my talk with Brian, has been that New York state has exclusively overseen the placement, permitting and regulations of wells. Current legal arguments aside, that is how it has been done for decades with conventional wells. The NYCBA conclusion (and others) are challenging this notion citing case law that you refer to here. The courts will decide the outcome starting in Dryden and Middlefield, but it’s far from a done deal. I will add, from a background more in tune with matters of journalism than in jurisprudence, that I believe whenever local citizens are given a greater voice in governing affairs that directly affect them -- that’s a good thing

Jun. 09 2012 11:34 PM
Philip Simpson from Manhattan

To follow up on my earlier comment about home rule, here is a link to the New York City Bar Association's Comment on DEC's draft SGEIS that specificsally addresses home rule and concludes that towns do have the power to enact zoning ordinances that restrict fracking to certain areas or prohibit it altogether.

Jun. 09 2012 01:53 PM
Philip Simpson from Manhattan

Good article, but Tom Wilbur's statement on home rule that 'local municipalities have no say in where shale gas wells go" is just wrong. Closely analagous precedent from NY's highest court is that municipalities have the right to control where industrial activities like fracking can take place withjin their borders and to prohibit it altogether. Two courts that have decided the issue specifically on fracking agree. In cases challenging zoning bans in Dryden and in Middlefield the courts upheld the towns' power to zone out fracking.

Jun. 09 2012 08:17 AM
Karla Fisk from Inwood, NYC

Brian -

I'm really happy you've interviewed Tom Wilbur and that you're covering this issue in a number of different ways: it's critical to NYers.

A comment: to talk about PA experiencing a "gold rush" with shale gas drilling is simply accurate. People who have leased their shale gas drilling rights to industry are making pennies on it compared to the oil/gas industry. Plus it's poisoning people's air and water, making them sick, ruining their real estate values and it's ordinary people who have to pay for this themselves. Both the people who have leased their gas rights, and the people who live next door to them.

Jun. 08 2012 07:31 PM
joanna underwood from NYC

While hydrofracking to obtain natural gas is an increasingly contentious topic in New York State, and much more needs to be known about its environmental and public health impacts before we issue further permits, hydrofracking is not the only way for NY State to get natural gas. There is another way.
We can make it using the biogases emitted wherever organic wastes are breaking down – and they are breaking down all over New York State. The technology to produce natural gas made from waste is commercially viable TODAY.
New York State is superbly positioned to reap the benefits of this clean fuel. It has the fourth largest dairy herd in the nation. It has a $3 billion/year food processing industry. It has wastes in its 27 largest landfills, and at its over six hundred sewage treatment facilities. Municipalities and cities could generate fuel from their wastes and, at the same time, reduce their waste disposal costs. And small cities across the state which are suffering from tough economic times are also paying scarce dollars to get rid of their municipal wastes – wastes that they could be turning into a secure fuel and one that is much less costly than diesel fuel.
New York State can create permanent jobs and lead the way toward a green energy economy by tapping into our vast organic waste resource. New York’s leaders should get behind it.

Joanna Underwood
President, Energy Vision

June 8, 2012

Jun. 08 2012 11:03 AM

How can I find out if my town is over the marcellus shale?

Jun. 08 2012 10:54 AM
Martin Chuzzlewit from Manhattan

I agree with waiting..... until January 2013, when the obsructionist AMATEUR is out of the White House and we can begin to develop and IMPROVE the methods of tapping our huge energy reserves just beneath us....enough for ALL of our energy needs for 200 years (by the new GAO estimates).

Jun. 08 2012 10:53 AM

This gas isn’t going anywhere.
Why not wait, until the technology to bring it out of the earth, improves?

Jun. 08 2012 10:44 AM
Barbara from New York City

Check out this exclusive report on latest proposal to protect our environment form pollution. How relevant to know that an understaffed agency will now allow self-audits by the polluting businesses. Is this what we need in the face of the fracking industry, that already refuses to monitor health effects, etc.?
Exclusive: Proposed policy would allow industries to self-audit pollution-generating activities
Gotham Gazette Thursday, May 24, 2012 12:00 AM | by Sarah Crean

I suggest this is a warning for us to wake up before this proposal becomes a regulation.

excerpt from article:

The DEC regulates sources of air and water pollution, including private industry, agricultural uses, and municipal facilities like waste transfer stations and sewage treatment plants. It is responsible for enforcing over 40 New York State environmental laws and over 50 federal laws, including provisions of the Clean Air and Clean Water acts. The agency would also be charged with regulating hydraulic fracturing in the Marcellus Shale.

The self-audit policy, described in a draft document dated May 14, would apply to any private business or public entity, including federal, state and municipal agencies and facilities, which are regulated under state environmental law...........

More excerpts: The already decimated DEC staff will make this new policy dangerous:

The proposed policy has already stirred up some concern among current DEC employees who worry that it will be too unwieldy to implement given the agency's resource constraints. One worker who has conducted inspections and reviewed the document told the Gazette that “the glaring issue is who is going to review all these audits.”

“We don't have resources to keep up with normal enforcement,” said the employee, who was not allowed to speak about the policy publicly and spoke on the condition of anonymity. “If the audit policy becomes a priority, then enforcement becomes secondary.”

Since 2008, the agency has lost almost 800 employees, bringing staffing levels to their lowest point in over twenty years. Meanwhile, federal financial support for the DEC has steadily declined and the agency has become more reliant on New York State tax dollars and revenue from fees and penalties.

Jun. 08 2012 10:37 AM
Lisa from Forest Hills

I worry there isn't enough known to continue doing this at the current rate. Disrupting the surface under the Earth seems risky. Why not wind or bio energy instead?

Jun. 08 2012 10:13 AM

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