NY Gas Lobby vs. NY Assembly, Moratorium and Home Rule

On April 2, 2010,  NYS Assembly bill 10490 was referred to the New York Assembly’s  Environmental Conservation Committee (EnCon).  The Bill  will establish a moratorium on gas drilling in New York State until 120 days after the Environmental Protection Agency releases its study of the gas industry and its  impacts.

On April, 13, 2010,  NYS Assembly Bill  10633 was referred to the Assembly’s EnCon Committee.  The  “home rule” bill will give local governments  zoning control over where gas drilling can occur in their jurisdictions.

Two days later, April 15th,  was a busy, busy day in New York gas news:

  • New York’s gas extraction lobby, the  Independent Oil & Gas Association (IOGA-NY)  proposed to  rescue “New York State’s environmental and parks budgets”  by  drilling in New York’s protected park lands.  IOGA-NY’s  press release  asserted, “New York State could raise more than $200 million in fiscal year 2010-11…” and urged, “expediting the auction of state land leases and the application approval process.”  (According to Governor Patterson’s Budget Briefing Book, the current budget deficit  is $3.2 billion and is expected to reach $6.8 billion in 2010-11, $14.3 billion in 2011-12 and by 2013,  $20.7 billion.)
  • At the same conference, “DEC Director of Mineral Resources, Bradley Field…[said] the entire process, including the issuance of [gas drilling] permits, would be finished in 2010.”

To ensure that  New York  taxpayers get a return on  the billions of gallons of free water the gas companies use in gas extraction and to offset the possible contamination of  State parks  “which welcome “more than 55 million visitors each year,” (2009 Annual Report)  Governor Patterson has proposed a 3% severance tax on some gas extraction companies. (Budget Briefing Book, pp 98-99). Unfortunately, the tax won’t be levied  until 2011-12 and will garner only  $1 million in revenues.

(By comparison,  Texas’  2007 severance tax on the  gas industry was  7.5% and produced  $2.76 billion in revenues.   Mayor Tillman of DISH, TX assured an audience in Callicoon, NY,

“We don’t have a state income tax in Texas.  We have the severance tax on the gas companies.  It’s good for a lot of reasons.   The tax is paid by volume on the gas so if you’re leasing,  you’ve got a measurement of how much your wells are producing.  It’ll tell you how much gas is coming out of the ground and how much money you should be getting.”   (A previous Breathing article,  referenced a court judgment that found   Chesapeake had defrauded royalty owners in Texas out of $134 million in payments by under-reporting the amount of  gas Chesapeake extracted from its lessor’s wells.) Tillman continued to tout the benefits of enacting a severance tax,  “Do you have enough inspectors in  New York?   A severance tax could pay for that, too.”  Then, looking out over the audience,  he asked,  “How are the roads holding out around here?”  When the audience groaned and laughed, he said,  “A severance tax can fix that.”

Although IOGA-NY’s April 15th  press release expressed concern for  the terrible state of  New York’s finances,  the gas lobby  continues  to oppose a severance tax  while urging lawmakers to entrust  the State’s public lands  to them for $200 million.

Despite the industry’s offer,  Texas’ annual severance tax of  7.5% sounds like a better deal than the 3% proposed by Governor Patterson or our $200 million share in their multi-billion dollar profits; especially since  the DEC  (dSGEIS, Chapter 9, page 6) estimates, “… 2,000 wells per year ± 25% in the New York Marcellus play.”

Two thousand wells per year?  Only 29 new DEC staff  (Budget Briefing Book, page 53) to oversee billions of gallons of  toxic fracking fluids and  radioactive waters produced by the fracking process?   Billions of dollars of gas company  profits on the backs of New York State’s  taxpayers and our  parks  and  water resources?  Billions of gallons of our water used in  fracking operations for free?   And the gas lobby believes  we can be bought off with a $200 million mosquito bite out of our multi-billion dollar deficit?

Email, call or write your Assembly and  Senate members  and tell them to support a Moratorium and local control over the siting of gas wells in our communities. (Assembly member Aileen Gunther has already signed on to both bills.)  Call your friends and neighbors.  Email them this article so they know what’s at stake. And then, write  letters to the editors of your local newspapers.  Spread the word any way you can.  The gas lobby has the money.  We have the votes.

Get busy and  we can do the other thing Mayor Tillman suggested,  “Get it right.  Learn from the mistakes made in DISH, TX.”

DISH, TX…where new studies have revealed that not only were the air and water  contaminated by the gas industry, but so were  the people.

And look again at the April timeline  above.  The gas lobby has drawn a bead on elected representatives who are working for community rights, Home Rule and studies of  hydraulic fracturing. Is the lobby worried New York residents and taxpayers will vote for the health and welfare of New York and against gas company profits and a few pieces of silver?

3 thoughts on “NY Gas Lobby vs. NY Assembly, Moratorium and Home Rule”

  1. Ah yes, all this revenue to balance State budgets. All you have to do is look at Pennsylvania, more that 150 years of extracting fossil fuels from our state, and yes natural gas is a fossil fuel and not a “new” form of alternative energy. First came Oil City and the country’s first oil wells, which no longer exists, then there’s a place called Centralia Pa. sitting on top of Anthracite coals beds that caught on fire in 1962 and are still burning today, the town’s existence has been literally wiped out, the few people that live there have no legal government. It’s taken years to even start to clean up the mess the coal industry has left behind with many of our streams and rivers still fouled from acid mine drainage. Take a look at the Allegany National Forest and how that’s been fragmented while being developed for natural gas and oil, the Pa. State Forests that are seeing the direct pressure for further development of natural gas…these are public lands set aside for the use of all citizens no matter where you live or come from and are meant to be protected. Here again we have the oil/gas industry turning the State into an industrial landscape soon to be a waste land. Yes, Pa. has the second largest amount of gas wells in the country next to Texas with NY and WV right behind Pa. Why then is Pa. in such financial mess? Where is all the revenue from the existing production wells (until recently a gas well permit from the state cost $100) and extraction of fossil fuels over the last 150 years? Where are all the jobs that the industry promises while currently having the second largest amount of natural gas wells, Pa. unemployment is just slightly lower than the Country’s average or around 10%. Wake up people, the oil/gas industry and a few individuals are the only ones who are going to profit from extracting natural gas while exploiting and putting at risk the most important resource we have; “OUR WATER”.

  2. Excellent post. We must have a severance tax in NYS and it must be more than a paltry 3%. I say at least 10%. (I say don’t drill period, but since the horse is out of the barn on that…….) Twenty-nine inspectors for thousands of wells is obviously absurd. Just in Dimock, PA, in a 9-square-mile area, there are incidents weekly it seems. So twenty nine inspectors doesn’t even begin to cover the field. Just the testing and paperwork alone for 2 or 3 incidents will require weeks, yea months, of follow-up. We just don’t grasp the enormity of this, do we! New York, we are standing at the crossroads right this very minute.

    Rochester, NY

  3. Note the DEC doesn’t even have enough staff to read over the thousands of comments on the SGEIS, how are they ever going to be able to watch over the thousands of wells? The Stone Energy well in Wayne Co. Pa. drilled without authorization from the DRBC had five violations from PADEP while drilling it over a 2 month period mostly non-compliance issues regarding a simple E&S plan…this is one unauthorized well with weekly routine inspections by DEP. Note no inspectors on hand during the cementing process which was being done to protect water bearing zones or while drilling waste was being buried on site. They even started drilling without proper notification of the DEP, I’m not sure how we as a society can allow this to happen?

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