In Huge Defeat for Oil and Gas Industry, Court Rules New York Towns Can Ban Fracking

Categories: fracking

Deborah and Joanne Cipolla-Dennis at their home in Dryden, NY.
Huge news this morning for shale-gas drilling skeptics: the highest court in New York state ruled that towns have the authority to ban oil and gas companies from operating within city limits.

Deborah Goldberg, the lawyer who argued on behalf of the town of Dryden, New York, tells the Voice, will have a "huge impact here in New York state and may very well influence similar efforts around the country."

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Fracking Activists Crash Andrew Cuomo's Lavish Birthday Bash

Categories: fracking

It's only Wednesday, but it has already been a long week for Andrew Cuomo. The governor, who is responsible for the state-owned MTA, has been working overtime since Sunday morning when a Metro-North train flew off the rails in the Bronx, throwing five cars on their sides, killing four passengers and injuring 63.

On Monday, in addition to questions about the MTA's safety record, Cuomo began fielding inquiries about the Moreland Commission's long-awaited report criticizing Albany's culture of corruption. The commission (hand-picked by Cuomo himself) said money had an outsize influence on power -- the words "legalized bribery" were used -- and called much of what goes on in Albany "perfectly legal yet profoundly wrong."

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State Senate Deputy Majority Leader With Fracking Connections is Taking Heat

Categories: fracking

billb1961 via Compfight cc
A Bloomberg story blew the lid on one state senator's ties to the fracking industry yesterday. Turns out state Senator Tom Libous (R-Binghamton), who said in March that he'd "make sure no [fracking moratorium] bill passes the Senate," has deep ties to a real-estate company leasing underground natural gas rights to a drilling company. Now, Libous is feeling the pushback.

Libous' wife founded the real-estate company, Da Vinci II LLC, and a campaign donor, Luciano Piccirilli, runs it. Da Vinci also owns 230 acres of land leased to a drilling company on top of the state's Marcellus Shale deposit. Piccirilli, meanwhile, has contributed $28,000 to Libous' campaign over the years, and jointly owns two Florida homes with Libous, according to Bloomberg.

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Forest Service Inflamed by Brooklyn Anti-Fracking Artist's Smokey the Bear

Categories: fracking

Lopi LaRoe
Brooklyn-based artist and environmental activist Lopi LaRoe sees Smokey the Bear as a friend. As a kid raised by environmentalists, she grew up with him, she says, and feels a particular connection to the affable but informative cultural touchstone invented by the US Forest Service in 1944. "So I thought it was a perfect culture-jamming opportunity to take this very familiar conservationist and turn him into an anti-fracking activist," she tells the Voice.

The Forest Service, on the other hand, isn't a fan of LaRoe's representation of a Smokey who tries to prevent "faucet fires." Nearly a year after LaRoe began carrying images of a newly radicalized Smokey to protests, selling T-shirts, and circulating what soon became an Internet meme, the Forest Service asked LaRoe to cease and desist.

"The feds want to frack our national parks," LaRoe says. "It's not surprising that they're coming after me to try and censor my political speech."

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DEC Hired Fracking Lobby for $50 Million to Assess ... Fracking?

Categories: 'damn.', fracking

Screen shot 2013-04-24 at 4.01.59 PM.jpg
Update: See statement from the DEC, and a letter from E&E explaining its relationship to IOGANY, at the bottom.

New York state might just have to scrap the latest draft of its environmental impact study on hydraulic fracturing. The New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG) and state lawmakers are asking for a re-do after the discovery of a pretty large conflict of interest: Namely, that an environmental consulting group that helped prepare the draft study turned out to be a member of the Independent Oil & Gas Association (IOGA), a natural gas industry lobbying group.

In 2011, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation signed a $50 million contract with Ecology and Environment, Inc. (E&E), an environmental consulting firm. The company was also selected to provide an analysis of the economic impacts of fracking in the state. In August of 2011, E&E provided the DEC with that study, which some anti-fracking groups claimed was biased. The New York Times highlighted that skepticism when it pointed out that E&E "expedited permit applications for more than 200 pipeline and gas storage projects worldwide" in 2011, but couldn't establish a clear connection to any lobbying interest. That changed this week, when NYPIRG discovered that Ecology and Environment, Inc. appeared as a member of IOGA on a letter to Governor Cuomo, urging him to open New York to hydraulic fracturing.

