The Daily Star, Oneonta, NY - otsego county news, delaware county news, oneonta news, oneonta sports

November 11, 2012

The best-laid plans oft go astray

By Dave Parker
The Daily Star

---- — NEWS ALERT: Professional planner urges us to prepare now for the devastating effects of natural gas development in our county!!

The dialectic approach to reaching the predetermined conclusion that natural gas development must be banned in our county (or any other county or the state, for that matter) is not new. What was unique at the last county natural gas advisory committee (NGAC) meeting was that the trumpeter was a “prominent” professional planner who cloaked the justification for his message by creating a literally impossible scenario known as a “build-out analysis.”

He tells us that we must “prepare, or we will be preparing to fail.” It is obvious that his basis, context and dated research are all crafted to support his negative conclusion.

The presenter was Mr. Ted Fink – the green planner. If the name of his firm, “Greenplan,” isn’t enough to tip off his agenda, perhaps a few of his quotes from an interview with the Putnam County (N.Y.) News and Reporter might provide further insight into the his disregard for we, the great untrained proletariat land and business owner.

When referencing the special training he has as a professional planner, which enables him to possess a greater understanding of what constitutes the greater good, Fink states: “A planner is going to have a certain understanding of what represents good planning and what represents poor planning. … We’ve been trained to understand and see the consequences of poor planning and sometimes that is in conflict with the notion that everybody can do what they want with their property.”

He adds that “as a certified planner,” he recognizes that “there are people that I think don’t always have the community at heart – all they’re thinking about is their own selfish interests, unfortunately. But that’s understandable too, you know people that made an investment might’ve invested their life in their land and have certain expectations.”

Combine this common-good mindset and arrogance with the fact that his Tompkins County build-out study was financed in part by the Park Foundation (an Ithaca-based organization worth over $300 million that openly admits to an anti-natural gas position and has also funded the likes of EarthJustice, Earthworks and Riverkeepers) and his subjectivity is obvious.

In his Tompkins County study, he begins with the ridiculous baseline presumption that all of the leases filed in the county are viable for the full build-out into the maximum number of drill pads allowed in the New York SGEIS. In fact, the vast number of these leases were based upon cheap speculation on the part of the developers and landmen. If any development at all occurs in Tompkins County, it will be on the basis of real geology based on new seismic data that has not yet been developed.

His magnitude of build-out assumption is even less credible in that he does not consider or acknowledge the real-world context of the logistics of drilling and finishing wells. There is a finite number of drillers/drill rigs/skilled and experienced operators/hydrofracking contractors, etc.

The captives are fully leased and “built-out” for years to come, and there is intense competition for the services of the independents. The developers move to the optimum geology, irrespective of town, county, state or even country. To suggest that they would converge on a single county and “build it out” is ludicrous.

Even if his “perfect storm” scenario were plausible, it is invalid qualitatively and quantitatively in its lack of considerations for advances in technology, operations efficiency and regulation that have occurred over the last several years. Process-water recycling, pipeline transfer of process water from freshwater impoundments directly to well pads, process wastewater post-treatment, drill pad design, chemical composition of process fluids and gases, casing design and redundancy etc., have evolved and improved dramatically with time.

The resultant impact on freshwater usage, truck traffic and road-repair requirements, hazardous material storage and disposal, both biogenic and thermogenic methane migration etc., are ignored in this tabular summary of his study. In short, the summary accomplishes its intended purpose to mislead and instill fear.

Others are more capable than I of commenting on the social and economic impacts presented, but I would question their basis and degree based on the “build-out” study. I trust our county board will not burden our planning department with “studying” what can be observed in four nearby Pennsylvania counties or worse, hiring a “green planner.”

DAVE PARKER is a member of the Worcester Landowners Coalition.