I recently visited Marcellus country in Pennsylvania. I was awed by the beauty of the land after the drilling is done and the land reclaimed. This is in stark contrast to the pastoral poverty that is typical of the southern tier in New York. Here are the pictures that I took:
This is Wyalusing, PA, in the fall. The Susquehana River flows quietly by the farmsteads. The area in the picture has been drilled for Marcellus Shale gas, and is in the middle of gas production. All the well pads have been reclaimed. Only open meadows remain. Can you see the wells in the picture? No, we can’t either. You won’t see the well heads unless you drive up right next to them.
Notice how beautiful the farmsteads are. They are all in good repair and freshly painted. The barns have new roofs on them. These buildings were all dilapidated just a few years ago, before the economic boom brought along by gas development. Should also note that the fields are all neatly planted. No, the farmers did not move away with their new found fortunes. They just keep farming.
A common sight in the NYC Watershed. This is farm country in Stamford. This seems like a pristine rural scene. Well, not quite. The farm buildings are all in disrepair. Part of the main building collapsed and is left to decay. The farmhouse is unoccupied. What was once active farmland has been abandoned, left to weeds.
This is what happens when farmers do not have the right to use their land to make a living, in New York.
- Doug Lee
Rebuilding Communities, Restoring the Future with Safe Natural Gas Development
Proven Technology will Reduce Utility Bills across New York State
Albany, NY – Hundreds of farmers, small business owners, laborers, homeowners, students and organizations that support them in the fight to create jobs and opportunities through safe and proven natural gas development will come together in Albany on Monday, October 15th, to ask Governor Cuomo to join them in restoring hope to economically depressed upstate communities by lifting the moratorium on high volume hydraulic fracturing in New York.
“We remain confident that New York is on the right path toward safe and responsible development of the Marcellus Shale, and we have quietly waited for four years for DEC to complete its review and recommend best practices that will make NY a leader in natural gas production. However, noise by well-funded and organized activists masquerading as environmentalists, who often do not need to make a living in our communities, can no longer go unchecked. We want to make clear we believe that natural gas development offers the best path to create jobs, rebuild communities and restore the future for families across the Southern Tier,” said Susan Dorsey, a Chenango County mother of seven and former tax assessor. “We have seen the jobs and revenues created just across the border in Pennsylvania, and how that has helped communities rebuild, injected new life into dying farms, and kept families together. That’s a story the rest of the State needs to hear and there is no better place to tell it than the Capitol.”
The rally will begin at 10:30 a.m. at the Corning Preserve Amphitheatre, where speakers from around the state will address the important issues facing their communities and the benefits natural gas development offers. At 12:15 p.m., the crowd will march to the Capitol and gather in West Capitol Park for additional speeches. The speakers will include elected officials, labor leaders, small business owners, land owners and an industry representative.
“The Pennsylvania story is a positive one that shows that when government, local people and industry work together, you can create jobs while protecting public health and lands,” said Uni Blake, an Otsego County environmental scientist and mother of five. “We live here, work here, farm here, and raise our families here. We are not interested in destroying our future with unproven, unsafe technology and to suggest otherwise is ridiculous. We have done the homework and we know this can be done safely, and we know New York State is making sure it will be done safely.”
The benefits for developing the rich shale reserves which lie deep under the ground of some of the poorest communities in the Southern Tier and Central New York are enormous: Farmers who are struggling can reinvest in their operations and secure their future for the next generation. Small businesses will grow, families can stay together as the Southern Tier adds jobs that pay on average $79,000 a year; local and county governments will reap new revenues to spare property taxpayers from ever increasing bills, and New Yorkers throughout the state stand to benefit from lower utility bills.
“These are very tough times for many families, farms and small businesses across the Southern Tier, and the struggle is only getting harder as local governments and schools are forced to rely on higher and higher property taxes. We want to get this done right, but we also want to get it done sooner than later before it’s too late for many of us who are just trying to hold on,” said Bill Graby, a Sullivan County dairy farmer whose family has farmed since 1870. “I’d rather be milking cows and can’t afford to spend a day in Albany. But I pay some of the highest property taxes in the state, and we are threatened by a poor economy with little opportunity. The key to my farm’s survival lies in the rich gas under my land, yet I can’t touch it. I don’t know where else to turn, so I’m going to the Capitol to ask the Governor to hear my voice and that of other small businesses. It’s not a message we like to deliver, and it’s not a message many folks want to hear, but it’s the reality here on the ground. We know New York can do it right, do it safely, and do it in a way that protects public health and lands. Now we need to just do it.”
