Are New York Lawmakers Poised To Throw Upstate Residents Under The Fracking Bus?

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Despite last week’s temporary win protecting the Delaware River Basin and its inhabitants from natural gas fracking, the debate rages on in New York State. Lawmakers, industry lobbyists and concerned landowners have debated for over a year about whether or not to open up the state to the Marcellus Shale fracking bonanza.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s stated commitment to vote no in the Delaware River Basin vote was promising, but it is offset by the fact that he has assembled a secretive 18-person “fracking panel” which Food & Water Watch executive director Wenonah Hauter recently alleged is comprised of many “strongly self-interested and industry-biased” individuals. Some environmental groups are concerned that this panel seems rigged to give the green light to fracking in New York.

At previous public hearings, tensions have already run high with both supporters and opponents lining up hours beforehand to ensure their turn to speak out on this highly contentious issue.

Most of the proponents of gas fracking continue to argue the economic mantra of job creation and domestic energy security, even though multiple reviews have debunked the gas industry’s lofty job projections. Food & Water Watch released a report indicating that many of the jobs created would likely be short-term and favor contract workers from outside the state. Other watchdogs of industry rhetoric, including Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), point out that the industry's rush to export gas from the fracking boom will lead to much higher gas prices for Americans, contradicting the industry's alleged commitment to domestic energy security.

There are also important questions about just how much gas there is underneath New York to warrant such extreme energy development.  After a recalculation of the resource potential of the area, geologists at the U.S. Geological Survey dropped their estimate of the recoverable gas by a quarter. They determined that the amount of reasonably recoverable gas would only meet US demand for four years instead of sixteen.

Residents who had initially accepted gas leases have since voiced their regret, stating that the lease payments from industry weren’t worth the impacts on their land, water and communities.

Meanwhile, citizens concerned about fracking in upstate regions question the fact that Governor Cuomo is adamant about protecting New York City’s watershed, yet he seems dead set on allowing fracking upstate, in effect creating ‘sacrifice’ zones that would imperil water supplies for upstate communities in favor of protecting city residents.

”I resent the fact that the water of New York City and Syracuse is deemed by the DEC to be more important than the rest of the state,” State Senator James Seward (R-Milford) told The Daily Star newspaper of Oneonta, NY.

“What's the difference between New York City kids and my kids?” Kim Jastremski of Cooperstown said at one meeting, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Even more discomforting is a page on the DEC’s website attempting to explain “What We Learned From Pennsylvania”. It not only passively admits that mistakes were made in PA, but also seems to loosely translate the problem as, “we screwed up there” but “next time we’ll make it better.”

NYDEC Commissioner Joseph Martens believes that fracking can be undertaken safely in certain areas despite reports questioning the effectiveness of any of the state’s proposed regulations.

Perhaps the Commissioner and Governor should visit the DEC website more often. Ironically, there’s a whole page dedicated to NY State’s watersheds entitled, “We All Live in a Watershed” that shows every inch of the state belonging to some kind of watershed. If that’s the case, and Governor Cuomo actually intends to stand by his word of “keeping fracking out of the watershed,” he should clarify why he’s leaving most of the state’s watersheds vulnerable to contamination from fracking upstate.

Next add NYC Mayor Bloomberg to the mix, whose $50 million donation to the Sierra Club to take on Big Coal is laudable, but some have questioned whether it was, in part, a strategic attempt to gain support for gas extraction by pitting dirty coal against “clean” gas.

“At least natural gas is better than coal!! Do you really want coal?” Mayor Bloomberg said recently, trying to turn this into some kind of false, fossil fuel Sophie’s choice.

It’s true that gas-fired power plants release less carbon dioxide, but that’s only part of the picture. Studies that have attempted to take into account the full life-cycle impact of gas development, including potent methane emissions into the atmosphere during the drilling and transportation phases, indicate that gas may in fact pollute the air much more than coal and oil.

Bloomberg has also referred to natural gas as an “alternative” energy source, attempting to equate this dirty fossil fuel with wind, solar and other renewables. While it is an “alternative” energy in that it is a difference choice from coal, it is still a filthy form of reckless energy that threatens our water, air quality and the global climate.

