Raise the curtain on the second act of Gas Wars.
The SGEIS allows access to 85 percent of the shale gas beneath our state. The hardcore environmental lobby has lost to the science and the multi-state research of the three-year study by the state Department of Environmental Conservation. All that is left is the hoopla surrounding the 60-day comment period. The DEC then presents the final document to the governor for release. Then gas development begins in New York.
The development will start in Broome and Tioga counties, the natural geographical progression from West Virginia and Pennsylvania. The proximity to the Millenium Pipeline gives easy access to the Northeast markets. In the development, there will be spills and accidents. The accidents will be remedied; the spills, cleaned up. New Yorkers will see that the world as we know it will not come to an end.
Slowly, as the money from sign-on bonuses and royalties filters into the communities, as good-paying jobs support young families, as tax rates are tamped down and tax revenues bumped up with the infusion of money from productive wells, and as individuals and institutions take advantage of new opportunities, the Southern Tier will finally begin to recover and prosper. At last, that talk will start to become a reality.
But don't expect any of this anytime soon in Otsego County. Two reasons: one economic and one based on the politics of fear.
On the economic side, since development depends on access to markets, infrastructure needs to be built. Also, the much-studied and prolific Marcellus formation is shallow in Otsego County, thus more economically difficult to extract and possibly excluded by regulation in the northern parts of the county. The Utica shale will be the main target formation. Its potential is largely an unknown.
Politically, those opposed to drilling in Otsego, with the help of a friendly press, have painted a picture of a nightmare industrial wasteland of poisoned water, ruined roads, plummeting property values, etc. An organized and dedicated core following believes this scenario.
Gas companies aren't stupid. What company wants a posting on YouTube of some retiree in Lands End gear and Gucci loafers handcuffing himself to its rig? What company wants to go to court to argue over restrictive ordinances a la Cherry Valley?
There are other areas in the Southern Tier with equal reward and fewer hassles. Drillers will eventually develop Otsego after the fear subsides and the lawsuits are over, but for some folks who are just hanging on, that will be too late.
Most people opposed to drilling are sincere. However, they are largely unaware of the exaggerations, the tactics and the agenda of their leaders. The opposition of some of these leaders to drilling stems from their fear that this newly abundant, cheap natural gas will delay the adoption of wind and solar energy. Their aversion to fossil fuels impels them to attack natural gas even if these attacks help bolster coal in the near term and continues our dependence on foreign energy. Natural gas, the game-changer, is the big threat to their larger agenda.
Adrian Kuzminski of Sustainable Otsego asks, "Is natural gas a transition fuel until renewables are economically competitive? Hardly. In fact, it's a big roadblock to our future; it perpetuates our polluting habits, externalizes its costs onto society and taxpayers, and sucks up investment capital that should be going to renewables instead."
Let me ask a question. With 97 percent of our transportation powered by fossil fuel, how does Mr. Kuzminski suggest we get ourselves and our goods around? What is the replacement for diesel, which powers the bulk of our truck, rail and ship traffic? Where is the renewable-powered substitute for the turbine engines that make commercial air traffic possible? What do we do while we wait for these replacements? Walk? Swim? Paraglide? Ride a mule?
And that's just transportation. How do we power our industries and our homes, which support our way of life, which, in turn, is the economic engine for much of the rest of the world? We live in the real world, Mr. Kuzminski, not a theoretical one. If we go to renewable energy, there has to be a transition. Shale gas must be part of the mix leading to that transition.
With shale gas, we have an opportunity to have local energy serve local needs, an opportunity for our region and our state to emerge from the economic doldrums, and an opportunity for our nation to become less dependent on foreign oil. Gas development is a jump-start for New York. And some day, it WILL come to Otsego County.
Dick Downey of Otego is a founding member of the Unatego Area Landowners Association.
Raise the curtain on the second act of Gas Wars.
- Guest Column
State's budget gimmick is hindering schools
Recently, the Margaretville and Roxbury boards of education joined their colleagues across the region and throughout the state in adopting a resolution calling on the state legislature to end the so-called "gap elimination adjustment."
The state Board of Regents deserves a shakeup
Last Saturday, despite a blanketing snowstorm, more than a hundred people showed up, some from as far away as Binghamton and Utica, at Oneonta High School for a forum titled, "On the State of Education in New York: Reform and Resistance."
