Friday, November 4, 2011

Upstate Republican, Kolb of Canandaigua, Joins the NIMBYs

Not a good sign, people.

NYS Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb, a Republican from Canandaigua, yesterday announced that he had already gone forward with a comment to the state DEC, requesting that it create yet another setback impeding shale gas development in upstate.

Kolb innocently asks:  How about no surface operations (and no underground operations?) within 4,000 feet of all ten Finger Lakes?  (This does not count Skaneateles among the other Finger Lakes, because that one has already been double-buffered with a differently worded no-drill zone, authored by the state DEC.)

Media coverage has given the sloppy, sloppy, sloppy impression that this would amount to the same "protection" already erected around Skaneateles Lake (unfiltered Syracuse domestic water supply), and certain Catskills Reservoirs (unfiltered NYC water) — both as stated in the DEC's already drafted drill plan. 

But that is not correct.  On the one hand, those SGEIS Version 2.0 setbacks were phrased as no shale-gas-related surface operations 4,000 feet back from the edges of the whole respective watersheds, not just the lake shorelines.  This is far more restrictive than Kolb's plan, which seems to think that the edge of each lake is what's key.  On the other hand, those already stony state restrictions are phrased in such a way as to quietly endorse the ingenious and worthy techniques of horizontal drilling (and hydraulic fracturing), reaching into — and possibly even all the way through — these buffer zones, but from deep underground, from the sidelines.  This is far less restrictive than the way in which Kolb appears to have stated his knuckle-headed idea.

So now we appear to have — as a newly proposed surrender coming from a seemingly unlikely, pro-enterprise source — a no-surface-disturbance and no-underground disturbance setback of 4,000 feet from the water's edge of all remaining Finger Lakes.

Do you know how much land that affects? 

Do you know how much non-renewable natural resource this orphans without cause?

From a political point of view, I understand that Kolb has a lot of spooked supporters, otherwise reclining comfortably in their living rooms overlooking the waterfront.  But, from an environmental point of view, it's completely unnecessary.

And it's not a good sign that even upstate Republicans such as Kolb are already ready to undermine the opportunity posed by shale gas with feel-good, sound-good, look-good restrictions — that also quietly have the effect of stripping their own constituents of significant property rights.

Actually, can you guess the Number One landowner that would lose in this instance? 

It's the State of New York itself! 

Technically (and I think this legal argument would hold up, if challenged), NYS owns the oil and gas in place under all those Finger Lakes.  With onshore horizontal drilling technology (and economics) currently making possible mile-long or longer laterals, a fair share of these acres and acres of deep-under-lake natural gas could, in fact, be extracted over time from wellheads set up comfortably upon agricultural and forest land ringing each lake.  It may sound crazy to the uninitiated, but private- and public-sector planners could easily use their GIS systems to map out lake-surrounding sequences of intelligently spaced drill pad locations, all owned by willing participants, far uphill from all the wealthy folks with the waterfront homes.

But now Kolb ignorantly proposes to push back the starting position for reaching that natural resource by 4,000 feet. 

Total dumbass!

Furthermore, if you applied Kolb's pseudo-protective mentality to every piece of flat or flowing surface water in New York State — then, of course, there would very soon be not a single spot left upon which any operator could legally hoist up a rig.

Talk about a slippery slope!

Let's not go any further in this direction.

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