Pro-gas interests decry NY inaction on fracking

Dec 28, 2013, 4:25 PM

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) – Born of the energy crisis of the 1970s, gas driller Lenape Resources flourished in western New York for more than three decades _ until the revolutionary technology that sparked the nation’s shale gas boom brought the industry to a screeching halt in New York under a moratorium now in its sixth year.

Today, Lenape has just five employees, down from 100 in years past. “Those five, we’re trying to give them work in Pennsylvania,” said John Holko, the company’s president. “We’re not going to be here much longer.”

As another year closes with a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing for natural gas in New York and no timetable for Gov. Andrew Cuomo to decide whether to lift it, drilling interests have all but given up on the state, and environmental groups are pressing for a permanent ban.

Advancements in horizontal drilling and fracking _ which releases gas from rock by injecting a well with a mix of water, sand and chemicals at high pressure _ have yielded so much gas from the Marcellus Shale underlying much of the Mid-Atlantic region that gas prices have plummeted. As a result, the less productive vertical wells still allowed in New York are no longer in demand, Holko said.

While other states have allowed shale development even as they scramble to draft regulations, New York has had deep shale drilling on hold since it started developing new rules in 2008. Amid intense pressure from anti-fracking groups, Cuomo has said he wants his health and environmental commissioners to take all the time they need to decide whether fracking can be done safely.

Critics of fracking cite potential air and water contamination and disruptive industrial activity near population centers, while supporters say state regulations mitigate the risks.

At the same time, dozens of towns have enacted their own bans or moratoriums in case the state does approve fracking _ although most are outside the region along the Pennsylvania border considered most profitable for gas exploration.

Some drilling proponents, including industry and landowners hoping to profit from leases, are putting up a fight in state courts over town bans and the state’s stalled regulations. The state’s highest court will decide this spring whether two town bans, in Dryden and Middlefield, are legal.

Norse Energy, the Norway-based company fighting the Dryden ban, is in the final stages of bankruptcy liquidation, having invested all its resources in New York leases it has been unable to develop. The company is now suing the state over its ban.

Membership in the Independent Oil and Gas Association of New York has dropped by about 20 percent in the past year, said Brad Gill, its president. “Numerous service companies have set up shop across the border in Pennsylvania,” Gill said. “We’ll never get those jobs back.”

Holko was working for an oil and gas services company in the early ’70s when the energy crisis hit and state and federal subsidies were poured into new technologies to tap unconventional fossil fuel deposits like shale and sandstone. He worked on some experimental Marcellus Shale wells funded by the state.

“That was the start of the shale revolution,” Holko said. “It’s just taken a long time for the industry to apply the proper technology to make it happen.”

Even if Cuomo green-lights drilling, Gill said, the industry is wary of investing in New York because of what he calls regulatory and legislative hostility. “The cost of regulatory compliance could be up to $1 million more per well than in Pennsylvania,” Gill said.

While companies can seek their fortune elsewhere, pro-drilling landowners won’t see any lease-signing bonuses or royalty checks if Cuomo decides against shale gas development, said Victor Furman, who heads a landowner coalition in Chenango County.

“The delay isn’t hurting me financially,” said Furman, a retired technical writer for IBM. “But I know as a coalition leader that there are landowners who have lost homes that could have been saved if Cuomo had moved forward” with gas development.

But many landowners want Cuomo to ban shale gas development.

“We initially leased our farm back in 2006, before we’d ever heard of fracking,” said Kathie Arnold, an organic dairy farmer and former Cortland County legislator. The lease expired during the state’s moratorium, to Arnold’s relief.

“A lot of farmers think this can be done safely, but I don’t think the science supports that it can truly be done safely for the people that are here now and for future generations,” Arnold said, citing potential air and water pollution, heavy truck traffic on rural roads, and potential contamination from well casing failures decades in the future.

“There’s something very wrong with the economics of farming if you have to mine your mineral resources to survive,” Arnold said. “That’s just not a sustainable way to keep your farm.”

(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

United States News

Associated Press

Madame Wu, restaurateur to Hollywood’s elite, dies at 106

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Sylvia Wu, whose famed Southern California restaurant drew Hollywood’s biggest stars for four decades, has died at age 106, according to a news report. Madame Wu’s Garden on Wilshire Boulevard in Santa Monica became a dining destination shortly after it opened in 1959, popular for its cuisine and pagoda-style decor featuring […]
17 hours ago
Gabriel Madling loads sandbags onto his kayak so he can fortify his house on a submerged street in ...
Associated Press

Ian is long gone but water keeps rising in central Florida

GENEVA, Fla. (AP) — Residents in central Florida donned fishing waders, boots and bug spray and canoed or kayaked to their homes on streets where floodwaters continued rising Sunday despite it being four days since Hurricane Ian tore through the state. The waters flooded homes and streets that had been passable just a day or […]
17 hours ago
Associated Press

3 die when plane hits Minnesota home, but 2 in house unhurt

HERMANTOWN, Minn. (AP) — Three people aboard a small airplane died when it crashed into a house near a northern Minnesota airport, but the two people sleeping inside the home — and their cat — were unhurt. Hermantown Police said the Cessna 172 plane crashed into the second floor of the home just south of […]
17 hours ago
Associated Press

Fire damages Mark Wahlberg’s childhood home in Boston

BOSTON (AP) — A home where entertainers Mark and Donnie Wahlberg’s family once lived was damaged by fire Sunday in Boston’s Dorchester neighborhood, the fire department said. The blaze in a nearby home at around 10 a.m., but spread to another three buildings because of strong winds, Fire Commissioner Paul Burke said. Two firefighters suffered […]
17 hours ago
Associated Press

Chesapeake Bay lighthouse auctioned, with strings attached

HOOPERSVILLE, Md. (AP) — The federal government has sold off a rather inhospitable lighthouse in the middle of the Chesapeake Bay for a six-figure sum after a bidding war at auction. The Hooper Island Lighthouse, located west of Middle Hooper Island in Maryland’s Dorchester County, at first drew little interest, The Washington Post reported. But […]
17 hours ago
Associated Press

FBI: Jetliner evacuated in Albuquerque after security threat

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — An American Airlines flight from Texas to New Mexico was evacuated Sunday after landing at the Albuquerque airport because of a security threat, authorities said. All 179 people aboard Flight 928 from Dallas-Fort Worth were taken off the jet in the morning at Albuquerque International Sunport and were bused to the […]
17 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Quantum Fiber

How high-speed fiber internet can improve everyday life

Quantum Fiber supplies unlimited data with speeds up to 940 mbps, enough to share 4K videos with coworkers 20 times faster than a cable.
...
Dr. Richard Carmona

Great news: Children under 5 can now get COVID-19 vaccine

After more than two years of battle with an invisible killer, we can now vaccinate the youngest among us against COVID-19. This is great news.
(Courtesy Condor)...
Condor Airlines

Condor Airlines shows passion for destinations from Sky Harbor with new-look aircraft

Condor Airlines brings passion to each flight and connects people to their dream destinations throughout the world.
Pro-gas interests decry NY inaction on fracking