Trashed: A Less Than Impressive Natural Gas Brochure
If you live in the Marcellus Shale region of upstate New York, chances are you have probably seen a brochure sent out by Catskill Citizens for Safe Energy and paid for an elitist special interest group known as The Civil Society Institute (CSI). It’s another example of outside money being used to deny upstaters an economic livelihood in the name of political correctness.
Catskill Citizens for Safe Energy is located in Sullivan County, New York and is largely run by a retired 60 Minutes producer named Bruce Ferguson who retired to the area. The organization just sent out a brochure to over 190,000 people, paid for by a supposed charity known as the Civil Society Institute. Speaking bluntly, it’s a package of lies. We don’t make that accusation lightly, by the way, but the distortions in the pamphlet go so far beyond anything remotely close to the truth we are left with no other words to describe it.
The ironic thing about the brochure, is that it’s being sent to areas that are overwhelmingly supportive of natural gas development, if election results mean anything. Moreover, even the opposition’s list of “550 elected official signatures to stop natural gas” campaign include very few officials from these targeted areas actually possessing economically recoverable natural gas, as Nicole and I observed earlier. Not so funny is the fact this effort is being financed by one of the same organizations that has funded David and Helen Slottje’s Community Environmental Defense Council (CEDC).
What the Brochure Says, or Doesn’t Say
Below is a picture of the front and back of the trifold brochure.
It claims the following:
This is a blatant lie. There have been four cases that have gone to court to date, not dozens, and two are headed to the Court of Appeals, the highest court in New York State for final resolution. Moreover, the Binghamton case resulted in the county judge tossing out the ban/moratorium drafted by David Slottje, after he bragged about his drafting abilities and pompously declared his strategy as a “no-brainer.” His borrowed work has also generated a $50 million lawsuit in another community. Then, there are the dozens of towns in the Marcellus Shale region that have passed the Joint Landowners Coalition resolution, and the fact the dozens of towns that have banned natural gas are almost all outside the Marcellus Shale region, rendering their actions about as meaningful as banning nude beaches in Nome, Alaska.
The brochure also claim hydraulic fracturing fluid has been found in drinking water. This is has never happened, of course, as regulators in virtually every state where natural gas development is taking place have testified. In fact, there is not a single instance of water contamination from hydraulic fracturing throughout the entire United States in over 60 years of its use in over a million wells. How many times must it be said? Yet, our friends on the other side continue to perpetuate the lie as you can see below:
This is the worst claim levied by the group. Why? Because it’s completely false and designed solely to scare New Yorkers to pass on an opportunity that will provide tremendous benefits to New York State. Just last year, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson noted “In no case have we made a definitive determination that the fracking process has caused chemicals to enter groundwater.” (April 30, 2012)
This has also been confirmed by some of the nation’s top independent academics as noted by comments made by Mark Zoback, a Stanford professor and member of the Secretary of Energy Committee on Shale Gas Development.
“There have been fears that hydraulic fracturing fluid injected at depth could reach up into drinking water aquifers. But, the injection is typically done at depths of around 6,000 to 7,000 feet and drinking water is usually pumped from shallow aquifers, no more than one or two hundred feet below the surface. Fracturing fluids have not contaminated any water supply and with that much distance to an aquifer, it is very unlikely they could.”
Mark Zoback, Professor of Geophysics at Stanford University and member of the Secretary of Energy Committee on Shale Gas Development (August 30, 2011)
Catskill Citizens also says natural gas development is exempt from the Safe Drinking Water Act. That’s strange, because, to be exempt from something, you generally need to be a part of it first. The truth is, the natural gas industry has never been a part of the Safe Drinking Water Act, in fact, the 2005 Energy Policy Act basically gave the Environmental Protection Agency the power to regulate the natural gas industry for the first time if diesel fuel is used in the process.
Opponents like to claim a provision in the 2005 Energy Policy Act, which they call the “Halliburton loophole,” exempted the industry from federal regulations but that’s not true. From the outset, when the Safe Drinking Water Act was enacted, EPA never regulated hydraulic fracturing under that law. This fact was affirmed by President Bill Clinton’s EPA Administrator in the late 1990’s and Tony Ingraffea in 2010. The 2005 Energy Policy Act merely clarified that intent following a controversial court ruling that contradicted over 30 years of established history which is why the legislation passed in an overwhelmingly bi-partisan fashion including the support of then Illinois Senator Barack Obama
If attempting to instill fear in your neighbors wasn’t so serious, this would be the most amusing quip in the brochure for its irony. While fringe environmentalists work day and night to convince unknowing citizens the oil and natural gas industry is unregulated, nothing could be further from the truth. It is heavily regulated by multiple agencies.
