Sullivan County, NY Legislature Wants to Ban Marcellus Drilling for Everyone in the County

Sullivan County, NY landowners have some reason to be concerned. Their county legislature wants a complete moratorium of horizontal gas drilling in the county.

At a recent meeting, the Sullivan County legislature voted to prevent drilling on county-owned lands. Frankly, “So what?” A ban on county-owned land likely does not make a difference for local landowners still interested in leasing. However, according to news reports:

“They [the county legislature] want the whole of Sullivan County off limits, via a moratorium.”*

That is a concern to Sullivan County landowners. It’s likely no more than huff and bluff, however, because New York has “home rule,” meaning if the State allows drilling, and local towns allow it, the county cannot supersede and disallow it.

Some Sullivan County land is considered part of the New York City watershed area—where the City gets its drinking water from. That complicates matters too.

MDN will keep an eye on the developing situation in Sullivan County when drilling finally begins in New York State.

*Mid-Hudson News Network (Mar 19) – Sullivan legislators say ‘no’ to hydrofracking, on county land

While Albany Dithers on Marcellus Drilling, Landowner Profits Evaporate

George Phillips, a Republican candidate for the 22nd Congressional District in New York State, penned a viewpoint article in today’s Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin on the topic of drilling in the Marcellus Shale. In short, Mr. Phillips is pro-drilling while the man who currently holds that office, Maurice Hinchey (Democrat) is anti-drilling and supports federal government interference. While the article takes political aim at his opponent, Mr. Phillips makes strong arguments on why drilling should commence—now.

He closes his article with this:

But the window of opportunity may be closing. As more areas of the country move forward with plans to develop these types of resources, prices naturally fall as supply increases. This leaves our residents waiting, watching potential profits and opportunities evaporate as others reap these benefits while our government dithers.*

Ah yes, the dithering officials in Albany. Albany needs to move forward now. Other shale plays are becoming active, and the Pennsylvania Marcellus is red hot. If Albany drags on much longer with their obstruction of drilling, landowners will be the ones who suffer.

We also hope, along with Mr. Phillips, that the federal government (and Mr. Hinchey) stay out of states’ business.

*Binghamton Press & Sun Bulletin (Mar 8th) – Clear way for drilling

First NY DEC Meeting on Proposed Drilling Regulations Held in Sullivan County

Middletown Times Herald-Record (Oct 29):
300 folks pack Sullivan fracking forum

The first scheduled meeting for public comments on the draft Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (SGEIS) held by the New York DEC happened yesterday in Sullivan County, NY. According to the Middletown Times Herald-Record:

Most of the speakers in the standing-room-only, mostly anti-drilling crowd of more than 300 at Sullivan County Community College said the proposed Department of Environmental Conservation rules for drilling of the Marcellus shale fall short.

The anti-drilling standard tactic is to delay drilling in hopes of building support to get it banned altogether. This was evidenced at the meeting. With regard to extending the DEC’s public comment period (which would further delay the start of drilling):

Paul Rush, deputy commissioner of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, called for 45 extra days.

Joe DiPane of Callicoon called for six months, since the shale “has been formed underground for eons,” he said.

There are two more scheduled meetings, Nov. 10 in New York City and Nov. 12 in the Binghamton area. A third meeting is yet to be arranged in the Elmira area. (See Public Hearings on the New York Draft SGEIS for Marcellus Shale Drilling for details.) Landowners need to attend and make their voices heard!

Chesapeake Energy Decides to Not Drill in Catskill Region of New York

Albany Times Union (Oct 29):
Gas company backs off drilling

There is an important lesson to be learned today: Anti-drilling groups will not be satisfied until there is zero drilling anywhere. This truth is now on full display for all to see. An article in today’s Albany Times Union trumpets the announcement that Chesapeake Energy, sole leaseholder of rights to drill in the Catskill Mountain region of upstate New York (with 5,000 acres), has decided not to drill in that area.

The Catskill region feeds and contains water resevoirs for New York City. The City is dependent on the water from that region of upstate. This fact is being used as a weapon by anti-drillers to stoke fears that the water supply for nine million people would be poluted if there’s any drilling in or near that area. So Chesapeake decided to remove that objection from the table by announcing they would voluntarily commit to not drilling in the watershed area.

So what do the anti-drillers do? Rejoice…dancing in the streets…express gratitude to Chesapeake? Not on your life. Here’s their response:

“One company’s voluntary moratorium on drilling at this point is no substitute for a thorough analysis by the Department of Environmental Conservation and Department of Health to determine the catastrophic potential of drilling into the watershed and in adjacent communities,” said Michael Saucier, a spokesman for the city Department of Environmental Protection.

And this:

“We’re calling on Chesapeake Energy to back up this promise by transferring its leases to the city of New York for the price of $1. After the transfer, the state should ban drilling in the New York City watershed,” said Deborah Goldberg, a managing attorney with EarthJustice, an environmental lobbying group.

