Friday, February 21, 2014

Constitution Pipeline Exec: Feds Moving,
But Now Permitting Delays from NYS DEC

Here's some stuff buried several pages deep inside a Q and A occurring Feb. 20, 2014 — between stock analysts and Williams Partners' CEO Alan S. Armstrong, on the occasion of WPZ's Fourth Quarter 2013 earnings call.

You should be able to read the whole deal without a subscription here, if you're really all that interested.

I've highlighted some interesting parts in bold — having to do with the 120-mile, 30-inch PA-NY Constitution Pipeline, a job originally proposed February 2012, and as of Feb. 12, 2014 at the stage of having a draft environmental impact statement formally released by the feds.
Brad Olsen - Tudor Pickering: Just one last one on Constitution and Atlantic Sunrise. Constitution kind of stood out as the only Northeast pipe project involve a significant laying of newbuild pipe, and the Atlantic Sunrise, at least from the map you've provided, it appears as though that project would also involve some significant new pipe from kind of the Leidy Line down towards Station 190. And I guess is there anything from the Constitution process that's maybe something that could be applied to the Atlantic Sunrise process, or is something where as long as you're laying significant newbuild pipe, there will be some regulatory risk of delays and what have you?

Alan S. Armstrong - President and CEO: I will tell you that on Constitution, the real issue we're facing right now, from a regulatory issue, really relates to the New York DEC, not to the FERC and so, the nice thing about Sunrise is it does not go through the New York area, so we're not faced with that same regulatory issue. On the FERC side, I would just tell you, they're continuing to push through, you saw the Constitution Draft EIS, so we're very thankful for the FERC continuing to try to do their part to accelerate these projects and we continue to work well with them and we certainly have some – a lot of discussions, communications we need to do in New York to find the right answers and right solutions there as well.

Timm Schneider - ISI Group: Lastly for me on Constitution is guess what are some of the big moving parts around the in-service state whether it's going to be kind of end of '15 or early '16 and how are some of the conversations going with producers in that part of the woods?

Alan S. Armstrong - President and CEO: Well you know that there is a Constitution system that’s fully contracted as you know and so the discussions are really more around what all we can do jointly to accelerate the permitting process. Really, the permitting is the issues I mentioned earlier. The FERC has certainly been constructive and they are pushing things along, but there are some permitting requirements in the State of New York that for various reasons can be a bit of a barrier. And frankly, I think we just got to work towards the right solutions that meets everybody's needs on that, and I still remain confident that we can do that. I think it's very clear politically that the infrastructure is desperately needed to serve the New England markets, and I think that bringing that to light clearly and firmly will help bring some reason to getting past some of the permit issues that we're facing right now.

Timm Schneider - ISI Group: So, was that more at the state level or was it actually landowners challenging rights-of-ways?

Alan S. Armstrong - President and CEO: No, it's state permitting issues.


If —
for reasons of either ideology or self-interest — you're against this pipeline, there might still be enough time remaining in which to flash-mob the NYS DEC, encouraging the agency to continue doing its well-practiced thing, making things as difficult as possible for the developer.

— for reasons of either ideology or self-interest — you're for this pipeline (possibly a resident of a northeastern blue state, trying to pick your jaw up off the floor, having just received yet another Winter 2013/2014 utility bill), you better just shake out of it and move along.

Nothing to see here.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

NY Media Step in as Cuomo's Left Guard:
Fending Off Upstate's Suit for Shale Gas

My favorite pic from an Oct. 2012 Albany rally by New York landowners for drilling — and for all the associated economic benefits, including jobs.  Faced with a new lawsuit against Gov. Cuomo from essentially this same base, the Albany Times-Union and other upstate media are now, as predicted, going the extra mile to marginalize this constituency.
Mainstream reporters in New York are already bringing out the long knives in an effort to protect Albany's dysfunction (desirable, for some) — by trying to explain away a legal challenge from 70,000 pissed-off Upstaters, who want to get drilling already.

On the lefthand side below, for purposes of bitterly sarcastic criticism, I've set out every word of the Albany Times Union's coverage of news that the Joint Landowners Coalition of New York has now filed a long-threatened lawsuit against the Cuomo Administration
If the TU is offended by this and wants to sue me for copyright infringement, I plead with them to bring it on.

