Marcellus Shale

The toxicologist, the teacher...

...and left-leaning Lee Rayburn.

Yesterday, the New York Times reported that "Cuomo Proposal Would Restrict Gas Drilling to a Struggling Area" in the Southern Tier.

On the heels of that story, Uni Blake, founder of WELC, Women's Energy Leadership Coalition, was interviewed on WHCU this morning by Lee Rayburn, formerly of Air America. 

 

After Lee got off his soapbox got done speaking with Uni, he then interviewed Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton—listen to the difference here. Listen to the hysterical tone, the "everybody knows" logic (isn't that a logical fallacy? Argumentum ad populum?), the softball questions—when he could get one in edgewise—from Rayburn. He could have read a thorough debunking of Babs' points in "Lifton Tea, Bitter from the First Drop" prior to the interview, but I'm sure that's too much to expect.

After all, there's no media bias at work here, oh no. Just the oil and gas industry, "with their infinite resources...losing the PR battle."

Can you say "Park Foundation"?

David v. Goliath and the tyranny of the majority

From Andy Leahy at NYShaleGasNow, a great update to—no, a very informative expansion on—the Chump Change post below. Read and learn:

...NYC hasn't purchased all, or even most, of this misleadingly green-shaded land — either outright in fee, or by easement against development.  It's true NYC owns rights to all the land that it long ago flooded, or built upon, to create its water system.  And it's true the city Water Department has made some additional purchases since.  But not much of what lies upstream.  In fact, former DEC Commissioner Alexander "Pete" Grannis used to give speeches in which he pointedly noted that some 70 percent of this upstream land remains privately owned...
 

...In these drinking water watershed situations (On this phrasing, here's a reminder to Earth Science-impaired media representatives:  All land lays in a watershed), the state's drill/no-drill regulatory distinctions have been unsatisfactorily explained as being not so much about the realistic risk of surface spills, or the unrealistic risk of uncontrolled returns from depth, of spent or unspent frack water.  Instead, it's been explained as being more about the risk of much less spectacular sediment runoff from drillsite and access road construction.  Sediment.  Or, more to the point, it's really more about the regulatory risk that the federal EPA will view such surface disturbances as a reason to strip NYC and Syracuse of their money-saving filtration waivers — regardless of whether there's much actually foreseeable impact from drilling, and regardless of whether there are any public health benefits to be gained from filtering the water supplies already...

...Leaving aside the highly questionable risk-assessment validity of these ever-expanding no-drill takings, as put forth by NYC, a question of fairness remains:  Should the many urban, water-drinking, peaceful-of-mind beneficiaries of these regulatory "protections" compensate the many fewer private landowners for their lost economic opportunities?  

Or is it okay for the majority to economically oppress the minority, just because it's politically stronger?  Going all the way back to the days of King George, and to the drafting of the American Bill of Rights, isn't the system of free, private ownership of land intended to set limits upon this kind of oppression?  And should we be careful what we wish for, when we conspire in silence to excuse such blatant exceptions?

Delaware County's resolution says, in all fairness, reparations must be made — and this document is the latest salvo in an Upstate-Downstate dispute which long pre-dates the much younger Shale Gas Debates...

There's much more—definitely read the whole thing.  Thanks, Andy.

$5M theft in Dryden? Chump change

In fact (click on the image to listen)

At The Mountain Eagle:

MARGARETVILLE - As the state puts the finishing touches on new regulations for gas exploration in New York, elected officials in Delaware County are unhappy the proposed regulations could prevent the county from extracting much of the gas that lies deep beneath the ground. It is estimated that as much as 80 percent of the gas in the county could be off-limits if the proposed regulations become law. And if the proposed regulations go through as currently written, county officials want to be compensated for the lost revenue.
 
It was announced at the February meeting of the Coalition of Watershed Towns tthe Delaware County Board of Supervisors plans to vote on a resolution that seeks compensation for the value of the gas, estimated to exceed $81 billion in gross sales...
 
...According to Dean Frasier of the Delaware County Office of Watershed Affairs, the Board of Supervisors will be discussing a resolution that calls for New York City compensating it for the lost revenue should NYC succeed in having watershed lands off-limits to gas exploration....
And this isn't some evil, greedy gas company who would be suing—it'd be a NYS county suing NYS as well as NYC.
 