And finally, this precious piece of logic:

“When the gas drilling industry says it won’t drill within the source of drinking water for nine million people, it sends a strong message to state regulators that this activity is inappropriate,” said James L. Simpson, Staff Attorney with Riverkeeper.

So, don’t do what the anti-drillers want and your Satan himself. Do what they want, and you’re still Satan himself. Let this be a lesson to all drilling companies and landowners: No compromise with the anti-drillers. Their objective is to shut you down permanently. Stick up for your rights. We still (for now) live in a free country with private property rights. Thank God for the Constitution! Exercise your rights before they’re gone.

Public Hearings on the New York Draft SGEIS for Marcellus Shale Drilling

New York Dept. of Environmental Conservation (Oct 13):
Press Release: DEC Schedules Public Hearings on Marcellus Shale Drilling Draft SGEIS

Landowners will want to attend the public hearings being held by the New York DEC on the draft regulations for drilling in the Marcellus Shale. The regulations are called the Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (SGEIS). Why attend? To educate yourself on the regulations, and (if you’re so inclined), to offer your comments of support. You can be sure the anti-drillers will be out and vocal–so you need to be out and vocal too if you’re interested in ever seeing drilling commence in New York State. Here are the dates for hearings so far:

  • Wednesday, Oct. 28, Sullivan County Community College, E Building, Seelig Theater, 112 College Rd., Loch Sheldrake, NY 12759.
  • Tuesday, Nov. 10, Stuyvesant High School, High School Auditorium, 345 Chambers Street, New York, NY 10282.
  • Thursday, Nov. 12, Chenango Valley High School, High School Auditorium, 221 Chenango Bridge Rd., Chenango Bridge, NY 13901.
  • Elmira – Corning, TBD.

The doors will open at 6 p.m. for individual questions and speaker sign up (first come, first called for commenting on the record). The public comment session will start at 7 p.m. Check the DEC web site for possible changes in time or location.

From the press release:

DEC staff will be available prior to the start of each session to answer individual questions about the format and contents of the draft SGEIS. The following procedures will guide the public hearings:

  • To accommodate as many people as possible, there will be a five-minute limit on oral presentations.
  • Speakers may supplement their oral presentations with written comments. Written and oral comments receive equal consideration.
  • Formal presentations (PowerPoint, etc.) cannot be accommodated.
  • Individuals intending to speak will be required to sign-in upon arrival and will be called in the order registered.

To view (or download) the 809-page draft SGEIS, go to this page: www.dec.ny.gov/energy/58440.html

Downstate New Yorkers Demand Total Ban on Drilling in Upstate’s Marcellus Shale

Marcellus Drilling News sees a growing chorus of voices from New York City who believe the city’s water supply, 90% of which comes from the Catskill/Delaware watershed area in Upstate, is directly threatened by drilling activity in the Marcellus. And they are becoming vocal in their demands to stop the drilling before it even starts.

Some demand no drilling only in the watershed region itself (take note landowners in those counties). Others want a blanket ban throughout the state. From a recent article in The Villager covering a forum held in New York City:

Worried about an imminent threat to the Catskill/Delaware watershed, which supplies New York City with 90 percent of its water, Community Board 2 [C.B. 2] last week voted unanimously to demand a ban on drilling for natural gas in New York State.

And this:

“We can’t let the bad economy and people wanting to cash in on natural gas provoke wholesale drilling,” said Queens Councilmember James Gennaro at a March 18 forum held by the C.B. 2 Environmental Committee at Judson Church. “We can’t be the generation that loses New York City’s water supply to the lure of natural gas,” said Gennaro, who is a trained geologist.

Gennaro is the sponsor of City Council legislation calling on the state Legislature, the state Department of Environmental Conservation and Governor Paterson to prohibit drilling for natural gas within the watershed’s boundaries in Delaware, Greene, Ulster and Sullivan Counties.

The article quotes a parade of officials and heads of environmental groups in NYC that are opposed to any and all drilling in New York. Will the growing chorus of protests make a difference? Perhaps. Landowners need to make their voices heard just as loudly to counter the din that will come from Downstate. Contact Governor Paterson and your state representatives in the Assembly and Senate.

An aside: No one is in favor of contaminating the water supply, least of all our own! The issue of what chemicals are used and in what concentrations is an important one and must be dealt with fairly. Energy companies would do well to diffuse the issue by revealing at least general information about the chemicals they use. However, a blanket ban on all drilling is nonsensical. The problem is, there’s a lot of nonsensical things that happen in our great state. So we must be vigilant to protect our rights as landowners. Let’s not let “the mob” (little “m”) dictate what we can and cannot do with our land. We still have a (precious) few rights left, among them the right to own property. We can protect the water supply and still drill safely in the Marcellus. Let’s figure it out.

Read the full article: No fracking way! C.B. 2 forum warns about water