Friday, October 21, 2011

Essay By Dick Downey of the Unatego (NY) Landowners' Group: Taking on "The Pure"

In the Letters to the Editor section of the 9/28/2011 Hometown Oneonta, Ms. Gates of Cooperstown bemoans the demise of the tourism business if gas drilling comes to Cooperstown.  Ms. Jastremski, in a letter entitled, "Are You On The Side Of Love Or Greed?" scolds "an industry driven by greed and individuals blinded by avarice."  She contrasts landowner avarice with scientist Sandra Steingraber's donation of her $100,000 Heinz Award to anti-fracing activities.

Both letters trot out the evils of gas extraction one more time — water contamination, eternal 24/7 drilling, drop in real estate values, loss of state and local tax revenue, boycotts of Otsego County produce in NYC, increased truck traffic, chemical contamination of children, destruction of our community's water and air and so on.

One problem with exaggerations, falsehoods, and lies are that facts in studies contradict them.  The SGEIS might be considered such a study — 3 years in the making, 1,537 pages long, with data gathered from 10 gas-producing states.  When implemented, it will have been reviewed three times, with critiques from all points of view.  More regulations, protocols, check lists, etc. are in the making, with multiple redundancies necessary for the workers' and the public's safety.

Furthermore, the SGEIS will be in continual review.

And still there will be accidents, as in any industry.  These accidents will be few.  They will be cleaned up.  But that will not satisfy "The Pure."

"The Pure" tell us greed (the profit motive?) in tourism is Good.  Greed in gas drilling is Bad.  Susan Steingraber is juxtaposed to expose us gassers' baser motives.  We have no problem with Ms. Steingraber's altruism.  She seems like a decent, generous woman.  We hope she follows science and not her biases with her $100,000 gift, therefore helping people. 

Our problem is with "The Pure."

So let me present another exemplary citizen, George Mitchell.  In the early 80's, George Mitchell pioneered the combination of horizontal drilling with water (and other) fracturing techniques to produce gas from shale.  He had mixed financial success but, in so doing, was copied by dozens, then hundreds, now thousands of other drillers, each generation improving on the former.  This technological revolution has released the potential of shale on every continent.  It has fractured production patterns that have impacted the geopolitical world for decades.  It appears that these technologies will substantially reduce our country's dependence on foreign energy.  It has created hundreds of thousands of new jobs in and outside the industry.

These jobs will probably not be of interest to "The Pure."  The scions of the First Families of Cooperstown will not be taking night classes at DCMO-BOCES to qualify for CDL or hazmat licenses.  The children of the retirees with defined benefit plans will not be matriculating at Morrisville Community College to learn how to be a mudlogger.  The children of "The Pure" are studying or working elsewhere.  The young and not-so-young people who will be taking the courses and getting gas industry jobs will be the kind of people who tried to get a job at Amphenol, didn't have the pull, and relocated in construction down in North Carolina.  (Actually, not a bad career move, seeing what might happen to Amphenol's 3,000 jobs.)  The job-seekers may even be the kids of "the greedy landowners seduced by avarice," who live up the hills out of town, whose best shot prior to gas industry opportunity would be night manager at Dunkin Donuts.

As opportunity opens and workforce needs improve, more and more young people looking for work will be drawn to our area.  They will bring their families and re-populate our emptying schools.  They will settle here.

All this because of innovation by one man, followed by others. George Mitchell, wildcatter (10,000 wells drilled, 550 strikes) before working the fracing/horizontal drilling combination.  He now gives the types of grants that Susan Steingraber receives.  His financial risks may indirectly enrich our entire Central New York area.

And perhaps provide a new face on the dart board of "The Pure."