Thursday, May 5, 2011

Hartwick's Forum on Gas Drilling 5/4/2011

Last night the Hartwick Town Board and residents had an opportunity to listen to three speakers present information on the proposed natural gas development in the area.
Dr. Scott Cline, a petroleum engineer talked about various topics ranging from well casing design to the economic benefits associated to natural gas development. He stressed that the economic benefits would not only be felt by the landowners but by the Towns and County.  He showed numbers of the Town of Worcester’s potential financial gain from one Marcellus well. He discussed reasons why fluids are not expected to migrate from the Marcellus to drinking water aquifers. There is technology that exists and that can be developed to streamline the development processes. Bottom line: Estimates of the gas in place are huge and have a national significance; the gas is there and it will be developed. Problems are there but are minor or can be fixed.
Greg Sovas’ information was equally interesting. He talked about the intent of the mining law and the oil and gas law was to preclude zoning from natural gas development. He was pretty firm on this. The State had good reason to insist on this; one had to do with safety. The idea of towns trying to ban the industry or zone it out based on the mining law does not make sense. Surface mining have a longer surface disturbance when compared to the temporal effects of a subsurface extraction of natural gas.
These two were people who have had personal experience working with or in the industry and also in the state environmental agency.
My presentation on the other hand was academic. I wanted to really hammer the message home that the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing have little impact on human health when in the flowback/produced water. I aslo wanted to lay to rest the issue of Gastem's /watertown / water treatment issue.
Those opposed to natural gas development saw the presentations differently. They saw it as the industry’s attempt to green wash a sinister message.
The one big problem that keeps resurfacing, that is the somewhat mislabeling of PA’s, WY’s Canada’s and CO’s problems as NY’s future. NY has been extremely diligent in outlining information for the supplement to the natural gas impact statement.  Someone asked at the meeting last night; Why not require impacts statements for each well site? There is some validity to that statement; however, it would be redundant. EIS are saved for sites where the agency feels there could be higher potential for an impact to groundwater quality (Shallower wells).  The dsGEIS is comprehensive on how it deals with air quality impacts and also on how the state deals with the chemical additive situation. If one read through the sGEIS and GEIS one can really appreciate the scope and depth of the work that went into writing the conditions attached to the regulations. The GEIS are NOT the regulations BTW but conditions attached to the permits.

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