AC Alert for June 19, 2012
A Different Approach to Fracking Regulations
A growing number of energy companies are now pursuing the "fracking" process to get to formerly-unavailable energy deposits deep beneath the earth' surface. Elected officials and administrative agency personnel in numerous states along the eastern Appalachians mountain chain -- and elsewhere in the USA -- are becoming ever-more familiar with the tenor and tone of the broadening fracking (hydraulic fracturing) debate.
For the most part, proposed regulations under consideration in statehouses from Albany (NY) to Raleigh (NC) are being framed in a take-it-or-leave-it format: Either fracking would be allowed with certain safeguards, or it would be banned altogether. However, a new approach unveiled last week in New York State -- which would permit fracking only in certain areas where it is indeed wanted by local jurisdictions -- and this may add a new twist to the ongoing controversy:
This from The New York Times: "Landowners along New York's southern border who support natural gas drilling are cheered by reports that the Cuomo Administration is considering allowing hydraulic fracturing on a limited basis in towns that want it, though opponents call the idea shameful. The administration is pursuing a plan to limit the controversial shale gas drilling technology to portions of Broome, Chenango, Steuben and Tioga counties."
The Times quoted a senior official at the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) as saying this (along with others with knowledge of the situation). The "Southern Tier" region, which has long been economically-depressed, is situated along the border with heavily-drilled Pennsylvania -- and is considered most likely to yield significant quantities of natural gas in New York.
The Joint Landowners Coalition of New York is a group seeking to lease land for drilling and has persuaded several dozen NY towns to pass resolutions supporting drilling. (New York State like neighboring New England states favors the "township" form of local government.) Many more NY towns have passed bans or moratoriums on drilling.
The Times reported that officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because deliberations are continuing. Governor Andrew Cuomo (yes, son former governor Mario Cuomo and himself former Secretary of HUD under President Bill Clinton) and Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens have declined to give a specific timetable for completion of the environmental review and haven't said definitively whether fracking will be allowed in New York.
Numerous environmental, health, and community groups seek a statewide ban on hydraulic fracturing of shale deposits (fracking) altogether; they object to the process that frees gas from shale by injecting a well with millions of gallons of chemically-treated water applied under immense pressure. All that water must also be disposed of safely, which is the next phase of the debate if fracking begins in a region.
Opponents of drilling and fracking in the vast Marcellus Shale formation underlying parts of New York, Pennsylvania and other states cite increasing risks of water and air pollution.
A coalition of scientists, physicians, environmentalists and elected officials gathered more than 2,300 signatures and presented a letter to Governor Cuomo opposing plans for any demonstration project or other plan to allow shale gas development even on a limited basis.
Proponents have suggested such a plan as an alternative to (shorter-term) wide-scale development. The state has not permitted shale gas development using horizontal drilling and high-volume hydraulic fracturing since it began an environmental review in 2008. The NY state reviews and then new regulations are expected to be completed this year. (Source: Bloomberg Business Week)
The growing intensity of the public fracking debate has a lot to do with getting at domestic fossil fuel sources and reducing our nation's dependence on important oil and natural gas. Proponents frequently mention the new jobs created, as well as the economic benefits in regions where shale drilling takes place.
Farmers and ranchers look forward to these new revenue flows to cushion economic blows due to weather, downturns in commodity prices, or the possibility of reduced federal subsidies. However, other individuals and community leaders are not looking so positively at the presence of oil and gas drilling on their land and in their community.
This is especially true in areas where public and private water supplies may be threatened by sloppy drilling and related processes. The public debate on fracking involves state regulatory officials, members of congress and other elected officials, public health professionals, environmentalists, academics, civil society organization leaders, and industry oil and gas executives.
Recognizing the importance of this issue, AC editors established a Hot Topic Section several years ago -- “The Truth About Fracking.” Our objective is to provide a full and comprehensive repository where news articles, commentary and research on all sides of the fracking debate can be accessed. Here are some of our most recent articles from that Hot Topic Section:
Chesapeake to renegotiate New York natgas leases
(Source: Reuters) Chesapeake Energy has agreed to allow thousands of natural gas leases in New York State to be renegotiated. As New York considers opening its borders to drilling again, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is allowing more than 4,400 landowners, many of whom opposed the extensions, to return to the table and negotiate new lease terms.
Fracking in Ohio Sparks Real Estate Rebound: Mortgages
(Source: Bloomberg Business Week) Fracking is bringing new development to the Midwest, creating demand for commercial real estate in the region even as landlords struggle to pay off earlier property loans.
Natural gas industry groups question EPA fracking rules
(Source: News OK.com). According to a report released by the American Petroleum Institute and America’s Natural Gas Alliance methane emissions were 50 percent lower than the EPA estimated when it issued the first federal clean air standards for hydraulic fracturing in April.
Fracking: the role of eminent domain
(Source: News and Observer) This article explores the role of eminent domain within the debate over fracking regulations currently underway in North Carolina.
Exxon Mobil warns red tape risks snuffing out gas boom
(Source: Reuters) Exxon Mobil Corp has warned that too much government regulation could undermine a rapid global expansion of gas output from a range of unconventional sources.
The Land That Fracking Forgot
(Source: Bloomberg Business Week) Wayne County, Pennsylvania has witnessed a dramatic reversal in land values after the Delaware River Water Commission imposed a moratorium on fracking.
Let's close the information gap about fracking
(Source: Los Angeles Times) Commentator Michael Hiltzik says that the oil and gas industry wants to withhold information from regulators about the exact formulation of the fluids injected into the ground during fracking, calling them trade secrets.
Voices from the Shale:
Investors Bring US$1 Trillion of Pressure on Hydraulic Fracturing Industry; Demand Disclosure & Commitment to Measurable Goals
(Source: Mike Benard) G&A’s exclusive commentator Mike Benard reports that states like Pennsylvania and Ohio are swimming against what he calls a one trillion dollar tide of transparency and disclosure involving high-volume hydraulic fracturing companies.
Lawmakers in those states are advancing legislation to “gag” physicians and limit citizens’ ability to sue fracking companies over chemical disclosure
AC's Hot Topic focus on Fracking continues to expand as energy companies step up efforts to find new sources on US lands and states struggle with adopting appropriate regulations. While tensions with some countries in the Middle East have lessened ever so slightly, there still remains the ever-present threat of a cut-off of Middle East or other foreign oil. This puts pressure on all sides as the nation’s leaders in the public and private sectors seek alternative energy sources.
Our editors continue monitoring and collecting comments regarding fracking on a daily basis from a wide range of sources to keep you informed. We welcome commentary on fracking, especially from local civic leadership, and from industry managers. Send comments to: email@example.com
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