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When Are We Going To Make A Decision On Fracking?

Okay. So, last year, Governor Cuomo and his Albany crew had no idea what the hell to do about this whole hydrofracking controversy. To frack or not to frack? That was the question holding up state legislators (but, apparently, not Mayor Bloomberg).

Cracking under pressure, Mr. Cuomo pushed back the decision to this month. Environmental activists have been hounding the Governor in recent weeks for stalling the procedure. Except it looks like they're going to have make it through winter.

The other day, the Governor's Office announced that it would, once again, have to really think about this one. According to the New York Times, the State's Health Department reports aren't in yet and they could take a while. Plus, once they're completed, there's a 45 day period where the public is invited to comment on the legislative proposal. Then, after that, who knows honestly.

So when are we going to make a decision on fracking in New York State?

Most likely never.


New Yorkers Still Slightly in Favor of Fracking Even as More Shady "Studies" Emerge

Categories: Polls, fracking

New Yorkers believe that the economic benefits of drilling for natural gas in the Marcellus Shale outweigh the risk of potentially harmful environmental repercussions, according to today's Quinnipiac University Poll.

The poll finds that 44 percent of New Yorkers think the economic pros of hydraulic fracturing outweigh its environmental cons -- while 42 percent say the potential damage would be too great.

Let's just hope that the poll respondents aren't relying too heavily on some of the shady hydraulic fracturing "science" that's been floating around lately -- like last spring's University at Buffalo study on fracking in the Marcellus Shale.

Last month the university shut down its Shale Resources and Society Institute amid findings of bias and compromised research coming out of the institute. The study released by SRSI in May found that the environmental risk of fracking in Pennsylvania, a hotbed for natural gas drilling, was decreasing and the risk associated with fracking in the Marcellus Shale would be even lower.

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Mayor Bloomberg, Fracker-in-Chief?

In the late 1980s, George Mitchell, owner of Mitchell Energy & Development Corporation with a degree in petroleum engineering from Texas A&M, wanted a method that could find and extract formerly unseen deposits of natural gas. With a combination of horizontal drilling and something known as hydraulic fracturing, Mitchell pioneered the use of 'fracking' - a practice that pumps toxic chemicals into the Earth to simply push out the goods. Soon enough, gas companies picked up the money-making practice, spawning a new gas boom across America. 

Years later, Forbes lists his worth at $2.2 billion, making him the 206th richest man in the world.

With that being said, Mitchell was the perfect mascot to have alongside when Mayor Michael Bloomberg penned an op-ed in the Washington Post this past week, coming out in clear defense of the controversial energy extraction method. In it, he lists the economic justifications for the practice - how it lowers costs and leads to more jobs - and also pledges $6 million to the Environmental Defense Fund in order to establish "safe" rules for frackers.

But, in the piece, the Hozziner comes off as a representative of Big Oil more than a mayor, especially with Mitchell, whose considered the Father of Fracking, as a co-writer. And this policy transformation for the Mayor is what's most confusing about the op-ed.

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Hydraulic Fracturing: Is There Bad Science in The Fracking Debate?

Categories: fracking

Does fracking make people sick?

The jury is largely still out on that one.

However, new info indicates that some claims about hydraulic fracturing's reportedly significant health risks appear to have been based on bad science.

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Hydraulic Fracturing: Can Environmental Regulators Handle a Fracking Boom? (UPDATE)

Can New York's environmental regulators keep up with fracking?

This is the question raised in a report recently published by Earthworks, a group that monitors the petroleum and mining industries.

Earthworks' new accountability project charges that New York's Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and the Division of Mineral Resources (DMR) -- which creates regulations and issues permits for oil and gas drilling -- already "struggles to adequately govern its existing oil and gas wells."

"The DEC is not prepared to oversee the expected shale gas boom," the report claims.

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