(4 pm. – promoted by ek hornbeck)
Hydraulic Fracturing is the process of extracting natural gas from otherwise inaccessible underground sources, such as the Marcellus Shale Formation which extends under much of the Appalachian Basin. The process involves millions of gallons of water, sand and chemicals pumped underground, under high pressure, to break apart the rock and release the gas. Scientists are worried that the chemicals used in fracturing may pose a threat either underground or when waste fluids are handled and sometimes spilled on the surface. Needless to say it is a hot political topic, nationally and locally, that has generated law suits, studies and a lot of propaganda from oil companies, the news media and the government
On Tuesday the town of Hiram held a public meeting with representatives of the company Mountaineer Keystone (MK). MK, a subsidiary of First Reserve Corporation, is set to begin fracking operations in Hiram next month. The company is a bit of an enigma; for one, it does not appear to have a web site, just a generic landing page at First Reserve. Also, according to Business Week it was founded in 2010 and lists no Key Executives. So who exactly the public was meeting with was something of a mystery. [..]
The town counsel began by taking some questions, and residents tried to probe for different ways to slow down this runaway train. Ohio has home rule nominally enshrined in its Constitution, but the Small Government Conservatives in Columbus have happily chipped away at it whenever it has threatened (as in this case) to result in a messy outburst of local control.
Residents asked some creative questions, though. One asked about being annexed by a larger neighboring municipality in order to get a greater degree of local control. [..]
Another resident asked (start of clip) why a noise ordinance couldn’t be enforced. The trustee responded that the township didn’t have the manpower to enforce it, and after a little back-and-forth she says: How about volunteer police officers? [..]
The unresponsiveness of the officials brought to mind a concept I first encountered in Dana Nelson’s Bad For Democracy (p. 177): plebiscetary democracy. As Barney Frank described it relative to the Bush years, this is a system “wherein a leader is elected but once elected has almost all of the power” (Cf. Bush’s accountability moment).
These officials continually defer all proposals to the state level. Try getting the industry-friendly government in Columbus to do something about it, they say – which is really just a polite way of saying shut up and go away. By and large local officials bristle at any kind of pressure to act on this issue. There was an accountability moment a couple years ago, is the implication. You had your chance, now buzz off. See you next election day.
Some citizens, though, believe accountability moments happen at more frequent intervals.
h/t Lambert Strether at naked capitalism
Court Rejects a Ban on Local Fracking Limits
By Mireya Navarro
A Pennsylvania court on Thursday struck down a provision of a state law that forbade municipalities to limit where natural gas drilling can take place within their boundaries.
The law, known as Act 13 and approved in February, required that drilling be allowed in all zoning districts, even residential areas, although with certain buffers. The law had been sought by drillers who have been fracking in the Marcellus Shale and wanted uniformity in rules on where they could drill.
But an appellate court found such a requirement unconstitutional, saying it allowed “incompatible uses in zoning districts,” failed to protect the interests of neighboring property owners and altered the character of neighborhoods.
Lawyers for the seven municipalities that sued over the state law said the court had reinstated their power to carry out basic zoning.
“It will allow local governments to continue to play a meaningful role in protecting property rights, residents and water supplies,” said Jordan B. Yeager, a lawyer who represented the township of Nockamixon and the Borough of Yardley, both in Bucks County.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo of the great state of New York, I’d like you to meet Josh Fox. As you may know, Josh, who is 39, wrote and directed a film called Gasland, which I’m sure is at the top of your Netflix queue. In 2010, the film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Feature Documentary and helped bring the world’s attention to the dangers of hydraulic fracturing, aka fracking. To put it another way, Josh is the guy who is largely responsible for the political minefield that you now find yourself tip-toeing through as you consider whether or not to lift the moratorium on fracking in New York State. [..]
Last week, someone in your administration – I won’t try to guess who! – leaked details of your administration’s plan to allow fracking to the New York Times. I’ll give you this: You didn’t allow Chesapeake and the other gas industry thugs to roll you entirely; among other things, the plan limits fracking to five counties in the southern tier of the state and places restrictions on drilling near drinking water supplies. Obviously, you’re trying to appear rational and pragmatic about all this, talking about following “the science” while balancing economic development with environmental and public health concerns.
Well, guess what? When it comes to fracking, there isn’t much “science” to follow yet – there’s mostly just industry-funded propoganda. Not only that, but there are a whole lot of people in your state who don’t want you to balance anything. They’ve seen what has happened in Pennsylvania where the gas companies have run wild and they fear that once the drillers get their bits into the ground in New York, it’s a mad rush to ruin.
Elaine K. Hill, a doctoral candidate in Cornell University’s department of applied economics and management, found evidence that fracking is associated with the frequency of low birth weight babies. The findings of her study (pdf) implied that for mothers living close to a fracking site, the probability of a low birth weight baby increased by 25 percent.
While this might be important information for government officials and the general public to have when considering restrictions on fracking, New York Times reporter Andrew Revkin is outraged that an unpublished study is being widely circulated and could impact public policy. From his blogpost, it sounds like Revkin gave Hill a really serious grilling about the ethics of allowing her unpublished study to influence debate on a major national issue. [..]
Hill has uncovered an important finding. If there is some fundamental error in her methodology then the more senior people in the field who are condemning her, should be able to quickly identify it. Revkin found people with plenty of bad things to say about Hill, but he was apparently unable to find anyone with fundamental questions about her methodology or who could suggest an alternative explanation for her findings.
Given the importance of these findings, it would have been irresponsible for Hill not to make them public. It’s unfortunate she has to deal with people who are more concerned about credentials than science.
On Saturday, June 2, 2012, I hosted a screening of Josh Fox’s documentary film, Gasland, at the Landmark Theatre in Syracuse, New York. After the film, I moderated a panel that included Fox, Kate Hudson from Waterkeeper Alliance, ecologist and author Sandra Steingraber and Cornell University engineering professor Dr. Anthony Ingraffea. The event was co-sponsored by a consortium of anti-fracking groups in Central New York and beyond, such as World Grain Organization, Frack Action and Shale Shock, to name only a few. Supporters of hydraulic fracturing in the natural gas industry were invited to attend and provided with an opportunity to participate. All of those declined, as did all local, state and federal officials that were contacted. [..]
Issues of hidden costs to tax-payers for infrastructure that will ultimately line the pockets of very few in the Southern Tier of New York State while potentially causing catastrophic contamination of billions of gallons of fresh water aside, it was Kate Hudson who raised what I view as the most chilling point during the proceedings: that fracking and all of its inherent risks will accomplish little, if anything, to lower the cost of energy here at home. The Great Fracking Race will only bring more natural gas to market which will be piped to U.S. coasts and sold overseas. This will make some small cadre of gas executives and their investors very rich, while possibly leaving behind incalculable amounts of environmental damage and a price tag for the American taxpayer, at a time of fiscal austerity, that is truly unimaginable.