The JLCNY's case seeks to compel New York State to (
phrasing it bluntly)... either shit or get off the pot on the fracking question — which has been hung up exactly six years as of Feb. 15, 2014, the anniversary date of industry's first-ever request for a full-scale, in-state shale gas drilling permit.  The lawsuit was filed the day before, Valentine's Day, Feb. 14, though I can't see that many reporters or editors availed themselves,
in their word play, of such cheap, readily accessible irony.

The piece below is by TU environmental beat reporter Brian Nearing, and it's one of the finest, most-instructive examples I've ever seen for how to spin obligatory coverage of an inconvenient news development.  Truly, they should teach this stuff at Syracuse University's Newhouse School, or down at the journalism program at Columbia.  Any young person — training to work in journalism that's gotta be either spun left, or spun right, depending on the editor, the outlet, or the market — should be paying close attention to Nearing's A-plus effort.

Nearing writes for a readership area that has virtually no direct economic stake (or even an environmental stake) in the outcome of New York's shale gas battle (except possibly for the issue's impact on the persuasion and regulatory industries, which are both pretty big in Albany).  And so he's been free to get totally out hand, and few have been around to object.

Well, I killed my damn Sunday objecting.  Here, let's take a paragraph-by-paragraph look:

Gov Cuomo sued to force gas fracking start

Suit also seeks to end environmental review

By Brian Nearing

Updated 9:07 pm, Friday, February 14, 2014

Landowners who want to make money from natural gas hydrofracking on their land on Friday sued Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his commissioners of health and environment over the more than five years spent by the state without coming up with a decision to allow the controversial drilling technique.
Notice that the headline and subhead are calibrated to be firstly about raising either alarm or dismissiveness among the newspaper's perceived base, and only secondly about challenging a dysfunctional process (which would seem worthwhile for too many readers).

Then the landowners' big-picture assertion — that their economic situation has been wrongfully impaired by Gov. Cuomo's politically motivated indecision over shale gas — is actually immediately used against them.  Really, it's a nice twist.  In fact, nowhere in the entire article are the landowners (and their land-poor supporters, such as me) treated straight-forwardly as a class or faction of New Yorkers who are legitimately fighting for their personal economic interests, as well as for their communities' economic interests in jobs, income, taxes, opportunity, and so on.

The plaintiffs just "want to make money."  And this supposedly shameful motive flows not from drilling, or property rights, or a technological revolution, or developing a natural resource, or even supplying demand with resource extraction — but "from natural gas hydrofracking."

(Oh, how could they?  See, that's what you're looking for.  Whichever way has the most persuasive punch, that's the way you want to run with it.)

Then the lead closes with the old standby "controversial."  If you as a media professional personally don't like something, you just throw in the word "controversial."  Nobody can argue with it, because it's not untrue.

However, you don't have to use the word "controversial" every time it's available and true, and nobody will ever check.  So, for instance, many reporters decline to routinely describe Obamacare as "controversial," and many New York outlets decline to describe Cuomo's "Safe Act" as "controversial."  (It's a pretty handy trick for all the kids out there.)

One last bugaboo:   Nearing — incorrectly, but possibly for the 7,000th time in NY — describes fracking as a "drilling technique."  Fracking may be accurately described as a technique used by drillers, but it's not a technique for actually drilling the hole; drilling the hole is done first, and fracking just the bottom part of that hole is done afterwards; so fracking is really a "completion technique."  (Okay, okay — you're right, I'm going to have to give up on that one.)
Filed in state Supreme Court in Albany County, the lawsuit accused Cuomo of delaying a decision for "his own political expediency" and sought to force the state to end an ongoing environmental review that would allow drilling to begin in the gas-rich Marcellus Shale that runs through parts of the Catskills and the Southern Tier.

It was filed by the Joint Landowners Coalition of New York, a Binghamton-based, pro-fracking group that claims it has 70,000 landowners in 14 counties as members.
Bloody masterful!

You don't want to offer any full paragraphs from the JLCNY's extensive media outreach effort, in which several representatives offered full quotes giving their gist of their case.  (What did you train for — stenography?  Way too straight-forward!)

Instead, use scare quotes around plucked phrases from the group's assertions; it comforts readers by letting them know whose side you're on.  Then describe the environmental review as "ongoing" (rather than "stalled," or "long-delayed" — which are actually more truthful — because, see, "ongoing" makes it seem completely understandable that all this continues to take so long).  And then throw the Catskills in there (because everybody loves the Catskills, even though only a small part of the Catskills are expected to fall within the feasible Marcellus shale zone).

