Marcellus Shale

The Misinformed Actions of Anti Natural Gas Activists

For those of us who have been participating in the natural gas debate over the last few years, talking with anti natural gas folks can feel like you’ve been placed in a scene from the movie “My Girl.” It’s a classic from my childhood and one I loved and still love to watch, but let’s face it, Veda’s method of dealing with hard times and things she doesn’t want to hear wasn’t the most constructive behavior. Yet, in this discussion, I often feel like I’m watching an adolescent stick their fingers in their ears and start singing “doo-wah-ditty,” rather than listen to the facts presented to them–and not just because of the chanting and songs typically integral to their demonstrations. Wednesday’s protest in Horseheads, New York is a great example of this.

Let’s take a moment to breakdown the letter activists delivered to Talisman Energy during the protest on their property Wednesday.

And we have something else in common: We all drink water. In the Southern Tier, we are lucky enough to able to drink water straight from the tap. Our freshwater has made this region ripe for agriculture, dairy farms and vineyards. Hydraulic fracturing would put an end to New York State as we know it.

You’re right. We all drink water and New York does have an abundance of this very necessary resource. In fact, places like the Village of Painted Post, are already experiencing the benefits of the abundance of water available in New York by selling the excess in their towns to the natural gas industry. Painted Post could be making as much as $2.6 million annually thanks to this endeavor. Further the project will make use of the Wellsboro and Corning Railroad, helping to revitalize this industry and eliminating the need for truck traffic to deliver water across the border.

Like Pennsylvania, parts of New York are very methane rich and as such sometimes methane can be found in homes. Take a look at this video from the movie Truthland of Robert Sandel of Guilford Center, New York, Chenango County. When Sandel moved into his home, he was warned, “Don’t smoke in the shower.”

As for natural gas development changing New York as activists know it, I have to say they are again right. In Pennsylvania farms are being revitalized, vineyards are existing alongside natural gas sites, and the unemployment rates in Marcellus Shale counties has dropped to 5-7 percent. Change doesn’t have to be bad, and the changes this opportunity can bring to New York are some upstate is desperately waiting for. Take a look at another Truthland interview with Susquehanna County farmer, Walter Brooks.

You can see some of the changes, from leasing and royalty impacts to job creation to business development in the”Women of the Marcellus” video, as well. And the first woman, Amy, is happily leased with the activists target company, Talisman Energy.

In Talisman’s Shale Operating Principles you say: “We are committed to conducting business in an ethically, socially and environmentally responsible manner.” Yet Talisman has over 300 current violations in our neighboring state of Pennsylvania. Talisman spilled between 4 and 6 THOUSAND gallons of fracking fluid, filled with toxic chemicals, into the Tioga River. And if fracking begins in New York, there will be an estimated 210 to 380 million additional tax dollars for future road infrastructure costs. Does that look ethically, socially or environmentally responsible to you?

Let’s address the roads first. I always have to laugh when people discuss the state of roads. Don’t get me wrong, increased truck traffic does impact roads, and they need to be fixed in a timely manner, which is why natural gas companies are spending millions of dollars to repair roads in Pennsylvania. Many of these are even being fixed prior to use to bring them up to a useable state. Most roads are fixed to better conditions than they were before the industry arrived. Why would they need to fix them prior to use? Well because beautiful roads are not something Pennsylvania or New York are known for. Actually in 2010, Pennsylvania and New York ranked third and fourth, respectively, in the nation for the worst roads and bridges. The natural gas industry’s road repairs, regardless of why they do the projects, is improving roadways for our vehicles and making them safer for drivers.

An article today, discusses road repairs in Pennsylvania. Here’s an excerpt describing what Talisman has spent on these repairs.

Talisman Energy USA Inc., a subsidiary of Talisman Energy Inc. of Calgary, Alberta, Canada, spent $33 million on road repairs in Bradford County in 2010, however the budget has dropped to about $9 million for 2012 due to a decrease in activity, officials said.

We’ve looked at violations in Pennsylvania a few times on this site. Here’s an excerpt from the latest post on this topic which reviewed a University of Buffalo study released earlier this year.

According to the UB study, 62 percent of all violations were for “administrative or preventative reasons.” The study also points out that the number of violations constituting the remaining 38 percent is itself a bit misleading, as multiple violations often referred to the same incident. And as I have previously observed, the number of violations per well has actually been decreasing in recent years.

For Talisman specifically, they take any and all violations seriously. They even have space dedicated on their website for transparency in disclosing these to their landowners and the public. What activists fail to mention about the November 2009 spill referred to in the letter, is that Talisman worked with DEP from the beginning to clean up the unintentional spill and there were no negative impacts on aquatic life or species. Here’s an excerpt from a 2010 YNN article on this situation.

“We’ve been working with the department since this issue came to light late last year. It was immediately handled and remediated with no negative impacts on aquatic life or species,” said Mark Scheuerman, Talisman Energy USA Spokesperson.