Those include the United States Environmental Protection Agency, the New York Department of Environmental Conservation, the Delaware and/or the Susquehanna River Basin Commission and, depending on location, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and other federal agencies as well as any local requirements put in place by local municipalities. In fact, the oil and natural gas development process is regulated by no less than five federal laws including the Clean Water Act, the Occupation Safety and Health Act, the Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act and the Superfund law.
The next claim, “there’s not a single treatment plant in the state that can clean it up.” (referring to the flowback and produced water) is complete hyperbole. Well, why would anyone open a wastewater treatment facility for produced water when there is no large scale hydraulic fracturing taking place in the state? It simply makes no sense. However, if natural gas development using high volume hydraulic fracturing is permitted in New York State, gas companies can be expected to recycle (Cabot now recycles virtually 100% of its flowback and produced water) and employ mobile facilities to process the produced water while additional facilities are developed. There is already a Chenango County facility associated with Norse Energy that can clean produced water. Recycling is happening and the water processing technology is already here.
And, then there are these little lies:
That’s an easy one. None. Earlier this year, the New York State Department of Health (DOH) noted that wastewater from hydraulic fracturing operations would be subject to extensive tracking requirements. DOH determined, in fact, the proposed regulatory system for transporting produced and flowback fluids “will be subject to recordkeeping requirements similar to the treatment of medical waste, which are more stringent than requirements for conventional wastewater hauling.”
That would be news to the many private property owners who have “leased” their mineral rights, which they own here in America. The Associated Press recently announced Pennsylvania landowners, in fact, received nearly $1.2 billion dollars last year for providing companies access to the mineral rights they own. Their independence has certainly been ensured by natural gas development.
It’s also galling for Catskill Citizens for Safe Energy to suggest it knows more about the nation’s energy prospects than international organizations charged with noting global trends in energy development. According to the International Energy Agency, as noted by the Wall Street Journal, the global energy map “is being redrawn by the resurgence in oil and gas production in the United States.” The report also notes that by 2020, the United States will displace Saudi Arabia as the world’s largest oil producer.
The energy agency also projects by 2035 the United States may reach self-sufficiency in terms of oil production. In other words, the U.S. may meet our energy needs within our lifetimes thereby reducing, and potentially eliminating, the need to import oil from hostile regimes across the globe. And, it’s being accomplished with the same hydraulic fracturing technology used to produce natural gas.
Oh, now they are worried about property rights? Apparently, Catskill Citizens thinks folks opposed to natural gas development should enjoy protection of their property rights at the expense of everyone else. How about the rights of farmers to enjoy their property rights?
I am, as a landowner in New York, insulted when Catskill Citizens stoops to such tactics to sell their message. For starters, the long-standing myth that natural gas development lowers property values is pure fiction, as we noted here. West Virginia’s State Journal noted this recently. In examining property values in Marshall County, West Virginia – one of the most heavily developed counties in the state – the paper found, the assessed value of properties increased by almost 50 percent in two years and doubled since 2007.” The report continued:
“The assessed values of real and personal property in the county have increased by $577.2 million, excluding the public utility values, most of which Kessler said can be attributed to growth in the natural gas industry as well as to activities of the coal, chemical and power industries in the county.”
Also, you can still get insurance if you host a natural gas well on your property. In 2012, anti’s tried suggesting that Nationwide Insurance determined the process of HF was “too risky” to insure. Turns out, like most of the anti’s claims, that wasn’t true. According to representatives at Nationwide, “Despite assertions made over the last several weeks, Nationwide has not issued any new guidelines nor taken any new positions regarding fracking.” The representative would go on to add, “Nationwide’s underwriting guidelines do not disqualify homeowners or farm policy coverage for homes or farm operations based solely on the presence of a gas lease in force on the property, the presence of gas drilling, or plans for gas drilling in the future.” Finally, as Neil Guiles, noted on these pages, there are plenty of insurance companies who are very comfortable with the natural gas industry.
The brochure stresses the importance of people calling Cuomo and telling him not to allow natural gas development. This has been their call from day one and it isn’t working when the majority of the people in areas with natural gas to develop, support that development. What a waste of funding… wait, how was this funded?
Who Sponsors This Stuff?
