JLCNY Encourages Support of Constitution Pipeline — This Week

MDN has done a fair bit of reporting on a desperately needed new natural gas pipeline due to be built from Susquehanna County, PA all the way to Schoharie County, NY. The Constitution Pipeline will be built by Williams starting later this year, if all goes according to plan (see New Marcellus Constitution Pipeline Announces “Final” Route). Last week MDN told you that both the federal EPA and Dept. of Interior have asked for more time to provide their own comments on the new pipeline (see EPA/DOI Ask for More Time to Review PA-NY Constitution Pipeline). FERC, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, has itself told Williams they will need to make a few adjustments to their plans (see FERC: Constitution Pipeline Should Make Changes to Lessen Impacts).

FERC will ultimately decide whether or not to allow Williams to build the pipeline. We doubt there’s much doubt about the plan–it’s almost certain to be built. FERC themselves say it’s really really needed. However, FERC must go through the motions, and one of those motions is to hold public “scoping” hearings where people (often anti-drillers) show up to gripe and moan about the plan. FERC is conducing a series of four hearings this week, starting today. The Joint Landowners Coalition of New York sent the following email (with hearing details) to request members of the JLCNY and all pro-drillers attend a meeting near them, to show support for natural gas in our region…
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Leatherstocking to Tap Constitution Pipeline for Local Deliveries

Rural residents (and an aerospace manufacturer) located in New York’s Southern Tier and Central New York areas have a lot to be thankful for with the upcoming Constitution Pipeline–a natural gas pipeline that will deliver natural gas from the Marcellus Shale gas fields of Susquehanna County, PA all the way to two major interstate pipelines near Schoharie, NY (see New Marcellus Constitution Pipeline Announces “Final” Route). Williams is building the 124-mile pipeline with backing from Cabot Oil & Gas, whose gas will flow through it.

However, a regional gas pipeline company (think gas utility) founded just a few years, Leatherstocking Gas, will tap into the Constitution at (so far) four different locations along the pipeline so they can deliver that homegrown Marcellus gas to rural customers who are not being served by the big utilities like New York State Electric & Gas (NYSEG, owned by Iberdrola). Yesterday Williams and Leatherstocking announced the deal to tap into the Constitution Pipeline in four locations…
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NY Pro-Drillers File Final Briefs in Dryden/Middlefield Cases

court gavelAccording to Tom West, lead attorney in the New York “Dryden” court case that seeks to overturn bad lower court decisions that allow towns to completely ban fracking, the “last word” has been now been filed by landowners and (in the case of West’s client), drillers like Norse Energy. West, via his blog site, announced two days ago that the final briefs with counter-arguments have been filed for both the Dryden and Middlefield cases (copies of both final briefs are embedded below). According to West, additional friend-of-the-court briefs (called amicus briefs) will still be filed, but until oral arguments are heard in a few months, this is the final word from our side of the isle. Interestingly, when you read through the two briefs, they each make slightly different arguments–perhaps increasing the odds that something will resonate with the justices.

Here’s what West says via his blog site about the filings:
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Anti-Drillers Want NY Hospital to Burn Oil to Avoid More Fracking

Natural gas burns cleaner than either coal or oil–this is an inarguable fact. Natural gas is also, thanks to shale fracking, now cheaper than either oil and in most cases coal. And yet, anti-fracking activists don’t want a hospital in Oneonta, NY to convert to using natural gas (cleaner, cheaper) because…it may one day lead to more fracking. Huh? Don’t convert, even though it’s better for the air and even though it will cost less than burning oil (as they do now). Yep. That’s the twisted philosophy rampant among New York anti-drillers. It makes no sense, so don’t try and figure it out or you may go crazy too…
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Breaking: NY Court Upholds Local Town Frack Bans

Winston ChurchillIt is a day of disappointment, but also a day of resolve, for landowners in New York State. Yesterday, the NY Supreme Court Appellate Division in a 4-0 decision ruled towns have the right to ban hydraulic fracturing and natural gas drilling. MDN has previously chronicled the long fight against a simple majority of three town board members unilaterally stripping away the rights of all property owners in a township to allow natural gas drilling. The matter came to a head when lawsuits were filed in two of those cases, the towns of Dryden (Tompkins County, near Ithaca), and Middlefield, (Otsego County, near Cooperstown)–see Town Frack Ban Cases Heard in NY Supreme Court Appellate Division for important background information.

The 77,000-member Joint Landowners Coalition of New York, whose lawyer, Scott Kurkoski, represented a JLCNY member in the Middlefield case, has responded to the loss (below) by saying they intend to appeal the decision to the next, and highest, court in New York–the Court of Appeals. MDN has a copy of the court’s decision (embedded below), reaction from the near-orgasmic anti-drilling eco-nuts, and our view of what it all means for the future of drilling in NY…
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WV Group Largest Landowner Coalition in Marcellus/Utica

A group of landowners in Wirt County, WV have just taken the crown as the largest landowner coalition MDN is aware of in the entire Marcellus and Utica Shale. The Wirt County Oil and Gas Group closed the door on new signups as of Monday, and the total acreage represented by the group is an astonishing 227,000 acres—almost 1/4 million acres! The really attractive part for potential drillers? The land is located in the wet gas area of the Marcellus.

