Nearly one week ago, on March 31, MDN attended the kickoff meeting of New York Residents Against Drilling (NYRAD) at the Vestal Public Library in Broome County, NY. No, MDN is not anti-drilling! We attend to listen and learn. The drilling debate is increasingly political in tone. Those of us who support drilling need to listen to those in our communities who oppose it—as a courtesy, to be sure we have not missed important information that informs our own opinions, and so we understand our opponents’ arguments in this debate—to be able to intelligently respond to their (often inaccurate and overhyped) accusations.
The meeting room at the Vestal Public Library was filled to capacity for the meeting with about 120 people attending. Local news media was there, as well as cameras from (presumably) NYRAD themselves. MDN observation: As was the case when DISH, TX Mayor Calvin Tillman recently visited, there were a number of balding men with gray-haired ponytails in the audience. MDN continues to posit the theory that many 60s hippies have found a new cause célèbre that now energizes them—gas drilling.
The meeting was opened by a NYRAD official who introduced the evening’s main speaker, Professor Anthony Ingraffea. Dr. Ingraffea is a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Cornell University. His Ph.D. is in rock fracturing mechanics. He has done twenty years of research on hydraulic fracturing for companies like Schlumberger, Exxon and the Gas Research Institute. If anyone knows how rock fracturing works, it is Dr. Ingraffea. I eagerly anticipated what he would say about hydraulic fracturing and whether or not the process contaminates water supplies, a commonly leveled charge by drilling opponents.
Dr. Ingraffea is an accomplished speaker. He is equal parts comedian and expert, and he knows how to “work a crowd.” I can easily imagine that he’s a favorite professor at Cornell, one whose classes fill quickly. In his opening remarks he admitted he feels passionately about the issue of drilling in New York State, and that he is opposed to it. He opened his talk with a technique often employed by those who are anti-drilling. He mentioned he loves fishing for trout in New York’s streams and he asked the audience a question: “Would you like to keep fishing in New York State?” The implication is that if drilling begins, trout fishing is finished. It’s a non sequitur—a statement that does not follow from the premise. In the course of his presentation he never once connected any dots that drilling activity would lead to poisoning of streams and the end of trout fishing. This was a tip-off that the evening might disappointingly hold more emotional statements rather than factual statements. Unfortunately, that’s exactly how it turned out.
Mesa Energy keeps up the pace with the addition of former Deputy Commissioner of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection Robert Avaltroni. It certainly can’t hurt to have a downstater in your corner for the nasty fight that’s brewing over Marcellus drilling. New York City wants it banned statewide period, and City politicians regularly make noise about it. With former Gov. George Pataki (rumored to be considering a run for the NY Senate as well as a run for president), and with former New York State Senator Nicholas A. Spano, the addition of Mr. Avaltroni makes a truly formidable and influential group on Mesa’s advisory board.
From the Mesa Energy press release:
Mesa Energy Holdings, Inc. (the “Company”), an exploration stage oil and gas exploration and production company with a focus on the Marcellus Shale in western New York, announced today the appointment of Robert C. Avaltroni to the Company’s Advisory Board. Mr. Avaltroni has over 23 years of experience in addressing political and environmental issues in New York, thirteen of which were spent as Deputy Commissioner of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection.
“Robert is a great addition to our Advisory Board and rounds off a seasoned group of advisors,” said CEO of Mesa Energy Holdings, Inc., Randy M. Griffin. “His knowledge and experience regarding environmental issues as well as his longstanding relationships and extensive experience in New York city and state government will provide the Company with valuable insight and guidance as we move forward with the development of our Marcellus Shale projects in New York.”
“It is an honor to join such an astute group of directors and Advisory Board members,” said Mr. Avaltroni. “Randy has assembled an outstanding team and has my full support as we endeavor to lead the way toward environmentally friendly development of natural gas resources in western New York. New York has a tremendous opportunity to capitalize on the economic benefits that the Marcellus Shale brings, and I expect Mesa to be at the forefront of that effort.”
Robert C. Avaltroni was New York Deputy Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection (“DEP”) for 13 years. He was responsible for directing all environmental, chemical, biological and radiological initiatives in conjunction with the NYPD Counterterrorism/Intel Division, Dept. of Homeland Security, the Joint Terrorism Task Force, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Office of Emergency Management, and the Dept. of Energy. He was granted the highest security clearance “Q Clearance” in the United States. Mr. Avaltroni was New York Mayor’s “point person” with the White House and Senator Hillary Clinton, regarding the establishment of a 9/11 EPA led clean-up committee known as the “Blue Ribbon Panel of Experts”.
Mr. Avaltroni enhanced DEP’s hazardous materials response capabilities as a model for the nation. In this capacity, the Division of Emergency Response and Technical Assessment became the premier response team for chemical, biological and radiological threats. He also addressed prior longstanding environmental issues resulting in a positive dialogue with environmental advocates and community groups in New York.
In addition to being Deputy Commissioner of the DEP, Mr. Avaltroni was also First Deputy Commissioner for the New York City Sheriff’s Department, Chairman and Managing Director of Empire Commercial Services L.P. and Chief of Staff for the NYC Sheriff’s Department. Today, Mr. Avaltroni represents various entities including the Environmental Contractors Association of New York as Advisor/Consultant.*