gas drilling

I drink your milkshake

It's interesting how certain phrases stick in people's minds and enter the popular culture.  Stay with me here.

Five Feet of Fury proprietor, Canadian Kathy Shaidle, often has funny—but largely unprintable, at least by me—stuff on her blog. She recently linked to a site called (content warning) Better Book Titles. You'll get the idea by looking at this, which at least is not profane:

and which is a humorous reference to this far-from-humorous movie:

What has all this got to do with anything?  This, from earlier this year:

Opponents of forced pooling — and that would include [Pennsylvania] Gov. Tom Corbett — should watch the movie “There Will Be Blood,” according to the state’s leading Marcellus Shale geologist.
Terry Engelder explained that the concept — whereby drillers are allowed to remove natural gas from beneath properties of owners who refuse to lease their mineral rights — originated with Upton Sinclair's expose of the oil industry, "Oil!", which forms the basis of the 2007 Academy Award-winning film.
Speaking to the governor’s Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission on Friday, Engelder acknowledged up front that the concept bumps squarely up against traditional property rights.
But the benefits, he said, have been determined time and again to outweigh the risk of infringing on those rights...

...At the moment, Engelder said, the state has the worst of all worlds.
While drillers cannot lay pipe under a property that has not leased its mineral rights, they can drill immediately adjacent to it and legally fracture the shale under that property and drain gas from it — without compensating the owner.
That’s the rule of capture.
What’s more, hold-out owners can prevent drilling into areas where gas has been leased, thereby denying those lease holders the royalties that could be generated from their property.
Engelder showed an example from Lycoming County where he estimated 5 billion cubic feet of gas and $20 million in revenue had been stranded by one hold-out landowner.
“This is not what the oil and gas conservation law of 1961 intended as an outcome,” he said.
Engelder said pooling “maximizes the economic benefit, minimizes wasteful stranded gas, minimizes the environmental footprint and provides just and fair compensation” to all...
In fact, Sinclair's 1927 novel so outraged folks that it led to the formation in 1935 of the IOGCC, the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission (one of the 2011 co-designers of FracFocus) and ultimately to forced pooling (or as we call it here, compulsory integration) laws across the country.
And who is this Terry Engelder?
Penn State University professor Terry Engelder, a tireless supporter and promoter of shale gas drilling—particularly in the Marcellus Shale—has just been named one of Foreign Policy Magazine’s “Top 100 Global Thinkers” for 2011 for his research into recovering natural gas from shale using hydraulic fracturing.
Engelder, along with Gary Lash, professor of geoscience, State University of New York, Fredonia, with whom he collaborates, and George P. Mitchell, Texas oilman, were designated number 36 on the list "for upending the geopolitics of energy."...
As for the title of this post?  You'll just have to see There Will Be Blood.  Fair warning: it's intense.

As we say in American English: WTF?

Astonishing. From Dr. Britt Minshall, " author of several books and a speaker on societal behaviors impacting politics, religion and wealth....He is also a former Security Agency operator and INTERPOL Officer. His police career was compromised when he became a Freedom Rider in the mid- sixties," writing in the UK Progressive:

For God’s Sake – The Diner Wars
...the money-profit, bunch hangs out at the Queen’s Diner, where owner John Boulous pontificates against the “do gooders” claiming he and his land owner groupies are losing fortunes in gas revenue. The Community Cafe (ironic name) is loaded with town folk, supporting the ban in favor of the environment and the peaceful community of the small town....
....Framed in Red, Queen’s Diner and their customers see life as money, profit, self interest and the accumulation of wealth. Plated on blue, the Community Cafe and its customers see life as moderation in wants, good air and water, sharing with others in fellowship, peace of mind and love of place....
Read the whole thing.  You'll be amazed...not only because the place is the Queen Diner, but also because the Community Cafe is a progressive clubhouse subsidized with Dryden taxpayer money while the Queen Diner (along with other privately-owned eateries in town) has to stand on its own two feet and has for years, thank you very much. So the juxtaposition of the two was appropriate in ways that the author of this screed couldn't have imagined. 
The author, as you have no doubt surmised, is an American Tory; the online progressive publication is British.
To misquote a certain First Lady, for the first time in my adult life I fully understand why we fought a War of Independence. 
Pip, pip, cheerio and all that.

Free radicals

Here at Redneck Mansion, there's always been a lot of haggling over definitions.  You know, like "It depends on what the meaning of the word 'is' is."  Or, "What does 'deficit' mean?"

