It is beyond bizarre that the Sierra Club, which claims it defends the environment, works so hard to stop electric generating plants from converting from coal to natural gas. As we pointed out yesterday, gas-fired plants produce a small fraction of nasty pollutants like sulfur dioxide, compared with coal (see PA DEP to Issue “Acid Rain Permit” to Scranton Gas-Fired Power Plant). Yet the Sierra Club continues to launch lawsuit after lawsuit aimed at stopping conversion from coal to gas. Why?
In reading through the story we share below, we feel dirty. Like we need a shower. New York State is deeply, deeply corrupt–at the highest levels. As in Gov. Andrew Cuomo. And every now and again, that corruption spreads to otherwise good projects, like converting a small coal-fired electric plant to burn natural gas. The Greenidge Generation power station in Yates County, located along the shoreline of Seneca Lake in the beautiful Finger Lakes region of upstate NY, is one such a project caught in the web of Cuomo’s corruption. Originally built in the 1930s, the operator of the plant, Atlas Holdings, wanted to convert it from burning coal to burning natural gas. After paying $120,000 to Andrew Cuomo’s campaign for reelection and more than $500,000 in payments to lobbyists, Atlas got a “fast track” approval and certain environmental exemptions from the Cuomo Administration. It’s a worthy project and should have been approved without such payoffs, but the project couldn’t get approved otherwise. Here’s the sordid story.
The board that oversees the Keuka Watershed Improvement Cooperative has voted to request Gov. Andrew Cuomo grant the Keuka watershed (Finger Lakes area of New York) protection against hydraulic fracturing—to put it “off limits”—as will be done with both the New York City and Syracuse watershed areas (if the draft version of the SGEIS drilling rules are passed as written).
But at least one village trustee in the area is concerned that the board has turned the Keuka watershed group into a lobbying (i.e. political) organization, and Penn Yan’s village attorney says the request’s language goes well beyond drilling restrictions.
Local governments in New York State that pass zoning ordinances to restrict or prohibit hydraulic fracturing and drilling for natural gas in the Marcellus and Utica Shales may find their actions overturned in short order.
The town of Barrington, NY (Yates County), in New York’s Finger Lakes region, has voted to approve a temporary moratorium on hydraulic fracturing in the township for a one year period to give it time to develop new zoning laws to deal with possible Marcellus Shale drilling, should the New York State moratorium be lifted.
At a recent presentation in Penn Yan and Watkins Glen, NY, Tony Ingraffea, professor at Cornell University, and Peter Landre, director of Yates County Cornell Cooperative Extension, said Yates and Schuyler Counties (NY) are not “ideal” for drilling in the Marcellus Shale because the shale deposit in those counties is relatively shallow. Even so, energy companies have signed a number of leases:
There are currently 1,342 signed gas leases in Yates County, from 2005 to 2009. Colby Peterson, Yates County Soil and Water Conservation District technician, said the leases make up 20 percent, or 44,076 acres, of the acres in Yates County.
According to Lloyd Wetherbee, Schuyler County Soil and Water Conservation District technician, there are up to 50,000 acres leased in Schuyler, or 13 percent of the land in the county. Wetherbee said this equals between 1,600 to 1,700 leased parcels.*
*Dundee The Observer Review (Mar 23) – Marcellus Shale drilling: ‘Not ideal’ here