We here at Redneck Mansion at first read the dateline on this story as
 
 
"Margaritaville" 
 
Those folks in Delaware County could import their own sand to relax on while they sit 'n sip drinks with little umbrellas in them.
 
This stuff's not going away, people.
 

Park-and-chide: "The media-philanthropy-university complex"

Many people have been asking the question, "who blew up the 'bridge to the future'?" Tompkins County-based people are largely the answer.  At AEI:

An anti-fracking philanthropist has turned environmentalists into precautionary conservatives. How did this happen?
 

Environmentalists are not playing it straight on natural gas. Until recently, they have been amongst its most aggressive promoters, even coining the phrase “bridge to the future”...

...Now, many activists call natural gas a “bridge to nowhere,” as Earth Island Journal recently headlined. Inexpensive comparatively clean natural gas is portrayed as a Trojan horse that will bring “water contamination, air pollution, global warming, and fractured communities.” The morphing of natural gas from ‘a necessary alternative to dirtier energy’ to ‘worse than oil and coal’ happened, metaphorically, almost overnight. What’s behind this seismic turnaround?...

...There are two factors, one widely reported and the other ignored: (1) advances in gas exploration and extraction fracking technology; and (2) a below-the-radar outpouring of funding by connected, wealthy anti-shale gas antagonists—and one activist philanthropy in particular, the Park Foundation headquartered at the epicenter of the US shale gas boom in Ithaca, New York. It’s also the home of Cornell University, which has become the academic face of the anti-shale gas movement...
 

...sober environmentalists such as the Sierra Club, Environmental Defense Fund and Natural Resources Defense Council continue to reject the simplistic demonization of shale gas. “At the EDF, we don’t pick fuels. We are realists; we recognize that fossil fuels will be around for a while,” says senior policy advisor Scott Anderson, noting that most states have considerable experience in regulating well construction and operation. “If wells are constructed right and operated right, hydraulic fracturing will not cause a problem.“

But hardcore opponents say there should be no middle ground: the environment is forever so only a total ban is acceptable. Consequently, scientists who consider trade offs face vitriolic criticisms. Much as the far right demands fealty on hot button issues such as no taxes or anti-unionism, enviroromantics are determined to turn opposition to shale gas into the ideological litmus test of our time....
 
...How did we get to this state where strident environmentalists and campaigning journalists define the debate while mainstream scientists and sober minded NGOs are ignored?... 
 
The media-philanthropy-university complex
 
What if wealthy donors are deploying their money to manipulate public opinion and support research whose conclusions often conflict with science? That in a nutshell is the media rationale for scrutinizing public relations efforts by Big Business. 
 
Journalists should be truth vultures. Expose the puppeteers. But the corrupting power of money and the ego enhancing romance of influence have no ideological limits. That’s the story unfolding in New York’s Tompkins County in the middle of the vast Marcellus shale formation. In this case, however, the key actors are not industry apologists but ‘white as snow’ philanthropists, NGOs and journalists. 
 
Over the last two years, Cornell University has emerged as the locus of academic study challenging the benefits of shale gas drilling. Research by a select group of scholars—oddly, none is considered experts in this field, even at Cornell—has been ballyhooed around the world, with the New York Times, consciously or unconsciously, playing the leading role of megaphone. 
 
In April 2011, the Times helped transform Cornell professor Robert Howarth into the ideological rock star of anti-shale gas activism. It ran a report and blog promoting a short article Howarth and Anthony Ingraffea had just published in Climatic Change Letters, a journal that had never before addressed the shale gas phenomenon. The authors claimed that shale gas generates more greenhouse gas emissions than the production and use of coal....
 
“There is a lot of money invested in shale gas development,” Howarth told me. Our research is threatening that, which makes it political.”
 
If the debate has become sharply contentious, Howarth is at least partly responsible. He often describes himself in ways that create the impression he has been researching fossil fuel issues his entire career. “I’ve worked on the water quality effects of oil and gas development for 35 years off and on,” he said recently. His training is in oceanography, with his primary concentration in marine science, particularly coastal marine ecosystems. Until his published letter, he had never published any university level research into natural gas, let alone shale gas. 
 
Howarth and his wife, Roxanne Marino, a biochemist at Cornell and partner at his lab, are well-known long-time environmental activists and outspoken opponents of developing shale gas reserves. Just months before the release of his letter, Howarth appeared in a YouTube video wearing an anti-fracking button at an anti-natural gas rally outside an Environmental Protection Agency meeting in Binghamton, NY, saying, “All this talk that it’s a clean fuel, as some say, is not based on any scientific analysis.” He continues to passionately and publicly lobby against shale gas.
 