Many citizens are waking up to the fact that the gas fracking rush is not a true solution to our energy problems. Switching from coal to gas still leaves us addicted to dirty fossil fuels, when the real solution is to focus on transitioning to a truly clean energy future that will create better jobs and safeguard our communities against the pollution threats that all fossil fuels pose.

The fireworks are sure to continue at public hearings this week in Loch Sheldrake and New York City on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively. 

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It’s true that gas-fired power plants release less carbon dioxide, but that’s only part of the picture. Studies that have attempted to take into account the full life-cycle impact of gas development, including potent methane emissions into the atmosphere during the drilling and transportation phases, indicate that gas may in fact pollute the air much more than coal and oil.

You do realize that study was garbage, right?

Howarth and Ingraffea “peer reviewed study” assumed that since a certain fraction of produced gas didn’t make it to end users, that it was all fugitive emissions. Unfortunately for Howarth and Ingraffea, they failed to take into consideration that over 2/3rds of these fugitive leaks weren’t lost at all, they are being used to power stationary equipment. Additionally, the study didn’t consider fugitive methane emissions from coal mining, a significant source of methane sourced to human activities. To that end, what does that say about the peer review process.

There a great deal of data that concludes HF is not responsible for many allegations of groundwater contamination. The initial 2004 EPA report on HF found no contamination cases from the HF process and was based on reporting from state agencies. The Duke study, from Robert Jackson, found no traces of HF additives in any of the water wells they surveyed, even though gas was present. In  another well documented case, Bainbridge Township in Ohio, an inadequately cemented well casing leaked natural gas into an aquifer but when local well water was compared to pre drilling baseline data, there wasn’t a corresponding increase in the hundreds of organic and inorganic industrial compounds that were tested for including the presence of hydraulic fracturing fluids. Another study performed by researchers at Penn, just released, compared water samples taken before drilling and then six months after HF operations were completed and similarly found no issues with the exception of increased levels of bromides which they believe is related to drilling in general, not the HF process. You might argue that the presence of methane in the aquifer, in some very rare instances caused by drilling, is a concern but proper water well construction can eliminate that with complete effectiveness.

Why do you anti frackers consistently use flawed research and bogus arguments to bolster your case?

Almost sounds like there is a war on science being waged .. someone should write a book on that.

Umm… I didn’t know that… (and I don’t really care for your opinion.)

Scientists can and do make mistakes. That is one reason why they publish.  So others can verify and\or update their work.

This is the best way to refute scientific work.

There are plenty of respected oil and gas organizations wh can do this.  Maybe you could engage one of them.

I have co-authored papers published under the ASME (nothing relevant to this particular debate) … and you?

I find it almost unbelievable that someone possessing even an iota of technical knowledge can read an article like this and not puke.

I don’t debate that this place is about spin.  They are harping on their own line.

But to put it succinctly, so far they have shown facts, and you have shown none.  In your opinion they have grabbed a bad paper.  (OK.  Whatever. Find a better one. hint hint)

This place actually made me feel physically ill.

How did that logic go… “Greenhouses don’t work the same way as our atmosphere, therefore there is no Greenhouse Effect.”  I’m sure lots would fall for that little slight of mind.  I can’t actually look at it without being premedicated.  I just can’t.

Democracy is utterly dependent upon an electorate that is accurately informed. In promoting climate change denial (and often denying their responsibility for doing so) industry has done more than endanger the environment. It has undermined democracy.

There is a vast difference between putting forth a point of view, honestly held, and intentionally sowing the seeds of confusion. Free speech does not include the right to deceive. Deception is not a point of view. And the right to disagree does not include a right to intentionally subvert the public awareness.

Deception is not a point of view ….. I kinda like that.

Compare your mission statement to this quality in this post, chocked full of half truths, distortions and outright lies. Maybe you should take a refresher course.

… specifically as much as I want to believe you.  It is armchair opinion that you are offering.

If what you are saying is so blatently obvious.  It should be blatently easy to refute with a paper.

If I had to compare your opinion, on a blog, on the internet, to a recently published paper, then I’d take the paper. If I wanted to be concerned, I may double check the journal and or the scientists involved.

I’m not saying you are wrong, but I can’t tell the difference between you, a Hillbilly, Homer Simpson, Freeman Dyson, or a PR firm.

Think positive.  At least your opinion can be heard on the internet.

