Mountainkeeper Calls For A Statewide Ban on High-Volume, Hydraulic Fracturing in New York State


Today, Catskill Mountainkeeper is calling for a Statewide ban on high-volume, hydraulic fracturing in New York State.

Up until this point, Catskill Mountainkeeper has operated under the good faith that our leadership in Albany has been working on behalf of all New Yorkers – an assumption that was harshly rebutted in light of recent events. Today, the D.E.C. is releasing recommendations for regulations on high-volume hydraulic fracturing in New York State, which would allow for drilling in 85% of the state’s Marcellus shale formations and fails to offer protections for the Delaware River Basin and the private lands in the Catskill Park.  It’s clear from the summary released yesterday that the Administration is intent on laying out a roadmap to enable aggressive high-volume fracking to be done in New York State, and we refuse to endorse a process that is blatantly and fatally flawed. We know what happens in areas where hydro-fracking has been done.  We have seen the consequences from fracking in communities from Colorado to Pennsylvania and beyond.

Catskill Mountainkeeper cannot and will not stand by and allow for this destructive practice to happen throughout New York State – devastating our communities and environment.  If the unsafe practice of fracking moves forward, Mountainkeeper will continue to fight to ensure that the most stringent environmental regulations are set in place to mitigate the damages produced by this destructive industry.  Yesterday, the New Jersey State legislature presented NJ Governor, Chris Christie, with a measure to ban hydraulic-fracturing statewide.  We are asking our State Legislature to make a stand on behalf of New York residents and do the same.

Take Action and tell Governor Cuomo to ban high-volume, hydraulic fracturing in New York State.

This shift on behalf of Catskill Mountainkeeper comes after a week of devastating revelations by The New York Times, which have spurred federal lawmakers to call for an investigation into allegations that companies have inflated the benefits of producing natural gas through fracking, in an attempt to mislead regulators, investors and the public.

On Tuesday, lawmakers called on several agencies – including the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Energy Information Administration, and the Government Accountability Office – to investigate the natural gas industries’ claims with regards to the profitability and productiveness of their wells. Congressional Representatives Maurice Hinchey (D. NY), Edward Markey (D, MA), Carolyn Maloney (D, NY) and Jerrold Nadler (D, NY) are calling on the S.E.C. to investigate industry reps’ accusations of illegality in overbooking reserves – providing inflated estimations on gas producing potential from wells – and asking the commission to reconsider a recent rule change, which gives companies more latitude with their estimations on reserves, and allows avoidance of third-party audits of such predictions.

The four lawmakers also questioned the S.E.C.  on whether third-party audits should be made mandatory – a feature that was dismissed by the previous rule shift.  And in New York, the Attorney General has demanded that five oil and gas companies provide documents supporting their estimates of potential gas reserves in the state and the presentations they provided to investors regarding the risks of fracking.

On Monday, a group of eight federal lawmakers from gas-producing states submitted a letter to President Obama asking him to promote continued natural gas development “by any means necessary,” and members of the House Committee on Natural Resources say they hope to hold a hearing in the next several weeks to discuss natural gas drilling.

These moves follow a series of articles in The New York Times this week, which document e-mails and other correspondence suggesting that a number of companies have been systematically over-stating the potential from shale gas deposits and low-balling the costs of producing that gas.

The Times based its reporting on internal e-mails and documents from industry lawyers, energy executives, market analysts, state geologists and others.  Together these documents reveal widespread internal skepticism and dissent that often contradicts the public positions of these companies.

NYT Articles:

‘Insiders Sound an Alarm Amid a Natural Gas Rush’ (June 25, 2011):
The information presented in the article raises questions as to whether companies are intentionally – perhaps even illegally – overstating the size of their reserves and the productivity of their wells.  In some cases, the documents compare the practices of natural gas companies to those of scandalized, discredited and failed corporations, including Enron.  The article goes on to quote various industry insiders who identify shale gas as “inherently unprofitable”, and asserts that shale plays are “giant Ponzi schemes” and that “the economics just do not work.”  In other words, shale wells are not performing as well as is claimed by industry officials seeking to paint a rosy picture to the public about the benefits of hydrofracking for gas.  These much-touted benefits, moreover, are what the industry has used – misleadingly, it now appears – to justify the grave environmental risks of fracking.

This information presents potentially devastating implications for investors, landowners and leaders, to speak nothing of the environmental impacts that would accompany the increased need for companies to drill more wells and perform greater numbers of hydrofracking operations per well to keep up with projected production. View the article here.

‘Behind Veneer, Doubt on Future of Natural Gas’ (June 26, 2011):
Highlights the role the US Energy Information Administration (E.I.A.) has played in the development of our national conversation on domestic shale gas production potential.  The E.I.A. is responsible for providing “independent and impartial energy information to promote sound policymaking” and “efficient markets” and their reports, which don’t require approval from any other arm of government, are utilized by legislators to inform initiatives and are widely followed by companies, investors and policy makers. However, the E.I.A. has been identified here as being heavily reliant on research from outside consultants who have ties to the natural gas industry.  According to internal e-mail exchanges of EIA officials, some of these consultants go so far as to pull data they supply to government directly from energy company news releases, which “fundamentally undermines the agency’s mission to provide independent expertise,” according to Danielle Brian, Executive Director of the Project on Government Oversight.

The article additionally presents information from internal E.I.A. documents, which accuse companies of exaggerating potential for profitability by presenting performances only of their highest producing wells. View the article here.

‘S.E.C. Shift Leads to Worries of Overestimation of Reserves’ (June 27, 2011):
A change made by the Securities and Exchange Commission (S.E.C.) to a rule regarding gas reserve estimation practices allows natural gas companies to be more liberal in their methods of placing estimates on potential reserves in areas not yet drilled, and to keep details of their estimation process private.

Current regulations allow companies to include gas located further from producing wells in their reserve estimates, and additionally enable companies to reduce their finding and development costs, which are divided accross a larger reserve estimate and subsequently make costs appear lower.  Under the previous regulations, gas companies were only permitted to to include gas from areas close to their active wells as part of their ‘proved’ reserves, which are estimated quantities of accessible gas that companies present to investors. According to the NYT, immediately after the new rules went into effect, many shale companies increased – some by more than 200 percent – the size of reserves reported in their federal filings. View the article here.

Catskill Mountainkeeper cannot and will not stand by and allow for this destructive practice to happen throughout New York State – that is why we need your support now more than ever.


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