*Update I* Empire Energy Forum Gets Crashed Like Southern Tier Economy
*UPDATE I* (Dec. 7, 2012; 4:39 p.m. ET) : EID has been informed that Mayor Ryan took issue with our reporting of this event. Mayor Matt Ryan was an invited guest, however he brought known anti-natural gas activist Walter Hang who was uninvited. As a result, hotel staff asked the Mayor, and his uninvited guest, to leave (see video below). However, they refused and entered the venue anyway.
Empire Energy Forum held an invitation only event this past Monday. The topic was how safe and responsible shale gas development would benefit the Southern Tier of New York. Despite not being invited to the event, Mayor Matt Ryan thought it was his right to be there and so he decided to crash it.
Binghamton, New York was the site of an Empire Energy Forum on Monday night. The event gave representatives from the American Petroleum Institute (API) and XTO Energy, plus a former Department of Conservation (DEC) official, a chance to speak to supporters about shale gas development in the Southern Tier of New York. The event was by invitation only to avoid having anti-natural gas advocates turn it into a fiasco, as these activists are always, of course, anxious to do. While this did keep the antic-natural gas antics from occurring inside the building, it unfortunately didn’t stop Mayor Matt Ryan, who seemed more anti-gas than pro-Binghamton. He crashed the event in a big way, making himself look rather petty in the process.
Small in Number, Loud by Nature
Pulling up to the event we were met by three groups of people; one opposed to natural gas development, another advocating for development and then a group of hotel employees who didn’t want the anti-gas protests moving into the venue.
These natural gas opponents were met by others with decidedly different opinions, though. Here is an interview we conducted with Bill Gorden who came out to show support for natural gas development in New York (and who also believes it’s essential to fighting global warming). Be sure to watch to the end for his analysis of Governor Cuomo’s political positioning on the issue.
Just prior to the event, Holiday Inn management decided they were in need of help as some of the activists were trying to gain entrance regardless of the direction they were given. Police were called to break up the protest as the Empire Energy Forum took place inside.
Empire Energy Forum Presentation
Karen Matusic from XTO, part of Exxon Mobil, spoke first at the forum. She offered background on her company’s position with respect to natural gas development in New York. Exxon Mobil purchased XTO Energy in 2009. Exxon and XTO have been working hard to bring natural gas development to New York State as they hold 50,000 acres in the state that can’t legally develop at this time.
There is a large and growing demand for energy globally. Exxon Mobil and XTO are seeing their highest natural gas production numbers since 1973 as a result of horizontal hydraulic fracturing technology which is involved 75% of their natural gas production at this time.
Matusic also discussed the economic benefits of natural gas. Natural gas development will bring 90,000+ jobs by 2020 and billions of dollars in tax revenue due in part to New York’s ad valorem tax. She noted roughly 70%-80% of natural gas workers in Pennsylvania are from Pennsylvania, New York, or West Virginia.
Safety, of course, is first priority with Exxon, according to Matusic. The company spent approximately $185 million on an offshore project and, not feeling comfortable with it, decided not to move forward. If the company feels a project or process is not safe, it will not be pursued, a short-term monetary loss being preferable.
Exxon/XTO also conducts extensive baseline water testing for areas they look to develop for natural gas, as a measure to ensure water quality. Their protocols for such testing meet or exceed state requirements and allow the company to know exactly what their impacts are on local water quality, if any.
Greg Sovas was the next to speak. Sovas worked with the Department of Environmental Conservation and was the original signatory to the 1992 GEIS. He told the audience many people do not understand how the DEC works. He told everyone there are 75,000 wells in New York State, mostly in the western part of the state, and they have no serious problems. There have been 10,000 wells developed in New York State since 1980 and none of them have had issues.
Sovas also discussed the 2011 Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement. He pointed out several differences and changes compared to the older GEIS. He estimates it will cost at least $1 Million more to develop a natural gas well in New York State. He also estimates only about 40%-50% of the land in New York is able to be developed for natural gas, based on SGEIS criteria.
The final thing Sovas touched on was the lawsuits we are seeing throughout the state. New York State law, in his opinion as one of the crafters of current DEC policy, supersedes all local laws, with exceptions for road and taxation issues, when it comes to natural gas development. He discussed the lawsuits and the City of Binghamton case.
The Mayor of Binghamton or Mr. Activist?
Like many others outside the Holiday Inn, Bill Gorden was denied entrance as he was not on the list of those invited to attend. Also not on the list, were Mayor Matt Ryan with his friend Walter Hang, well-known to readers of this blog. But, unlike Gorden, Mayor Ryan seemed to think his position gave him special privileges to enter and be part of the event. Watch this short video to see what happened.
After being told he was not allowed entrance and being asked to leave three separate times by the hotel management, Ryan stormed into the venue anyway. (:05) The hotel staff, essentially throwing up its hands, decided to allow Mayor Ryan to stay in the venue as long as he didn’t have any “outbursts,” in the words of one of the managers on duty.
Following words of appreciation to attendees from Karen Moreau of API, the event was brought to a close, but not without Mayor Matt Ryan getting the final word.
Sorry I spoiled your great little party – Mayor Matt Ryan (1:00)
That wasn’t enough for Mayor Ryan, however, as he continued to argue with participants while they walked to their cars (2:48), seemingly intent on picking a fight with anyone he could find.
Those who were not allowed entrance to the event claimed it was because of their views on shale gas development. This was not the case. If they had signed up prior to the event they would have been allowed in – without signs, of course. Mayor Ryan demonstrated it didn’t matter; one doesn’t need signs to show disrespect. But, is this any way for a Mayor of Binghamton, a city of almost 50,000 people, to behave?