Marino is the town supervisor in Ulysses, a small town in Tompkins County. For more than a year, often with Howarth at her side, she oversaw the implementation of an anti-fracking law through the local town council. “Industrial-scale hydraulic fracturing as proposed in the shale formations of the Finger Lakes and Southern Tier is a land, water, and chemical-intensive activity that poses unacceptable risks to human health and safety and environmental degradation,” Marino is quoted as saying, months before the publication of Howarth’s article.
 
...Each time the [New York] Times and anti-shale activists cite [Howarth's] letter, they make a make a point of mentioning that it was peer reviewed. But that’s misleading. It did not undergo classic double blind review...
 
With only a few exceptions, Howarth’s paper has been widely criticized by scientists across the ideological spectrum. The Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory reviewed the same data, concluding that natural gas, even from shale, results in far less emissions than coal. But that study did not make it into the NYT.
 
In August, scientists at Carnegie Mellon University, in a study partly funded by the Sierra Club, concluded that shale gas has significantly less impact on global warming than coal, a direct rebuke of the Cornell study. “We don’t think they [Howath et al] are using credible data and some of the assumptions they’re making are biased. And the comparison they make at the end [that the development of shale gas generates more greenhouse gas emissions than the production and use of oil or coal], my biggest problem, is wrong,” wrote lead researcher Paula Jaramillo.
 
That same month, independent researchers from the University of Maryland also published a peer-reviewed response to the Howarth study, again to no notice in the popular media. “[A]rguments that shale gas is more polluting than coal are largely unjustified,” they concluded.
 
The article was received skeptically even by liberal experts at EDF and the NRDC, but their comments got little play. As the Worldwatch Institute wrote, “Despite differences in methodology and coverage, all of the recent studies except Howarth et al. estimate that life-cycle emissions from natural gas-fired generation are significantly less than those from coal-fired generation”...
 
...Howarth’s colleagues at Cornell, Lawrence Cathles, Larry Brown and Andrew Hunter, with years of expertise in this area, have written a stinging response accepted for publication in January’s Climatic Change Letters. They characterised it as “seriously flawed,” more ideology than science, noting, “the assumptions used by Howarth et al are inappropriate and … their data, which the authors themselves characterise as ‘limited,’ do not support their conclusions”...
 
...Much of the anti-fracking research at Cornell, including Howarth’s modest burst of scholarship, is possible because of the generous support of the Park family of Ithaca, through its well-endowed trust, the Park Foundation (emphasis mine--tvm). Its president, Adelaide Park Gomer, and her daughter, Alicia Park Wittink, are openly antagonistic of natural gas development. And they’ve found ideological soul mates at Cornell and at dozens of influential NGOs, from Friends of the Earth to the Coalition for Environmentally Responsible Economies (CERES) that receive contributions from Park.
 
The foundation funded the totemic video of the anti-shale gas movement, Gasland, the cinematically engaging but scientifically questionable documentary that made the rounds at Sundance, Berlin, Tokyo and Cannes, jumpstarting the backlash against shale gas. Park has sponsored anti-shale gas shareholder resolutions at the annual meetings of Chevron, ExxonMobil and Ultra Petroleum in alliance with the NGO, As You Sow, which Park also supports and which reliably churns out anti-shale gas propaganda.
 
...Gomer, a vocal shale gas opponent, has signed several anti-fracking petitions, this one in September 2010:
 
Hydrofracking will turn our area into an industrial site. It will ruin the ambience, the beauty of the region. But, moreover it will poison our aquifers. We can live without gas, but we cannot live without water. As a cancer survivor, I am especially concerned about the health repercussions! It is obvious that the 600+, as yet undivulged, chemicals that are used to extract the gas will not promote long healthy lives.
 
Gomer is also on the board of trustees of Ithaca College, which to an even greater extent than Cornell depends upon the largesse of the Park family. Its leading voice is biologist Sandra Steingraber, who, like the foundation, believes shale gas should be the litmus issue for progressives. “I have come to believe that extracting natural gas from shale using the newish technique called hydrofracking is the environmental issue of our time,” she wrote. 
 