Here's an interesting radical: an atom or group of atoms that has at least one unpaired electron and is therefore unstable and highly reactive. Free radicals can damage cells and are believed to accelerate the progression of cancer and cardiovascular and other diseases.
Hmmmm...hold that thought....
With respect to the Anschutz case...the Dryden town board are true believers when it comes to energy development (or more precisely, the lack of it) and probably only talk to fellow true believers.  It's likely that they and their supporters agree as to the strength of their case.
Or maybe they're just whistling past the graveyard.  Hard to say.
Town counsel, who gave his imprimatur to the ban language written by a board member, also an attorney (Shakespeare: "The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers.") may be at least somewhat excused for perhaps telling the board what they wanted to hear—after all, counsel is there at the sufferance of the board who effectively sign his paychecks.  
Since counsel is now getting paid to defend his legal reputation, he wins even if he loses....and the taxpayers get screwed no matter what happens.
Did the town board seek an independent, unbiased opinion as to the legal "niceties" and their chances of winning a lawsuit in this matter?  Apparently not, but it would have been wise since everyone involved—board members and counsel—was prejudiced.  Before spending $150K, investing $5K to get an unbiased presentation would have been the better and more reasonable course.
But it doesn't seem to have crossed their minds.  Naïveté...or arrogance...or something else?
If a private social services agency, say, faced a potential $150K lawsuit, it would tread very carefully indeed.  The possibility of ending up on the losing end after expending $150K of precious resources would loom large and might act as a deterrent to inviting such a suit. 
But what's $150K of taxpayer money?—there's always more where that came from.
Most importantly, though, defending leftist principles trumps everything else.
Words matter and language is important. The people defending those leftist principles, not just in Dryden but throughout Tompkins County and beyond, are way, way, way left of merely "liberal."  We should start changing the language we use to reflect that.  We could call them "progressives" (a historically correct term) or "leftists" or...something that more accurately reflects their really radical nature.  Wait—maybe that's it. Radicals...unstable, reactive, damaging.  They want to fundamentally change this country right down to the local, town level, something old-style "liberals" wouldn't have dreamed of.
And in context, the above quote from Shakespeare is even more apt:

God save your majesty!

I thank you, good people—there shall be no money; all shall eat
and drink on my score, and I will apparel them all in one livery,
that they may agree like brothers, and worship me their lord.

The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers.

Nay, that I mean to do.

Henry The Sixth, Part 2 Act 4, scene 2, 71–78

Look up Jack Cade.  Once the demagoguery begins, things never end well.
(more than a h/t: co-authored with TR)

Visual Pollution

That will sure be a lot of visual pollution when that fracking rig comes down in a few weeks. 

Well, you might count the glint off of the new tractor that may be in the field...

h/t Tom

Big Deal

Here is a finished well pad, near Dimock.
I'm no Joe Biden, and this is no big effin' deal.

Finished Well Pad

It's not really fair for the Ithaca Journal to be publishing "before" pictures of the well being drilled without also printing the "after" pictures.  Just a few weeks later, many well pads aren't visual pollution.  
Honestly... this is heavy industry?

h/t Tom


Martha Robertson’s column in this morning’s Ithaca Journal sets up a bunch of straw men.  Let’s just knock them all down.

Fracking doesn’t threaten the property values in Dryden.  Natural gas is a resource to harvest and use, one which will enrich the entire town.

Could accidents happen?  Sure, but have some perspective.  A gasoline station is surely more threatening to the environment than a gas well.  Even Love Canal, walking distance from where I went to high school, didn’t affect the property values elsewhere in Niagara Falls.   The so-called “Urban Renewal” (rhymes with nodal development) and decades of progressive government sure did a number on the Falls, however.

The thing that threatens Dryden isn’t fracking, it’s the education bubble.  Rural central New York is having some hard times. Dryden is propped up by Cornell and Ithaca College.  They aren’t likely to go away anytime soon, but we can easily see serious contraction.   They need families who will spend tens of thousands of dollars a year more than they might spend elsewhere.  They need the government to continue to fund research and “social education.”  And they need to keep attracting foreign students who are filling an increasing number of classroom seats.

Gas drilling isn’t the only way Dryden can hedge against a bubble meltdown -- a pro-business climate would also work wonders.

Will fracking completely clog the roads in Dryden?  Not so much.