But, wait, there's more:  Describe JLCNY as a pro-fracking group, not pro-drilling, and certainly not pro-development.  Because it's scarier that way.

Then use the word "claims" to cast doubt on the group's representation of a large number of widely dispersed upstate people.  Don't do any actual journalistic work, like maybe asking the group for a membership accounting.  For starters, you don't really want to know.  Just dismiss it with the word "claims" — much cheaper, much simpler, and much more effective that way.
The coalition is being represented by the Colorado-based Mountain States Legal Foundation, a conservative legal group with a history of advocating for fossil fuel issues and that has been financially supported by energy companies including ExxonMobil and Texaco.

Here, we leave out the fact that JLCNY can be documented as having spent a full year raising $111,000 from its own grassroots by the time it got this case started.  And we leave out, for the time-being, the fact that the group has been guided for an even longer period of time by its own Binghamton-based lawyer, Scott Kurkoski — who, in fact, still signs just above MSLF as co-counsel.  Instead, we attribute the entire effort to the arrival of the conservative outsider MSLF, which has historically been financially supported by Big Oil and Gas.  (See?  It's not that hard, once you get into the swing of things.)
Fracking relies on a high-pressure blend of water, chemicals and sand pumped a mile or more underground to break apart gas-bearing rocks. Opponents claim it can harm air and water quality, but supporters say the process is safe if done properly.

The issue has turned into a political firestorm in New York, where polls show a narrow majority oppose fracking.

Well, Nearing did here actually say "opponents claim" — I guess that's something.

As for the rest of it, the reporter could just as truthfully have reported public opinion polls as showing New Yorkers statewide are split on fracking.  Or that some polls have shown a narrow majority of upstaters in favor of drilling or fracking, while statewide it's generally been a narrow majority against.  Or that most poll results are entirely dependent on the wording of the questions:  "Drilling" or "shale gas" — okay, I guess, maybe; "fracking" — oh, no, that's bad, right?

But that's no good for Nearing's purpose.
Other plaintiffs against the state include Schaefer Timber & Stone, a Deposit, Delaware County company owned by Adolf and Larry Schaefer, which held a 93-acre fracking lease in Colesville, Broome County, with bankrupt Norse Energy Corp.; LADTM LLC, a group including Schaefer that now holds the energy rights to the property; and Kark Family Trust, in Fenton, Broome County, which also holds gas leases in Colesville with Chesapeake Energy Corp.

Any knowledgeable reader from PA, WV, OH, or even NY would be well within his noggin to ask — What in the Sam Hell is a "fracking lease"?  And why does the reporter think any landowner would be accurately described as "holding" it?

Let me just serve briefly as your Native Guide in order to explain the willful ignorance that has long plagued New York on this terminology:  A "fracking lease" is the exact same legal contract as what has been described everywhere else in the capitalist world — since Col. Drake struck oil in Titusville, PA, in 1859 — as an "oil and gas lease."  However, anti partisans in NY call them "fracking leases" because that's scarier, and it triggers a desired emotional effect, which sympathetic reporters have seized upon.

(Similarly, even brine produced from traditional natural gas wells is now "fracking waste"; pre-frack drill cuttings are likewise now "fracking waste"; natural gas delivered by pipeline is now "fracked gas" — a phrase which I've even used, for its pointedness in certain situations; pre-frack freshwater impoundments at drillsites are now "fracking ponds"; and trains carrying crude oil originating out of North Dakota are now "fracking trains."  Also, if it's crude oil from western Canada, it's from "tar sands," not "oil sands."  If anybody challenges you, you can always say, "It's just semantics."  Get it?  Got it?  Good!)

Also, on my second point — "holding" — I admit there is massive public confusion on this, especially in the Northeast U.S.  But here's the real deal:  The landowner or mineral rights owner "signs" or "grants" or arguably even "sells" the lease; the exploration and production company (or the driller, if you want to just tell it like it is) "takes" or "holds" or "buys" the lease.  Afterwards, the lease is understood, alone or with others, as a "leasehold" held by the driller, while the landowner or mineral owner has a royalty interest, which is valuable only if the job moves forward in time, and succeeds in producing fossil fuels.