Sorry, but an appeal to authority, citing the Howarth and Ingraffea just doesnt cut it. The DOE’s NETL has accounted for the produced/delivered, pg 25 of the presentation.

It doesnt take a weatherman to smell that they are full of manure.  


Deal with the facts and move on, the research was garbage and even had to be retracted once for its errors. The only person I hear complaining is you … whining to be more specific.

Hardly refuted…

I came across this rebuttal;

There are serious glaring and obvious flaws in DOE’s guestimates utilizing secret data. i.e. All natural gas goes to Electricity generation and is not in any way pumped to your house.

Either way, I’m sure the truth will come out, or at least the DOE will publish something meaty to look at.

Mike H,  the Howarth Cornell paper has never been retracted or refuted by a peer-reviewed journal. The shortcomings of the Howarth paper - which everyone was quick to jump on even though Howarth et al address the challenges and caveats in the paper (as DeSmog did in Fracking The Future) - is that there aren't enough data available to reach a firm conclusion.

The reason there aren't enough data is due to the fact that the industry is not compelled by current law to provide all of their knowledge and data about life-cycle emissions, particularly methane.  Nobody - except maybe the gas industry - knows the real life-cycle emissions of fracked shale gas.

If industry is so confident that there is no problem, then why don't they release all of their data and knowledge so others can indepedently confirm that it is “only” half as bad as coal? (Which still doesn't make it “clean” by any means!)  

Until the relevant data are made publicly available to independent researchers, there is no definitive conclusion on this matter.  That means the Cornell paper - which remains the only peer-reviewed paper on this subject to date - remains valid.

If you actually read the Howarth et al paper, you will see how they discuss every one of the shortcomings of their study within, and they have commented further in media interviews and public appearances to clarify that there is still much work to be done, but without more data from industry, it will difficult for anyone to move ahead.  

Go ahead, read the whole thing:

Mike H, please present a peer-reviewed paper that refutes the Cornell work.  And provide evidence of where it was “retracted” as you say.  And don't even bother with the garbage responses from gas-sponsored groups whose work has not been peer-reviewed. We've seen them all. They are not credibly supported by peer review. 

When this industry says it is “losing the PR war” on fracking, and none of its defenders can produce a peer-reviewed study supporting their PR claims, it tells us something about the credibility of the industry and its defenders.  

Let rewind a bit … the post claimed that there were “studies” (which indicates plural, more than one, to the best of my recolection) that indicate gas may be more of a GHG emmiter than coal.

Now, we all know that there havent been “studies” that indicate that gas, be it shale or coal seam, has a higher GHG footprint … just “a” study, high flawed.

I dont know why the industry wont release its data, its most likely proprietary … you would have to ask them directly. And whats with the push for getting data out of people … after all guys like Phil Jones of East Anglica’s CRU makes a rather convincing argument that if you give raw data to critics, they are just going to use it to pick your arguement apart. Sauce for the goose, I say.

But, back to the lecture at hand … you say you want me to produce a  peer-reviewed study that contradicts the Cornell work … no problemo.

I’ll save you the read and just give you the monyey quote:”The GHG emission estimates shown here for Marcellus gas are similar to current domestic gas.”

That would seem to contradict, in its entirety, the Horwath/Ingraffea “study”. Seems pretty conlcsive to me Brendan.

Your insistence upon clinging to the shod-diddly-oddy Horwath/Ingraffea study strikes me as the textbook definition of confirmation bias.

Both papers agree that methane is the big concern.  Methane is noxious stuff that has an intense effect on global warming which tails off. We use a proxy unit called carbon to measure its effect.

Both papers are largely in agreeance about the same facts, however;

Your paper;

“In estimating GHG emissions, we include GHG emissions of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide. We converted the GHG emissions to carbon dioxide equivalents according to the global warming potential (GWP) factors reported by IPCC. We use the 100-year GWP factor, in which methane has a global warming potential (GWP) 25 times higher than carbon dioxide (IPCC 2007).”


“We used values of 33 for a 100-year time integral and 105 for a 20-year time integral, based on more recent science (Shindell et al. 2009).”

So.. in the next 20 years, the impact of methane is 4 times higher (a fact ignored by your paper) and is 50% higher using current science (a fact ignored by your paper).

You really should read this stuff before you post it.