Looking at the brochure closely the very last line says (in very fine print that goes blurry when blown up):
What is the Civil Society Institute (CSI), you ask? It is a special interest group that has pursued a host of trendy causes popular with bored wealthy elites (e.g., the nuclear freeze of several years ago). The group is the creation of Pam Solo, who earned a cool $631,588 in compensation and non-taxable benefits in 2010, according to the group’s 990 return (including $17,500 from related organizations).
This week it looks like CSI’s main goal is to stop natural gas development in New York and, in turn, take away your land rights. The group is against just about everything, including nuclear power and pretty much any form of development. To see some of the outrageous claims they make, stemming from their own skewed polls, you can visit this website. The information they are pedaling on natural gas comes from a report they did in 2010. It doesn’t seem very reliable to us but we aren’t the only ones to point it out.
“Their Clean Energy Agenda calls for “a number of bold steps, including phasing out nuclear power, natural gas, coal and industrial biomass in favor of efficient use of renewable, non-polluting resources” and “re-tooling federal loan guarantees to make smarter investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency programs.” The Clean Energy Agenda expresses the dissatisfaction of 83 percent of Americans with the “iron grip maintained by the dirty energy industry and its lobbyists in promoting the non-solution of an ‘all of the above’ approach to energy that would preserve the worst options and dilute the focus on real solutions.”
While Ms. Solo and the leadership of the Civil Society Institute and the other 35 organizations were in Washington criticizing and ranting against the dirty energy industry, the dirty energy companies were generating electricity to keep businesses open, hospitals operating to save lives, banking systems functioning to support the world’s commerce, computers working to advance business and education, air conditioners running to keep businesses and homes cool, restaurants operating to feed people, water treatment facilities operating to clean water, television stations operating to broadcast the nonsense espoused by these interesting people and generally supporting the country’s commerce and economy.
It is truly disturbing that interesting people like Ms. Solo and the Civil Society Institute condemn an industry that contributes so much to our advanced lifestyle as dirty, dishonest and destructive to the health and the future of Americans. The energy industry does much more to support the economy, health and prosperity of our country than these interesting people who have nothing to offer other than contempt and jealousy. They offer a general concept to retire all nuclear, natural gas, coal and industrial biomass energy by 2030 without any remotely viable alternative other than a vague notion of renewable and sustainable energy and energy conservation that someone else will have to design and build.”
Perhaps the most interesting part is what CSI’s own website tells us about them (emphasis added).
“Where many organizations serve as a source of financing, we like to think of ourselves as a source of thinking, encouragement and support. In most cases, we bring knowledge and experience to the projects and partnerships we participate in, as well as some financial support.
Civil Society Institute is not a passive provider of funding for projects and does not accept unsolicited proposals. We do, however, actively seek the participation of other providers of funds who share our concerns and our commitment to the common good.”
“A source of thinking?” I guess this means they get to tell us what we should believe, hand feeding outrageous lies to the public to cut the economic feet out from under our region. The proof here is in the pudding; the brochure they have funded for the Catskill Citizens is doing just that. Note, also, the fact they deny doing any passive funding which means they take full credit for the trash piece put out by Catskill Citizens.
Worse, many of you may not realize CSI was an early funder, too, of the CEDC. Yes, Helen and David Slottje’s campaign to offer “free” advice to communities is also being funded by the Civil Society Institute – the only thing being “free” about it is the fact a special interest pays for it. According to the 990 (page 27) the Civil Society Institute gave the CEDC a $20,000 grant listing the purpose of the grant as “science and health.” Hmm. And, all along, we thought the Slottjes were dollar store attorneys.
What is CSI’s own source of funding? Well, as is often the case with these special interest non-profit money funding schemes, which resemble nothing so much as money laundering, there is always one foundation behind another. The Bauman Foundation funds them in part and is associated with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC); you know, the group Julie Sautner threatened to sic on Phelim McAleer. The Open Society Foundations (George Soros) also funds them. Still another major funder is the affiliated Lucretia Fund.
Who are they? Well, they’ve got $14.5 million of assets according to their 2010 return, invested in the Cayman Islands and elsewhere, and it appears the fund was started by New York City artists Sarah Lutz and her husband John Van Rens. Who would have thought? I wonder if they’re proud at having funded this piece of trash the Catskill Citizens issued? They say they’re not passive funders after all. I say they’re two more elites trying to deny prosperity to my friends, family and neighbors.