Hancock Gas Lease

Community for Hancock-area land owners interested in gas leasing

Sullivan County will be hosting a series of public forums designed to provide more information about gas drilling. Their announcement can be read on their web site.

This series of Public Forums, “Understanding Gas Drilling,” will take place at Monticello High School, 237 Route 42 in Monticello, NY, on the following dates: Tuesday – June 29, Thursday – July 15, and Thursday – August 19. All events run from 5:45 PM to 8:30 PM, are free and open to the public.

The first Public Forum, scheduled for Tuesday, June 29, will cover “Property and Landowner Issues. “ Panelists include

  • Chris Denton, an attorney from Elmira, New York, who specializes in representing property owners and landowner coalitions in negotiations over the technical terms of natural gas leases. 
  • Bradd Vickers, President of the Chenango County Farm Bureau, has spoken, written and worked extensively with farmers in Central New York on the issues landowners need to consider in signing a gas lease. Both Denton and Vickers participated in a panel organized by the Division of Planning at Sullivan West High School in August 2008. 
  • Todd Mathes, an attorney with the Albany law firm of Whiteman Osterman and Hanna, LLP, specializes in environmental and municipal law in New York State. He has written on the complexities involved in local governments exercising home-rule powers with regard to natural gas development, from managing town roads to limited zoning and land use controls.

 
The second Public Forum, scheduled for Thursday, July 15, is sub-titled, “Environmental and Health Concerns.” The panel of speakers will examine potential health and environmental risks associated with natural gas development, the state of current New York State regulations, and industry practices designed to mitigate potential hazards. Panelists include

  • Dr. Anthony R. Ingraffea, the Dwight C. Baum Professor of Engineering at Cornell University, who has researched and analyzed the fracturing processes involved in gas shale deposits.
  • Dr. Adam Law, MD, a specialist in endocrinology and metabolic medicine and President of the Medical Staff at Cayuga Medical Center in Ithaca, New York, will present his concerns over the lack of information regarding risks to human endocrine and metabolic function contained in New York State’s draft Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (DSGEIS) covering natural gas development in the Marcellus Shale. 
  • Kate Sinding, an attorney and Deputy Director of Urban East Program of the Natural Resources Defense Council, will provide an analysis of the proposed environmental regulations contained in the DSGEIS. 
  • Paul Hartman, Director of Government Relations in New York State for Chesapeake Energy Corporation will speak to his company’s approach to mitigating risks through drilling practices and other operations that comprise the natural gas extraction process.

 
The third Public Forum, scheduled for Thursday, August 19, will focus on “Economic and Community Impacts,” exploring the diverse predictions and empirical data on economic “gain” and “strain” among communities that have experienced natural gas development, most recently in the northeast but also over the past decade and longer in western states. Speakers include

  • Jannette Barth, an economist with her own consulting firm, J.M. Barth & Associates of Croton-on-Hudson, who has examined potential economic gains and unforeseen costs in New York and Pennsylvania.
  • Anthony J. Ventello, Executive Director of Progress Authority of Bradford and Susquehanna Counties, based in Towanda, Pennsylvania, oversees economic development programs for this two-county region experiencing rapid growth of natural gas exploration and extraction. 
  • Jeffrey Jacquet is a Ph. D. candidate in the Department of Natural Resources at Cornell University; he is a member of Cornell Cooperative Extension’s “Marcellus Shale Team” and has examined regional economic trends related to natural gas development in Wyoming, Texas and most recently north-central Pennsylvania. 
  • Craig Sautner, a resident of Dimmock, Pennsylvania, will speak from direct experience on his community’s challenges with gas drilling.

For additional information, contact the Sullivan County Division of Planning and Environmental Management, Tel. 845-807-0527, or Email: planning@co.sullivan.ny.us

The Josh Fox film Gasland will be shown on HBO this coming Monday, June 21. It’s scheduled for 9pm.

From the film’s web site:

When filmmaker Josh Fox discovers that Natural Gas drilling is coming to his area—the Catskillls/Poconos region of Upstate New York and Pennsylvania, he sets off on a 24 state journey to uncover the deep consequences of the United States’ natural gas drilling boom. What he uncovers is truly shocking—water that can be lit on fire right out of the sink, chronically ill residents of drilling areas from disparate locations in the US all with the same mysterious symptoms, huge pools of toxic waste that kill cattle and vegetation well blowouts and huge gas explosions consistently covered up by state and federal regulatory agencies. These are just a few of the many absurd and astonishing revelations of a new country called GASLAND.

