Binghamton Is a Road Too Far? Hardly!
The Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) recently held public hearings on the SGEIS in four cities; Oneonta, New York, however, was not one of them. Some people with special objectives, having nothing to do with the interests of Oneonta, falsely claimed residents were upset DEC didn’t hold a hearing in their city. They complained residents would have to drive to Binghamton, the closest hearing, to make their comments in person to the DEC. It’s 50 miles after all. Wait a minute now – that’s not that far. Haven’t Oneonta residents been shopping in Binghamton for years? Didn’t several of them show up at the Binghamton hearing, in fact?
We didn’t hear people from elsewhere along the Southern Tier complain about driving 50 miles to Dansville or Loch Sheldrake and I didn’t hearing any ordinary Oneonta residents asking for special treatment either. What actually happened is that some natural gas obstructionists saw this as an opportunity and decided to get sponsors (three to be exact, one being Otsego 2000, a very well-known anti-gas organization), hire a court stenographer and hold their own “public hearing”. They recorded the meeting and sent the minutes to DEC as one big anti-natural gas development public comment. We were there to watch the shenanigans with memories of the self-appointed Marcellus Shale Citizens Advisory Commission dancing through our minds.
As member after member of the natural gas anti-development crowd spoke it seemed there were two principal comments brought up throughout the night.
The first comment, offered by nearly everyone who testified, was one we’ve heard many times before and is easily refuted as it has been addressed by DEC Commissioner Martens himself. That comment is that the proposed ban on natural gas exploration within the New York City watershed (as well as the Syracuse watershed) is a decision that indicates DEC believes natural gas development is unsafe and, therefore, that other areas of the state should be afforded the same “protection.”
As we have stated several times, this ban is not proposed because DEC thinks hydraulic fracturing is unsafe. Rather, it is because New York City desperately wants to avoid the cost of putting a water filtration system in place. This is noticed in the statement by Martens when he appeared on the Fred Dicker show earlier this year.
Just the prospect of drilling [in these areas] could lead to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency taking a second look at whether these communities [NYC and Syracuse] should have a FAD (Filtration Avoidance Determination–only a handful exist throughout the nation). It’s not even about what could get in the water because we think the restrictions we are proposing will keep fracturing fluids and chemicals out of the water supplies of New York City and elsewhere.
As this narrative to safeguard NYC’s special exemption continues no one, of course, is concerned about the taking of property values this represents for landowners in the watershed, who already saw some communities completely destroyed to provide for the City’s water needs. No one, either, seems to notice the gigantic conflict of interest for the City, which is always trying to buy land on the cheap in the watershed and certainly doesn’t want anything taking place that might raise property values!
The second, constantly repeated comment, related to Upstate New York’s flood plains and the damage a flood could cause given the “open pits” connected with natural gas development. Both common sense and law mandate companies avoid flood plains, of course, but the important point is that companies already use closed loop systems and the draft SGEIS would mandate their use.
Therefore, there will be no open pits for flowback water in New York State. Let me repeat that – there will be no open pits in New York State. Therefore this problem is solved (if there ever was one), although you’d never know listening to the ill-informed in Onenta.
One attendee rambled off 41 reasons New York State should just throw out the SGEIS. Most, if not all, were not applicable and, once again, demonstrated an incredible lack knowledge about natural gas development and the proposed regulations in New York to regulate this activity.
Open pits, of course, were again mentioned (please, someone, read the SGEIS). The individual in the video above claimed there was no site specific review, avoiding the obvious fact there are no sites in New York yet on which to do a site specific review. He also argued roads would be destroyed, ignoring that towns are employing road usage agreements, one of things New York municipalities are specifically encouraged by the State to regulate, to mitigate this impact. In addition to ignoring the evidence from Pennsylvania that gas companies have paid nearly half a billion dollars to improve roadways throughout the Commonwealth. These are just a few of his 41 incorrect examples that got the crowd cheering.
Another attendee said towns and back roads will be subjected to midnight dumping of hydraulic fracturing wastes. He said that natural gas production residual materials would simply be scattered illegally across the New York landscape. His version of reality ignores the fact that natural gas producers are working with law enforcement agencies to ensure this doesn’t occur and that full prosecution under the law is levied when it does. The argument advanced by this attendee is utter nonsense, of course, but typical of what was heard in Onenta. Catch the videos below for further illustrations.
There were some legitimate comments provided during the “hearing” which were based on facts and the suggested regulatory structure in the document. These were provided by Dick Downey of the Unatego Landowners Association and can be viewed in the clips below.
Overall, the Oneonta “hearing” left a lot to be desired. It was largely a forum for those openly opposed to natural gas exploration in New York State and little of what was learned was fact or even represented the views of most Oneonta residents.