Consider the impacts:
• NY’s unemployment rate is 9.1%. Close to 250,000 New Yorkers already rely on the oil and natural gas industry for jobs. Allowing hydraulic fracturing will create tens of thousands of new jobs in the gas and oil industry in NY.
• Pennsylvania’s Department of Labor estimates that allowing horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing has created over 72,000 gas and oil jobs since 2009.
• New manufacturing facilities are locating in Pennsylvania due to the abundance of low cost natural gas, creating many stable good paying jobs.
• NY regulators oversee the implementation, permitting, reporting and compliance of all the companies who drill in the state, ensuring the safety and security of surrounding communities.
• More than 76,000 natural gas wells have been drilled in NY over the last 30 years without one instance of water contamination. There are currently over 14,000 active wells in the state, most of which were hydraulically fractured, with no signs of contamination.
• There are strict construction requirements in place for oil and gas wells to protect all groundwater, including private wells. Municipal water wells are protected by requirements for environmental assessments depending on how close a proposed oil and gas well is.
• Most drilling companies have already begun recycling 90% of their wastewater to help lower costs, decrease traffic and reduce consumption.
• The ingredients used in hydraulic fracturing fluid are found in many common household products. DEC requires that these ingredients be disclosed to the public.
• Natural gas now produces about one third of all the electricity generated in the U.S., causing CO2 emissions to fall to 20-year lows.
• Allowing natural gas drilling could bring $11.4 billion into the NY economy, as well as potentially generate $1.4 billion in state and local taxes.
• NY’s “Ad Valorem” property tax creates significant revenue for towns, villages, counties and schools where gas wells are located and in production. The revenue comes from a tax placed on the gas companies working in the area. In the town of Owego, in Tioga County, adding two wells per year, with six wells over three years, would bring in more than $3.7 million in Ad Valorem tax revenue for local schools and government.
• Residents of the Town of Windsor in Broome County recently saw a 5 percent reduction in their school tax bills due to a $30 million addition to the tax base with the construction of a new natural gas compressor station.
In addition to added revenues and taxes, allowing natural gas drilling will bring in millions of dollars in lease bonuses, royalties and increased economic prosperity, and the benefits will be felt across the state. For example, Pennsylvania’s utility ratepayers saved an average of $3,000 per household in the last three years due to the abundance of natural gas created by hydraulic fracturing – providing a needed boost to families all over that state.
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The groups participating in the rally include:
NY Construction Materials Association
Business Council of NY
Eastern Contractors Association
National Federation of Independent Businesses
Associated General Contractors of NYS
Greater Binghamton Chamber of Commerce
ANGA – America’s Natural Gas Association
NYS Petroleum Council
American Petroleum Institute
IOGA – Independent Oil and Gas Association of NY
Independent Power Producers of NY
The Vestal Coalition
New York Pipe Trades
Plumbers and Steamfitters Local 267
Broome County Farm Bureau
Tioga County Farm Bureau
Chemung County Farm Bureau
Steuben County Farm Bureau
Chenango County Farm Bureau
Central NY Landowners Coalition
Deposit Gas Group
Rowdy Ridge Runners
Mountain Valley Group
Bainbridge Area Landowners
Windsor Colesville Coalition
Sapbush Road Group
Western Barker Landowners
Vestal Gas Coalition
Maine Gas Coalition
Town of Barker Coalition
Tioga County Landowners
Sullivan Delaware Property Owners Association
Steuben County Landowners Coalition
Sanford Gas Coalition
Rural Bethel Landowners Coalition
Owego Gas Coalition
North Sanford Landowners
Friendsville (NY) Group
Chemung County Landowners
Sidney Area Landowners
Unatego Area Landowners
Oxford Land Group
Binghamton Conklin Gas Coalition
Landowner Advocates of NY
Joint Landowners Coalition of NY
Concerned Property Rights Advocates of the Southern Tier
Northern Wayne Property Owners Alliance, PA.
Dimock Proud, Dimock, PA
The following article was published in the Energy In Depth Marcellus Initiative:
Marcellus Shale gas development (hydraulic fracturing, frac’ing, or “fracking”) is a hot subject amongst most New Yorkers. While the controversies hover around potential environmental impacts of the technology, the real issue is actually centered on private property rights. This public debate on the permitted uses of private land is a manifestation of the struggle between affluent urbanites who want to dominate land use policies in the rural areas, versus farmers who want to use their land to make a living.