The numbers seem large, but think about  how many school buses and TCAT buses ply our roads,  mostly at rush hour.  Add garbage and recycling trucks.  The semi-tractors that run through the town, 24/7.  We have moving companies, utilities, towing services, on the road all the time.  Will we notice the increase?  Sure, like we notice traffic changes on the first day of school.  Is it immense?  No.

Is everyone wringing their hands because the damn school buses go by 180 days a year?  Because the TCAT bus comes by every hour, changing gears on the hills?

Now, consider that drilling is not a forever thing...each well is drilled in less than 70 days and all of the equipment moves on.  It takes that long to build most of our houses.

Robertson wails about how “dangerous” drilling is, citing a list of insurance risks on mandated disclosures: fires, explosions, blowouts...  Have you ever listened to the litany of risks for prescription drugs on TV?  How is it that with the risk of dizziness, hives, hair falling out, suicide, hangnails, blue tongue spots,  complete bone loss or spontaneous human combustion, people still line up for those sleeping pills or cholesterol reducers?  Because the risks, while possible, are small and it is very likely that their lives will be better.

Our Martha says that the town’s only option is a fracking ban.  This is sort of like a hammer in search of something that looks like a nail.  It isn’t necessary for government to fix or control everything, and like that hammer, sometimes wielding power only creates problems. 

Dryden followed 14 other towns in  jumping off a cliff, and happened to be the one tagged with a lawsuit.  Martha says the town’s risk is in losing the Anschutz lawsuit -- as Henry Kramer’s companion article points out, the town would really lose if they won the lawsuit, since we would then be open to a truly expensive taking lawsuit.

So, will the fate of the ban, and the fate of fracking in Dryden be settled by the November 8 elections?  No -- that was always going to be settled by New York State, in the DEC and the courts. 

However, the fate of that hammer -- the inappropriate wielding of government power, and the entanglement of lobbying interests like the Park Foundation, and Agenda 21 in local government, and a war on private property... maybe.  Maybe.

Pastoral Poverty

A piece in the Times today illuminates the divide in Middlefield between farmers and people who have moved into the rural town.  It might reflect some on Dryden, too.

The dispute has pitted neighbor against neighbor, and has often set people who live in suburbs or villages against the farmers and landowners who live outside them. The discord is compounded by hard times on both sides and by communication online giving everyone instant access to limitless information confirming their point of view...

Like many farmers, [Jennifer Huntington] sees the drilling opponents as largely comfortable urbanites in an area increasingly home to retirees and second-home owners who know nothing about the economics of farming and little about the safety of drilling.
“This land and my family are my life,” Ms. Huntington said. “We probably use three to four million gallons of water to feed my cows. I’m not going to spoil something I need to make my living and for future generations to come.”

Proponents of fracking say that many farmers are on the verge of losing their property.

“The term we use is pastoral poverty,” she said. “You have farmers trying to hold on to land that’s been in their family for 100 to 200 years. People like the landscape, but it’s people living in poverty who are maintaining what they like to look at.” ...

Many drilling proponents, meanwhile, say the professionals and retirees drawn to the area have become antigrowth fanatics...

* * *

The crowd of about 120 was quiet and polite at the candidates’ debate at the Dryden Fire Hall last Wednesday.  I spent my time watching the body language in the crowd. The anti-fracking polemic of Linda Lavine got a chilly reception based on the crossed arms, shifting of positions and shaking heads.  Maybe it was the intensity that was off-putting, or maybe they’ve heard just about enough about drilling.

The strongest reaction I saw was in favor of attracting business and spreading out the tax base of the town.  While the town tax rate hasn’t gone up, assessments have and people see their tax escrow payments going up alarmingly every year.  A bunch of new businesses are going in just up the road in Cortlandville... but we won’t see any benefit from sales tax revenue across the county line.

The budget talk is complicated, and seems to disintegrate into a he-said, she-said battle of jargon.  A few things stood out... a lot of money spent on consultants for an unloved zoning proposal, a bunch more people working in the planning department, a move by the town board to bypass the tax cap passed by the state.   Recreation used to be done by volunteers.

The next candidate debate will be in Varna on Tuesday, closer to Cornell and the anti-fracking epicenter.  

Appropriate (v.) vs. Appropriate (adj.)

The ongoing tug-of-war over Zuccotti Park in New York City is an interesting reflection of the political landscape.