Three days and thats the best you could come up with … the ‘papers both agree that methane is icky’ … oh brother, you are proof positive that denial is more than a river in Egypt!

  • If the comparison is based on the heat content of the fuels, the top (green) portion of the Howarth et al. column is doubled in length, and gas becomes twice as bad as coal from a greenhouse perspective. This is the basis of Howarth et al.’s suggestion that gas could be as bad or twice as bad as coal from a greenhouse perspective. Assuming more realistic estimates of gas leakage rates and using the 100 year global warming potential factor (of 33 grams of GHG-equivalent CO2per gram of methane released to the atmosphere), which captures the contrast in atmospheric lifetimes of CO2and natural gas, we show in Figure 1 that gas has a much smaller global warming impact than coal. For leakage rates less than 2%, the impact of natural gas approaches 1/3rdthat of coal, and methane leakage (top green bar) is an insignificant part of the greenhouse forcing compared to the CO2 released during combustion (bottom blue part of bar). For the 100y GWP of 33, gas exceeds the global warming impact of deep coal only when its leakage rate exceeds 18.2% of production, and exceeds the global warming impact of surface coal only when its leakage exceeds 17.1% of production. These natural gas leakage rates are well beyond any known estimates.

Read the rest of the comments on the paper, pg 36!/mail/InboxLight.aspx?n=1419968600!fid=1&fav=1&n=534895877

They are wonderful!

That’s not a web page that is accessible to me.

Is it another blogger?  Might I suggest that you read the papers in question instead of relying on armchair opinions? Point me to the exact paragraphs where you think there is something really amiss.  Instead what you are doing is quoting excited hyperbole from lordy knows where.  My sense of that kind of information is that it is just from some sort of myth generation machine.

Both papers seem to have similar data except for methane measurements.  The results are strikingly consistent with using the same numbers except for differences in methane.

The paper you provided states that combustion only amounts to 74% of the CO2 emmissions.  That means that the amount lost before that point is 26%.  Clearly, your paper stands in direct contrast to your last post.

What is missing in your comment is obvious.  You are cherry picking one single small aspect of the issue, and misunderstanding the subject matter entirely.  Life cycle emmissions are what is being discussed. Not line leakage as your comment is somehow attempting to do.

You claim to publish papers after all.  Calm down and read the papers and interpret them.

How did that link get in there?

Try this

And no, its not a blogger. These were the comments on the paper made by the other disciplines at Cornell.

OK… So I can read those rebuttals.  But have you actually read the papers?

Rebuttal 1) While Howarth Ingraffea talk about many great numbers, they do not focus on or in any stress them.  They think the numbers are higher.

Compared to coal, the footprint of shale gas is at least 20% greater…“  This number refers to the MINIMUM estimation.

Your rebuttal agrees with the emmissions number;

“While their low-end estimate of total leakages from well drilling through delivery(3.6%) is consistent with the EPA (2011) methane leakage rate of ~2.2% of production, and consistent with previous estimates in peer reviewed studies…”

Rebuttal 2) Offers no alternative.. Howarth Ingraffea are going with current numbers.  (Maybe in the future this will change.)

Rebuttal 3) Talks about the 20 year time frame and global warming.  Its arguing that near term CO2 warming shouldn’t be a concern and thinks it shouldn’t be looked at. 

This is all fine and dandy, but really its not the thrust of the paper.  The paper’s abstract is quite clear on the 100 year timeframe. (So… what’s the beef?)

Rebuttal 4) They are arguing that it is not fair to compare coal to shale gas because coal is used exclusively for electricity generation and shale gas would be used for a variety of uses.

This is a silly arguement. End to end life cycle costs are being considered.  Just ‘cause shale gas is leakier in getting from well to house, as opposed to well to power plant, doesn’t mean its not a valid concern.  (I have to ask why they’d bring it up.)

Other arguements go beyond my abilities to understand.  But I do keep coming back to the paper you posted;

And its focus is also strictly on power generation.  It says there is a 26% leakage before production (not the tiny 18% you quoted).  Furthermore the rebuttal keeps coming back to electricity generation.  This is not how natural gas is used, yet this is the meat of the rebuttal.

I’d hardly say that Howarth Ingraffea have been discredited by a long shot.  But futher points in the Cornell rebuttal could have an impact.