It is interesting the Ithaca-based group chose Talisman as their first target in the first place. Talisman has been operating out of the Horseheads office in New York since 2002. They currently have around 75 Trenton/Black River vertical and horizontal wells in New York state. They have actually been producing natural gas in New York longer than they have in Pennsylvania.

Further, if there’s one thing I learned from the landowner meeting Talisman held last year in Troy, Pennsylvania where hundreds from the small community turned out to ask questions of the company, it’s that Talisman excels at being a good neighbor in the communities they operate in. Check out these videos from a Tioga County meeting last year describing their good neighbor program.

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In New York, Talisman has actively been a part of the community by hiring locals and donating time and resources.

Listed in the photo from left to right: Teresa Dean (Town of BF Supervisor), Larry Wagner (Town of BF Public Works Dir), Matt Tice (Talisman Energy), David Whedbee (Talisman Energy), Lance Ridall (Talisman Energy), Calvin Walker (Talisman Energy), Mike Hess (Sperr Memorial Park Committee/Ret. NYSP), Blake Shields (Volunteer), Chris Shields (Sperr Memorial Park Committee/NYSP).

Talisman Energy Donates Funds for Trees to Sperr Memorial Park, August 27, 2011 (Photo to left)
Talisman Energy USA, Inc. (located in Big Flats, NY) was solicited back in the Spring of 2011 to be a sponsor for the 3rd Annual Time To Sperr run/walk at Sperr Memorial Park on August 27, 2011. Instead of being a sponsor for the event Talisman decided to make a direct donation to the park. The Park committee was asked to submit a request for donation for a specific project. The committee decided to ask for funds to purchase 15-20 trees to create a natural fence at the west end of the park (on Lowe Rd) near the storage garage. Talisman agreed, donated $2,000 and the trees were purchased through Davis Garden Center in Big Flats. On Friday October 21, 2011 committee members from the park, four Talisman Energy employees as well as Town of Big Flats officials came together and planted the trees. Just five years since the dedication of the park in September 2009 local businesses and volunteers continue to support honoring the memory of Trooper Andrew J. Sperr at Sperr Memorial Park.

Talisman Energy Donates $50,000 to Red Cross Relief, 2011
Talisman Energy Inc. has made a very generous donation of $50,000 in support of the American Red Cross Disaster Relief efforts throughout the region.

On hand to receive the donation was Sharon Lowry, Red Cross volunteer from the Sullivan Trail Chapter in Elmira. Sharon was an active volunteer in Athens Township at the beginning of the flooding. When she accepted the check Sharon said, “Working with Scott Tompkins and Amy Gilbert of Talisman Energy was an absolute honor. The outreach shown to this community proves they are indeed our helping neighbors.”

Talisman Energy and Food Bank of the Southern Tier,
Fortuna Energy, Inc., is the founding underwriter of the Food Bank of the Southern Tier’s raised-bed garden project. Fortuna Energy is the largest natural gas producer in New York State. The company is an indirect, wholly-owned subsidiary of Talisman Energy, Inc., of Calgary-Alberta, Canada – one of North America’s largest independent producers of natural gas.

Now on to the bans portion of the activists’ letter.

Scientists and doctors have spoken out about the dangers of hydro-fracking. Local businesses have joined coalitions against fracking. 79 towns in New York have passed bans, with 71 more working toward a ban.

The majority of the bans passed in towns opposing natural gas development aren’t even in areas that will see exploration. Contrast that with the 45 resolutions passed by towns supporting natural gas development, all of which are located in the Marcellus Shale, and you get a more realistic image of who’s out protesting these events.

Regardless of Governor Cuomo’s decision about fracking, New York State residents will rise up and say NO. We have learned throughout history that when our legislators fail us, because they are either powerless or corrupt, we must take things into our own hands. We stand here today in the face of an industry which favors profit over people, which seeks to betray us and sell us out.

Mr. Manzoni, THESE New York State residents will not stand by and allow our communities to be fractured and displaced, our drinking water poisoned, and our land rendered unlivable. We will not be a sacrifice zone.

Together, we will use our bodies as a source of strength, when our words are not being heard. Everywhere you drill a well, we will be there to stop it. When the first fracking truck drives to pour toxic chemicals into the ground, we will be there to block the road.

Together, our strength and determination is as powerful as a wide river coursing through the landscape. We will rise up to confront industry again and again, because we are fighting for something worth far more than money: our families and our future.

What this says is, regardless of the years of research done by the New York Department of Environmental Conservation, regardless of the science and facts supporting safe development, these individuals most of which don’t even reside in areas that will be impacted, will stop at nothing to prevent prosperity in New York. They’ll take desperate actions to impede on the property rights’ of the people who pay the taxes all in the name of pastoral poverty. Because they said it-they’re families and futures mean more than those of the people of upstate, and they’ve already started by attacking a locally operated company with a history of good relations in New York.



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