#occupywallstreet has been squatting on private property, monopolizing land leased for other purposes and violating the owner's rights.  The occupiers are claiming that "their rights" are being infringed if they are made to leave the premises for cleaning, or if they must refrain from putting up tents or sleeping on the ground -- that is, they are insisting on treating the property as their own.
In Dryden, the anti-energy development crowd is claiming that "their rights" are being infringed if property owners use their own property to access their mineral rights.  Like the occupiers in New York City, they are appropriating the property of others.
The 99%ers want to take it all away from the 1%ers because they are envious of what others have that they don't.  Drumming, chanting and handsigns help to cover over the rationalization.  Shouting that people don't really deserve what they have makes it easier to justify taking it away from them.
Envy is pretty powerful and it pops up from time to time in the local "appropriate (v.)" discourse. You can hear it right after, "I'm all for property rights but..."
* * *
None of this should be construed to mean that people don't have legitimate concerns.  
Unemployed because of "crony capitalism" (certainly a problem in the previous administration and Congress and on overdrive in the current administration)?  Check.  Impeach and replace.  Maybe some jail time is in order.
Wanting recourse if someone pollutes your well or nearby waterways?  Check, you should sue.
The point is that appropriate (adj.) means should be used to address valid concerns, not appropriate (v.) ones.  Use the system, don't tear it down.
  • Did you game the financial system and make a mess?  You're gonna pay.  
  • Did you frack and make a serious mess?  You're gonna pay. 
But we need the financial system and we need energy. Both are legitimate activities and can be done well and responsibly.  Keeping them from working is as egregious as the above messes.
* * *
It's interesting that the #occupiers are having food delivered (students are quoted saying that they eat better in the park than they do at their mom's) and the newspapers and fliers they're producing are printed with expensive 4-color process.  Just who is funding all of this, and why?
Has the Town of Dryden become a subsidiary of the Park Foundation?  PF is one of the main financiers of anti-natural gas activity in the nation, supplying cash to just about every "activist" group opposing natural gas development.  Is PF funding the legal team for Dryden's ill-conceived attempt to ban natural gas development in the town?
                             NYC...                                                                                       Dryden...

(h/t tvm)

iPhones, Obama, and leases, oh my!

Every time a new iPhone (or iPad or some such thing) is released, folks who own an earlier iteration—particularly if they're don't obsess over news from Apple about upcoming releases and so they just recently purchased the now "obsolete" version—generally feel some amount of buyer's remorse.  Maybe it's just plain envy but in any case the feeling is normal.  We wouldn't be human if we didn't experience it from time to time.

In the case of President Obama, there's been plenty of buyer's remorse from people on both the left and the right who voted for him but now feel that they'd been sold a bill of goods.  None of those people is very happy—a normal response.

Now the fishwrap of record has a story on gas leasing highlighting those

....stricken with remorse...Hundreds of...state residents who signed leases allowing gas companies to drill deep into their properties with a method known as horizontal hydraulic fracturing have changed their minds and are trying to break or renegotiate their contracts. Millions of acres in upstate New York are under lease, awaiting permits for the drilling, which has yet to begin, delayed by a state environmental review....

A follow-up blog post at the fishwrap quotes Dryden Town Board candidate Deb Shigley: “If you signed the contract, you couldn’t now say, ‘I didn’t know and therefore I don’t want it.' You took the money, and you’re under contract.”

Well, yeah.  Is it understandable that some people are now suffering buyer's remorse?  Sure.  We all do that sometimes.

But we seem to be moving farther and farther from a government of laws towards a government of men. It's becoming more and more acceptable to try to renege on contracts.  Remember the Chrysler bondholders who got stiffed in the nationalization of that company two years ago? How about homeowners who seem to think they're entitled to walk away from the mortgages they signed?  This sort of thing never ends well.  Without the expectation that the bargains people make are obligations that the law holds them to, we descend into chaos.

And as a friend pointed out, when can we expect to see a story in the NYT about the thousands of leasers who don't regret leasing their land?  Cue crickets...

St. George slays the frackosaurus...

...just not in Poland. Another great catch from South of 5 and 20.

That progressive paragon of probity, that altruistic archetype, George Soros is virulently opposed to fracking everywhere, not just in the US, right?  Errrr...not so much:

....San Leon Energy is just the kind of huge, multinational exploiter of the earth's resources that have New York's anti-energy true believers' panties in a wad.   Rather that targeting Soros, however, these zombies would rather burn gasoline driving all over the Finger Lakes, fighting to raise the cost of their neighbor's heating fuel. The real class war is taking place right under our noses...

Read the whole thing.


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