Landmark Decision for Local Control – Major Setback for Fracking Supporters

Anti-fracking protestors, a recent march in Albany, call for Gov. Andrew to ban tracking statewide. (Photo: 350.org)

ALBANY, N.Y. — Towns across New York State and as far away as Texas and Colorado may soon feel the aftershocks of a landmark decision June 30 by the highest court in New York that towns have the authority to ban drilling for natural gas.

The 5-2 ruling by the state Court of Appeals has emboldened opponents of high-volume hydraulic fracturing, for fracking, and they hope to make the most of it.

“Any town that has held off banning fracking for fear of getting sued by the frackers just got a neon green light to proceed with a ban,” said Chip Northrup, an energy investor turned anti-drilling activist from Cooperstown. “While they are at it, they should ban frack waste, since most New York towns are more liable to being dumped on than fracked.” Continue reading Landmark Decision for Local Control – Major Setback for Fracking Supporters

Geologist Says Feds Made “Incredible Error” Ignoring Huge N.Y. Salt Cavern Roof Collapse

The salt and storage wells of the Watkins Glen brine field lie 2,000 feet below the network of small roads just north of the US Salt plant on Seneca Lake in New York. The Village of Watkins Glen is just outside the picture to the south.

In the 1960s, a 400,000-ton block of rock fell from the roof of an old salt cavern in the Finger Lakes region of New York — a cavity that new owners now want to reopen and use to store highly pressurized natural gas.

The Midwestern energy company that seeks a federal permit for the storage project has denied knowing the roof failure ever happened. And the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), which is poised to rule on the company’s permit application, has never publicly acknowledged the event.

But a Houston geologist hired by lawyers for opponents of the project characterized the omission by Arlington Storage Co. and FERC as “an incredible error” that heightens safety concerns about the project next to Seneca Lake, less than three miles from the Village of Watkins Glen, population 1,860.

“Clearly, Arlington’s application and FERC’s conclusions are compromised by this error,” H.C. Clark wrote in a Jan. 15 letter that is now part of FERC’s public record in the case. Continue reading Geologist Says Feds Made “Incredible Error” Ignoring Huge N.Y. Salt Cavern Roof Collapse

Ivy League University Votes To Dump Oil and Gas Investments

On Dec. 11, the Cornell University Faculty Senate adopted by a 43-13 vote a resolution calling for the school to divest by 2035 all its investments in the top 200 holding companies ranked by fossil fuel reserves. A similar resolution adopted by the Cornell Student Assembly in the spring had called for divestiture by 2020.

“These reserves already comprise three to five times more than the total amount of fossil fuels that can be burned before exceeding the 2°C rise in mean global temperature that scientists and governments have agreed is the threshold for dangerous climate change,” eight pro-divestment Cornell faculty members wrote in a letter to the student newspaper Dec. 4. “Nonetheless, these companies are financially committed to burning these reserves and continuing to explore for even more.” Continue reading Ivy League University Votes To Dump Oil and Gas Investments

Tainted Water Testing Lab Flourished Under Lax New York State Regulators

EPA Raid on Upstate, Sept. 2010

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Even after armed federal investigators raided its offices in 2010 and the New York Department of Health suspended its state certification in early 2012, Upstate Laboratories Inc. continued its lucrative business of testing water samples from landfills and wastewater treatment plants across the state.

Officially, state environmental regulators will not accept test results from labs the DOH has not certified. The rule is fundamental to the integrity of the program that was designed to protect the state’s waterways from industrial pollution. Yet the state Department of Environmental Conservation kept accepting Upstate’s test results for more than a year after DEC managers learned of the suspension and wrote emails saying the results should be rejected.

On the morning of February 27, 2012, the DOH notified the DEC that it had suspended Upstate Labs. A few hours later, Jason Fagel, an official at the DEC’s Division of Water, emailed other DEC managers: “For any regulatory entity that your division may oversee, like landfills, they should not be using Upstate to report monitoring results to DEC. If you notice this happening, DOH would like to know about it.” Continue reading Tainted Water Testing Lab Flourished Under Lax New York State Regulators