NPR’s web site has an interview with Mr. Fox, you can listen to it at this link.

It seems like anyone considering signing a lease for gas drilling ought to see this side of the story. At the same time, let’s not lose sight of the fact that this is exactly that: one side of the story, and told by someone who isn’t trying to educate us so much as bring us over to his side. So keep an open mind toward both perspectives: that there are dangers, but also that the movie is engineered to make us come to a certain conclusion, as Michael Moore is famous for. (Note that I haven’t yet seen the film myself, so I could be wrong.)

Thanks to “FlyFisher” for the tip that this is coming.

Last Thursday a well in Clearfield County PA suffered a blowout.. Fracking fluid and gas jetted out of the hole, reaching 75 feet into the air, and was finally brought under control Friday around noon.

While the pollutants could have caused a major mess, it seems that the worst contamination was prevented. As the water made its way toward local streams, a work crew intercepted it by digging a trench and pumping it away, recovering about 35,000 gallons. No injuries resulted, nor was there any fire. However, the Washington Post reports

The gas never caught fire and no injuries were reported, but state officials worried about an explosion before the well could be controlled. The well was brought under control just after noon Friday, about 16 hours after it started spewing gas and brine, said Elizabeth Ivers, a spokeswoman for driller EOG Resources Inc.

EOG, the company owning the well, has released a statement about the incident:

The incident occurred at approximately 8:00 p.m. EDT on Thursday, June 3, 2010 when a service rig operated by a contractor was in the final stages of completing this natural gas well prior to bringing the well on production. When the incident occurred, containment trenches and sump pumps were immediately put in place to capture fluid release and well control specialists were dispatched to the wellsite. At sundown, for safety reasons, the area was secured and all personnel were moved away from the well site. The following morning the well control specialists and EOG assessed the situation and took steps to shut-in the well. They determined that no detectable amounts of natural gas were present in the area of the well. The PADEP was notified of the situation and representatives of the agency were also on location to oversee the securing of the well. At approximately 12:15 p.m. EDT on June 4, 2010, the well was secured and shut-in. The well site is in an unpopulated location approximately 11 miles from Penfield, PA. There were no fires, no injuries and no significant impact to the environment as a result of this incident.

During the 16-hour period, the well released a limited amount of flowback water, salt water and some natural gas, but the well has been completely shut-in and secured since approximately 12:15 p.m. EDT on June 4th. The containment trenches and sump pumps captured the majority of the fluids that flowed from the well during this time period. As of the morning of June 6, 2010, approximately 834 barrels (35,000 gallons) of these fluids had been recovered and are contained on location. EOG believes this is the majority of the fluids that were released from the well prior to being shut-in. EOG also immediately began monitoring nearby streams and springs to identify and respond to any impact to area water. At this time, EOG believes that any impact to area streams and springs and to the environment is minimal. All operations at this well site have been suspended and all applicable equipment has been secured pending the incident investigation.

In a preliminary assessment of the cause, it appears that the seal integrity between the pipe rams of the blow-out preventer (BOP) and the tubing was compromised allowing pressurized fluids and some natural gas to flow. The cause of this compromise is being investigated. As part of EOG’s routine operating and safety procedures, the BOP had been successfully tested the morning of June 3, 2010.

This is a nasty development, but I think there’s a silver lining to it.

First, we’ve learned more about the possible dangers of drilling, and hopefully that in turn will lead to a better understanding of how to mitigate them. We’re all lucky that this happened in an unpopulated region, so the effect of this accident will have minimal impact on people’s lives.

Second, with world attention focused on the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, this helps us keep a little perspective. This accident was dangerous, and things could have gone worse. But it’s a completely different class of incident compared to the Gulf. In particular, it appears that gas drilling, even involving hydrofracking, is much more manageable than deep-sea drilling.

For some time now, New York City bureaucrats have been advocating an outright ban on drilling within the watershed. It seems that the DEC is punting on the question: rather than issuing an answer one way or the other, they are making the watershed area a separate class of regulations. Any application to drill in this area must be considered on a case-by-case basis. It seems likely that in practice this will amount to an insurmountable hurdle of red tape, becoming a de facto ban.