The next largest group MDN is aware of is in Upstate New York—the CNY (Central New York) Landowners Coalition—with 194,500 acres. Both the Wirt County and CNY coalitions have representatives in Houston this week for the NAPE Winter Expo, shopping the acreage looking for a lease.

More details on the Wirt County group:

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Important Developments in NY Fracking Ban Court Cases

court gavelThere’s been an important development in two cases on appeal in New York State courts that challenge municipal bans of fracking. The two cases challenge municipal fracking bans in the Town of Dryden, NY (see this MDN story for background) and the Town of Middlefield, NY (see this MDN story for background).

According to lead attorney Tom West, all the necessary paperwork for both cases has been filed (called “perfecting” the case). West believes both cases will make it onto the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court docket for an early February hearing of oral arguments. The Appellate Division typically issues an opinion 6-8 weeks following oral arguments, so we should have a decision by late spring. In addition and of keen interest, the plaintiff in one of the cases has changed.

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Who is Behind StopThePipeline.org?

A so-called “grassroots coalition” has formed to oppose the proposed 120-mile Constitution Pipeline. The Constitution will be built by Williams and Cabot Oil & Gas, stretching from the Marcellus Shale gas fields of Susquehanna County in northeaster Pennsylvania through New York State to Schoharie County (see this MDN story for background).

A “group” opposing the new pipeline has sprung up with an impressive web presence at the URL StopThePipeline.org. But who’s behind this group? And what are their true aims? MDN has done a bit of nosing around.

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Large Combined Upstate NY Landowner Meeting June 21

MDN received the following announcement about a combined landowner coalition meeting happening tomorrow night (Thursday night) in Otego, NY. Two coalitions will meet together: The Central New York Landowner Coalition and the Unatego Land Coalition. MDN knows from previous meetings that we’ve attended that the CNY coalition is quite large, perhaps the single largest New York coalition with thousands of active members. The meeting will feature a screening of the new Truthland movie along with a presentation by former NY DEC Commissioner Mike Zagata.

Combined Coalition Meeting (With the Unatego Land Coalition)
June 21, 2012 – 7PM – Unatego Jr/Sr High School – Otego, NY
Full Length "Truthland" Movie starts at 6:40PM

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Pittsfield, NY Votes to NOT Ban Fracking

While attending the first ever Natural Gas Career and Education Expo held at Broome Community College yesterday, MDN learned of some good news—news that does not get reported by local or statewide media. Board members for the Town of Pittsfield, NY voted earlier this week to table a measure that would ban fracking. Pittsfield is a small township in Otsego County, not far from Middlefield where a lawsuit is underway to overturn a fracking ban there.

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Middlefield, NY Fracking Ban Stands in Court Decision

court gavelA second court case decision in New York, this one in Middlefield (near Cooperstown) has ruled that local municipalities have the right to ban shale gas drilling within their borders. On Friday, Feb. 24 Acting Supreme Court Justice Donald F. Cerio, Jr. ruled that a previously passed drilling ban in the Town of Middlefield in Otsego County, NY is legal. A copy of the judge’s decision is embedded below. (Note: Thank you to an MDN reader for providing this exclusive copy of the decision that comes direct from the judge’s chambers.)

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Middlefield, NY Lawsuit: The Town’s Counterargument

point counterpointMDN recently reported about two lawsuits filed (so far) in New York State that will set precedent in the state on the issue of whether or not local municipalities (i.e. townships) can ban gas drilling altogether within their borders.

One of those lawsuits, filed against the Town of Middlefield in Otsego County, was filed by landowner Jennifer Huntington (see the MDN story here). Her lawsuit says the town’s ban violates state law which stipulates only the state can regulate oil and gas drilling. The key word there is “regulate.”

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Second Lawsuit Filed Against NY Town Challenges Drilling Ban

One day after Anschutz Exploration announced it would file a lawsuit against Dryden, NY (Tompkins County) to overturn a local ban on gas drilling in that township (see MDN story here), another lawsuit against another township in New York State has been filed. This new case was filed by landowner and township resident Jennifer Huntington against the Township of Middlefield in Otsego County. This suit, like the one from Anschutz, says the township has passed what amounts to an illegal law targeting the oil and gas industry, an industry that is specifically regulated by the state according to New York State law. The township’s ban infringes Ms. Huntington’s private property rights as a landowner to allow gas drilling on her land. A copy of the lawsuit is embedded below.

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