It's no wonder businesses avoid us
Otsego County's gas potential was the subject of a Foothills symposium last Friday. Four gas activists/analysts shared their opinions on geology, production, and industry practice, with a side trip into the usual Doomsday Scenario.
How to bridge a widening wealth gap
If the governmentâ€™s figures are correct, the gap between the haves and the have-nots is growing. Two questions logically follow: should that be a surprise; and what are we going to do about it?
Nimbys, shills and celebs: A morality play for our times
As international corporations continue to ship U.S. jobs overseas, privatize water, track internet shopping and buy elections -- and argue that this improves our lives -- it's worth looking at how big oil's push to frack the earth is playing out in Otego.
- Saturday, December 14, 2013
As the decades pass, are we better off?
Since February 2011, I have been the anonymous scribe who has brought you "Step Back in Time," the daily column which contains news bits from 25 years ago and 50 years ago. This means I have been culling stories, some simple and others terribly complex, from the late 1980s and the early 1960s, for the Daily Star's readers, doing so with the consciousness of a middle-aged woman living in the second decade of the 21st century.
- Saturday, December 7, 2013
Attitudes are changing on gas drilling
With elections over, the candidate lawn signs are gone. Otsego's permanent signage has once again returned. "For Sale" signs have reclaimed the lawns -- people attempting to sell and leave.
- Saturday, November 23, 2013
Balancing the city budget on kids' backs
It is ironic that the Nov. 12 issue of The Daily Star carried a story on Page 2 that the city is considering charging fees for recreation programs and paying the YMCA $65,000 for programming, staff and supplies, and on Page 3 a column by Cary Brunswick describes how poverty can affect the outcome of test scores for our youth.
- Saturday, November 9, 2013
Dude, where's my socioeconomic class?
Growing up in suburban and rural New Jersey, I had encountered the signs of it regularly.
- Saturday, November 2, 2013
Congress playing hunger games
On Nov. 1, the daily ration of Food Stamps (also known as SNAP) was cut for 47 million Americans. Each of these families now has $29 a month less to buy food.
Election choices: what are they, really?
It's going to be an interesting election, and one that determines our future for a long time. The governor is asking us to legalize casinos in upstate New York. Sustainable Otsego is asking us to support hops and breweries as our future. Most every candidate is promising to oppose fracking.
- Saturday, October 26, 2013
Nothing 'sustainable' about Otsego
By definition, our local economy is not sustainable. We are losing people due to their inability to find jobs and high taxes. Our local governments and school boards are cutting programs. The county is being forced to find a new owner for the Manor. Those things we know.
- Saturday, October 19, 2013
Sustainable Otsego is part of the problem
In a flurry of letters to the editor last week, Sustainable Otsego unfurled its banner in support of its candidates.
Harpersfield track is criticized for a reason
A recent commentary by Steve Pushkar, who describes himself as a resident of Oneonta and New York Safety Track's "marshal," complains that everything he has been reading about the track has been negative. There is a simple reason for this.
- Saturday, October 12, 2013
Sustainability shouldn't be a dirty word
There has been some confusion recently about the definition of sustainability. There has also been some willful misrepresentation.
- Saturday, October 5, 2013
Who are the real conservatives?
The old way of thinking about politics doesn't work anymore. Let me explain why the current stereotypes fail us.
- Saturday, September 28, 2013
Some considerations on shale gas
We have been told that it is not economically profitable to extract natural gas from shale deposits, be they Marcellus, Utica, Bakken, or any others, unless the market price is at least $5 to $6 per thousand cubic feet (Mcf).
Motorcycle track's critics need to relax
For the past year, all that I have been reading about in The Daily Star concerning the New York Safety Track has been from one point of view, and it has been negative.
- Saturday, September 21, 2013
Gay rights push threatens free speech
Newspapers are usually advocates of free speech. But I've come around to the idea that liberals, including their print edition mouthpieces, are the greatest threat to free speech in America.
- Monday, September 16, 2013
We must do more to prevent bullying in schools
As a new school year commences, the routine for most children and teens remains quite similar to when I attended school several decades ago. This includes back-to-school shopping, anticipation of new classes and teachers, and the excitement of getting reacquainted with friends. Unfortunately for many, another part of the routine includes the fear of being the target of bullies. What's most unfortunate is that although we as a civilized society have made tremendous strides in sciences and technologies, we have yet to find a way to end this highly destructive problem, and until we do, we must not rest.
- State's budget gimmick is hindering schools