The Park foundation lists assets of $320 million, guaranteeing that its views will be well represented. In 2010, it contributed $19m to various causes, more than $3.5m to seed dozens of anti-shale gas projects. 
 
Mother Jones, Earth Island Institute and Yes! Magazine among numerous media organisations have exclusively carried articles sharply critical of shale gas. They each received sizable donations from Park in 2010, $144,000 to Mother Jones.
 
Park also funded a widely circulated YouTube video on “Fracking Hell?” produced by Link Media’s Earth Focus. It also donated $50,000 to support distribution of the the influential Public Media radio program in the US hosted by Dick Gordon that regularly pilloried shale gas."
 
Curious about the recent sudden explosion in “grassroots” uprisings opposing shale gas? Southern Environmental Law Center received $125,000; Food and Water Watch banked $150,000; Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund operating in 110 municipalities got $35,000. The list goes on and on.
 
Park has injected millions of dollars into anti-shale gas education campaigns across the country, including $158,000 donated to Ithaca College for the development of “training kits” to ensure that children are exposed to only one side of this issue. It even funds the Green Guerrillas Youth Media Tech Collective, a group of teenage minorities getting job training in exchange for making an anti-fracking movie.
 
Park also provided $100,000 to seed a separate anti-Marcellus project at Cornell’s Department of City and Regional Planning, resulting in a paper and webinar contending that the benefits of shale drilling is overstated and will ultimately lead to an economic collapse in the region. The department has produced 13 “working papers” and “policy briefs” with the kind of narrow ideological conclusions one expects from an industry-funded “research center” generating propaganda for hire. Yet another Park-funded project is the anti-shale gas Cornell Cooperative Extension Natural Gas Resource Center, which has created an “Online Toolkit for Municipal Officials and Community Leaders” to develop expertise in battles against shale gas development.
 
Of course, philanthropists of any ideological stripe have a right to support any cause of their choosing. But big money raises conflict of interest issues, no different than the potential for corruption posed when industries fund lobbying against policies they find objectionable. Journals and researchers that receive funds should be disclosing conflicts and the media should be reporting about them. But that’s not happening...
 
...anti-shale gas advocacy groups are forging unlikely alliances. Their new allies include the Russians and the Iranians who thought they were going to corner the gas market in the coming decades, and factions of the oil, coal and even the nuclear industry, whose higher cost models may be as vulnerable to competition from natural gas as alternative energy. 
 
The most intriguing question lying ahead is whether politics—the forces lining up against unconventional sources of natural gas—will trump the science. The key is how reporters and university researchers who the public depends upon for a fair accounting of the consequences of innovation handle their responsibilities.
 
The signs are not promising. Not too long after the Times public editor blasted his own reporter, Ian Urbina, for questionable reporting, Urbina was invited to Cornell to discuss his anti-fracking reporting. The event was billed as the “Kops Freedom of the Press” forum. 
 
Robert Howarth was there. No journalist or scientist with long-standing established credentials in this research area—almost none of whom would have agreed with Urbina’s or Howarth’s perspective—were invited to participate in this celebration of academic ‘dialogue’ and journalistic ‘integrity’.
 
I was at Urbina's presentation.  All the usual suspects, including Walter Hang and Babs Lifton, were there. No one like, say, Terry Engelder, was there.
 
Absolutely, positively, read Jon Entine's entire article.
 
 

Getting the vapors

Heh.  Related to our recent post, from South of 5 and 20:

Earlier this month, the Finger Lakes' anti-prosperity elites got the vapors when every news outlet in the free world screamed that Obama's EPA* had determined hydraulic fracturing in Pavillion, Wyoming had polluted water wells.  Our local status quo gang assured us that this was the death knell for fracking....

And what does South say "EPA" stands for? You'll just have to read the whole thing.

Chutzpah

Gasland with all its errors and misrepresentations goes on and on, continuing to be screened before an adoring public, but what follows seldom sees the light of day. And I thought this kind of interference in matters beyond the scope of governing a small American city only happened in Ithaca. From NewsChannel 34:

The City of Binghamton is looking to help a group of residents in Dimock who say they've run out of clean water.
 