As reported by the AP:

New regulations announced Friday for natural gas drilling in the New York City and Syracuse watersheds will create a bureaucratic hurdle that effectively prevents drilling there, defusing concerns about possible drinking-water contamination.

Environmental Conservation Commissioner Pete Grannis said the watersheds will be removed from drilling regulations being developed for other parts of the Marcellus Shale region in southern New York. Instead, each gas well would require an individual environmental impact statement, which entails a long, costly and complicated process.

On the other hand, this sacrifice seems to be balanced by a more streamlined process for the remaining areas:

Under the broader regulations, companies applying for drilling permits would have to meet requirements spelled out in a “generic” environmental impact statement but wouldn’t have to do impact statements for each well.

The first question you’re probably asking yourself is: “am I in the watershed?”. Check out this link courtesy of NYC.

The State DEC is working through the heap of comments submitted during the comment period on the draft environment impact statement. According to WXXI Albany, The DEC Commissioner Pete Grannis expects the process to be completed by fall, and that drilling conforming to the regulations might begin in spring or summer of 2011.

Cabot Oil has been fined and given other sanctions for the contamination of residents’ wells in Dimock, PA. This contamination is the result of methane from the gas seeping into the water, and unrelated to the fracking itself, radiation, or other pollution.

An article in the Citizen’s Voice quotes the PA DEP:

Cabot must plug three wells within 40 days that are believed to be the source of migrating gas that has contaminated groundwater and the drinking water supplies of 14 homes in the region. It must also install permanent treatment systems in those homes within 30 days.

Additionally, DEP Secretary John Hanger said his agency is immediately suspending its review of Cabot’s pending permit applications for new drilling activities statewide until it fulfills its obligations under the order issued today. Cabot also is barred from drilling any new wells for at least one year in the Dimock Township area.

This follows an incident last September in which Cabot spilled fracking fluid in the Dimock area.

Thanks to reader Nancy Flaherty, who posted a comment yesterday alerting us to this development.

A study commissioned by Chemung County has found that the soil waste from shale gas drilling in the region is safe. Conducted by a healthcare physicist, it was shown that waste soil is not particularly radioactive (as had been feared), but is well below EPA standards for radiation.

As reported by the Star-Gazette:

“These people are experts. They made it very clear that this material is less radioactive than the countertops in our houses and soil in our gardens,” [County Executive Tom] Santulli said. “My message is simple — this stuff is not toxic. It’s no more radioactive than the soil in your garden and bricks on your house. All this testing verifies that. This is way below any EPA levels.”This would be equivalent to taking dirt from your backyard and using it in landfill,” he said. “It can be used for cover. It’s that safe.”

Some residents remain unconvinced, according to the article.

Residents for the Preservation of Lowman and Chemung and People for a Healthy Environment released a study by Radioactive Waste Management Associates that said “the disposal of drill cuttings from horizontal wells into the Marcellus Shale at the Chemung County Landfill are likely to result in significant risks to human health.”

The study commissioned by the county does nothing to alter those findings, said Dr. Earl Robinson, vice president of Residents for the Preservation of Lowman and Chemung.”Why take this stuff if it’s so benign and put it in a landfill? Why not put it in their (drillers’) backyard?” Robinson asked. “Why put a fence around the place? Because it’s dangerous. There is no such thing as a safe level of radioactivity.”

Down but not out

2 comments

Yesterday we wrote that prospects for Southern Tier gas drilling look more remote due to the Governor’s political woes. Today we have a counterpoint to that. The Capital Business Council writes that GOP gubernatorial candidate Steve Levy supports developing the natural resources of the Marcellus Shale:

“The Department of Environmental Conservation should allow the process to move forward,” Levy said in a press release. “New York already has the highest environmental standards in the nation. There is no doubt that we can promote exploration while safeguarding our environment and water supply.

“New Yorkers look to their Pennsylvania neighbors and see a burst of drilling activity and they wonder why we can’t do the same here. Especially when the state is trying to close a massive deficit and promote job growth in a region that has been hurt badly by a lagging economy. Unfortunately, right now the American gas drilling boom has been blocked at the New York border.”

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