The rural areas of upstate New York have been hard hit by the financial crisis. Many of the farmers and rural population are at the verge of financial disaster. The development of shale gas would bring economic prosperity to these communities, and prevent the farmers from having to suffer the indignities of bank foreclosures or tax sales.
The urban elite, on the other hand, are more interested in preserving scenic beauty and tranquility of the rural areas than allowing the farmers to make a living. Environmental preservation is a perfect excuse for imposing restrictions on private land use. Accordingly, many rumors of pollution caused by drilling were propagated. As soon as one is debunked, another is invented. The objective is clear, to stop development of the mineral resources underneath these farmlands, thus preserving the wilderness, or “view shed” sought after by the urban elite.
Hydraulic fracturing is just one battlefront for the attack on private property rights. The development restrictions placed by NYC on the private properties in the reservoir watershed areas has already exerted its damage on the local economy. Similarly, private properties in the Adirondacks, and in the Delaware River Basin, are all suffering the same fate.
Based on careful studies conducted over the last five years, shale gas development is the safest and cleanest form of energy production we have today outside of hydro electricity. Of the thousands of Superfund sites caused by various industrial activities, none were caused by hydraulic fracturing. Of a million wells frac’ed to date, none has resulted in any frac fluid migration. Case after case of false drilling pollution reports have been debunked by environmental agencies such as the EPA, the NYS DEC, and PA DEP, and the current Administration has declared hydraulic fracturing can be done safely.
Many may be surprised to learn that shale gas development has already helped reduce air pollution in the US over the last three years. It has help reduce the heating bill of the average NYC resident significantly. It has created large number of jobs in Pennsylvania where drilling is allowed. New York State would benefit from such jobs creation and the added tax revenues.
To protect private property rights, and to educate the public on the truth behind shale gas development, the Landowner Advocates of New York was formed. In addition to protecting the farmers right to use their land to make a living, we aim to correct the injustice of special interest groups using their political influence to zone out legitimate economic uses of the private properties of individuals, or declaring areas with environmental restrictions without just compensation. Our mission is to uphold the US Constitution, as stated in the Fifth Amendment of the Bill of Rights, which stated: “…nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”
The following article was published in Energy In Depth, Marcellus Initiative:
“The purpose of our society is not for the few of maximum strength and ambition to lead lives of Byzantine glory, but for men to make the most of their common humanity.
We are pledged to a general diffusion of culture, of independence, and self-respect and the means to a good life.” – Dr. Smith Boughton, alias “Big Thunder”.
Its been over four years since NY put natural gas development on hold and what have we to show for it, , more delays, an increase in the poverty rate, tax sales on properties and higher unemployment. NY landowners are being deprived of their constitutional right to develop their resources, being denied jobs and NY State is missing out on much needed income. The science that the governor promise he would use to determine whether or not natural gas development happens has turned political. There are 38 states that enjoy the benefits of natural gas development but NY is not one of them nor will it be in the near future if the anti gas development groups get their way.
These groups are a well organized and highly financed minority special interest using paid employees for lobbying in Albany and they have seemed to gain the ear of the governor. They have used misrepresentation and fear to drive this discourse even though the science says otherwise and our rights as landowner are being trampled because of it. We the majority has come to the point where having patiently waited for 4+ years for Albany to decide has come to the end of our rope. Without development many landowners and farmers in particular will languish, losing their farms and lands to the sheriff?s sale, land that in some cases has been in families for generations.
Its time we the landowners come to the realization that the few who have advocated for the many is just not enough. Its time for majority to show Governor Cuomo that we are a silent political force to be reckoned with, that we will not allow the minority with their misrepresented information to dictate what we can do with our land when science is on our side. The time has come to show Albany and our politicians that the silent majority will not be silent anymore, we will be heard.
This rally is one of the most important events to come along since the Anti-Rent Wars in the 1840?s, our last chance to be heard, and a chance to show governor Cuomo that we do matter and we vote, and will not be denied our rights as tax paying landowners anymore.
The delay announced by the DEC is just another ploy to placate these anti development groups and with it dashing the hopes for a better economic life for our children and dreams of financial security, jobs and an end to economic hardship for local residents and landowners who have lived in poverty for far to long, being denied the economic opportunity afforded others.
Will we sit back and let a small group of well funded anti-drilling groups control our destiny or will we stand up in mass at Albany and let the governor know that we will be heard and will not allow our rights to be trampled?
And for those PA property owners who are in the Delaware River Basin and think their not effected, as NY goes so goes the DRBC.
Join us for the Truth and Energy Rally on October 15, a rally for landowners to be heard and our rights respected for a cleaner energy tomorrow.
– Fred Peckham