Wednesday was the last day that Cabot Oil and Gas was forced to deliver daily water supplies to some residents on Carter Road after a drilling operation contaminated their water several years ago. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection okayed the stoppage, agreeing that the water is safe. However, impacted residents say it's not safe to use. They did appeal the DEP's decision, but were denied.  As a result, an effort was spear-headed to get clean water delivered to the residents. Mayor Matt Ryan, who has been a vocal anti-fracking politician, says he is looking at helping the group down in Dimock. For at least one day, the city would provide a water truck to fill water buffaloes that people have near their homes. 
 
Julie Sautner says residents are willing to pay for the water from an account that has been set up at Montrose Lake. Sautner says the offer for assistance is a temporary relief. "At least we're going to have water. I keep going out there, saying oh my God, how low are we? Because nothing is coming today. We're used to having a delivery everyday. I tell my kids, take ten minute showers, instead of 20 minute showers or whatever."...
No wonder they're out of water.  Read the rest.


At EID Marcellus:

The mayor of a city so down and out it can’t keep its senior services going, fix its sewage treatment plant or collect its water bills is going to use Binghamton City taxpayer funds to serve the ideological desires of a distinct minority (mostly from far outside the City) who would bankrupt this entire State before allowing natural gas development!...

...And, by the way, does the Mayor know he needs a permit to haul water into Pennsylvania?  Has he received a request for Mutual Aid by Dimock Township? Does he know the EPA just found Dimock’s water to be safe?

Witness the unmitigated gall of "interloper" Mayor Ryan speaking to some riled-up Dimock residents:

As we had written in a previous post, the mere sight of NYS tags on a car in Susquehanna County can make some of the natives pretty ornery.  This was another instance of why that is.

Probably the same people shouting for "home rule" in NYS want to be able to tell the people of not only another town but another state what to do.

And Foxy Josh was in Dimock today and was greeted by this:

Energy development's own 99ers are mad as hell and they're not going to take it anymore. It's about time.

 

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.
 

Crikey! Pigs are flying!

In case you missed it...an endorsement of development of shale gas resources from—wait for it—David Brooks at the New York Times:

...John Rowe, the chief executive of the utility Exelon, which derives almost all its power from nuclear plants, says that shale gas is one of the most important energy revolutions of his lifetime. It’s a cliché word...but the fracking innovation is game-changing. It transforms the energy marketplace.

 
The U.S. now seems to possess a 100-year supply of natural gas, which is the cleanest of the fossil fuels. This cleaner, cheaper energy source is already replacing dirtier coal-fired plants. It could serve as the ideal bridge, Amy Jaffe of Rice University says, until renewable sources like wind and solar mature.
 
Already shale gas has produced more than half a million new jobs, not only in traditional areas like Texas but also in economically wounded places like western Pennsylvania and, soon, Ohio. If current trends continue, there are hundreds of thousands of new jobs to come.
 
Chemical companies rely heavily on natural gas, and the abundance of this new source has induced companies like Dow Chemical to invest in the U.S. rather than abroad. The French company Vallourec is building a $650 million plant in Youngstown, Ohio, to make steel tubes for the wells. States like Pennsylvania, Ohio and New York will reap billions in additional revenue. Consumers also benefit. Today, natural gas prices are less than half of what they were three years ago, lowering electricity prices. Meanwhile, America is less reliant on foreign suppliers.
 
All of this is tremendously good news, but, of course, nothing is that simple. The U.S. is polarized between “drill, baby, drill” conservatives, who seem suspicious of most regulation, and some environmentalists, who seem to regard fossil fuels as morally corrupt and imagine we can switch to wind and solar overnight.
 
The shale gas revolution challenges the coal industry, renders new nuclear plants uneconomic and changes the economics for the renewable energy companies, which are now much further from viability. So forces have gathered against shale gas, with predictable results.
 
The clashes between the industry and the environmentalists are now becoming brutal and totalistic, dehumanizing each side. Not-in-my-backyard activists are organizing to prevent exploration. Environmentalists and their publicists wax apocalyptic...

Read the whole thing.

But you knew that

Gas company to sue over town's drilling ban.  Update: here is the link to the same story at the IJ

Anschutz Exploration Corp. plans to file a lawsuit in state Supreme Court in Tompkins County to have the ban struck down in the town of Dryden, according to the company’s Albany-based attorney, Thomas West. He said he expected the lawsuit would be filed this week.
 

With the state moving toward allowing high-volume hydraulic fracturing, Dryden has been one of a handful of municipalities across the state that have altered their zoning regulations or passed legislation meant to ban the activity.

Read it all.  (h/t South)

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