It may seem confusing for journalists, but there is a large number of landowners in Upstate — many of them with college educations, and many of them without — who have already figured all this stuff out on their own (though it's true they haven't yet benefited much from this self-education).

Even if it's just dead-wrong, however, it's more persuasively effective for a journalist to smear a landowner as "holding a fracking lease."  So that's what the reporter is up to here.

(Nearing is actually correct, on the other hand, in describing LADTM LLC as "holding" the energy rights to a particular property; that's because that entity as mineral owner hasn't been able to lease those rights, due to the political and regulatory situation in New York, which has soured virtually all private sector interest in getting things started through the first step of buying leases.)
In addition to Cuomo, the lawsuit also named state Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens and Health Commissioner Nirav Shah, who since September 2012 at Marten's behest has been conducting a health study of potential health risks from fracking.

The lawsuit calls the health study "nothing more than an excuse" orchestrated by the governor to avoid making a decision.

DEC spokeswoman Emily DeSantis declined to comment on the lawsuit.

Both the DOH and the DEC have repeatedly (and without much success) tried to correct media reportage that Shah's assigned task is a "health study."

It's a "health review" — put simply, a second look at the DEC's draft SGEIS by the DOH's Shah, whose bureaucratic underlings already long ago weighed in.  This is in order to see — in the context of all the science that's continually flying around out there — whether the DEC's plan, which inconveniently actually proposes regulated drilling and fracking, misses any opportunity to be more protective of human health.  (Or, if you prefer, whether the DEC's plan misses any unmitigatable, legitimate threat to public health — which, if so, would presumably immediately put a permanent kibosh on the whole exercise, at least in New York.)

However, anti's always call it a "health study" because that phrase helps explain why the job (vowed by Shah a year ago to be done in a few weeks) could possibly be so complicated and take so long.  Sympathetic reporters such as Nearing (and, notably, public radio's Karen Dewitt) chronically get this wrong, and it's because these reporters have spent so much of their time talking to opponents, their language and their understanding of reality have been profoundly distorted.

Nearing also ignores a key legal question raised by the landowners' case:  Has the DEC strayed beyond its legislated powers in handing off this job to the DOH?
In a Jan. 31 letter to Martens warning that a lawsuit would be filed unless the state ended its environmental review quickly, Mountain States lawyer Jaimie Cavanaugh, joined by landowners coalition lawyer Scott Kurkoski, wrote that Martens was "duty-bound to promote the development of oil and gas resources in New York state." They also accused Martens of violating the State Environmental Quality Review Act by asking for a health study.

Again, notice the usefulness of scare quotes surrounding out-of-context, plucked, partial text.

See, that way, you imply disposal of the arguments, without ever allowing that the litigants may actually have a legitimate, underlying point or two.  Does the DEC have that assigned mission under the state's own resource conservation law?  Does the state's environmental review apparatus allow for buck-passing and indefinite delay, whenever that's desperately needed by state leaders for political purposes?
Formed in 1977 with financing from the late conservative beer billionaire Joseph Coors, the Mountain States group is headed by William Perry Pendley, a former federal energy and minerals official under President Ronald Reagan and who has publicly compared environmentalists to communists.

Pendley last month vowed to sue the federal government if the Bureau of Land Management enacted proposed rules that would require disclosure of chemicals injected underground during fracking, as well as set tougher standards for demonstrating well bore integrity and managing flowback water that returns to the surface with the gas.

The foundation has filed lawsuits seeking to weaken affirmative action, racial quotas in hiring, and the Voting Rights Act.

Yee-haw!  Independent research!  Outside the bounds of what a partisan faction is trying to feed the media! 

This, I like to see.  It shows spunk, work ethic, and initiative.  But I also like to see that kind of effort applied in a fair, even-handed way.

So, for instance, when a partisan group financially supported by the wealthy, anti-drilling Park Foundation is trying to feed the media something, reporters should tell us a little bit more about that.  In those cases, though, Nearing has historically offered nothing but the sound of crickets.  I just searched the TU's still-online archives for "Brian Nearing" and "Park Foundation," and — though I can't vouch for whether my methods are forcing the newspaper's computer to give me truly accurate results — I didn't find a single hit.  "Brian Nearing" and "fracking," on the other hand, seems to get you 70 possibly relevant articles.

In the case of JLCNY vs. Cuomo, however, we can see that Nearing has gone the extra mile to wiki up some dirt on MSLF and its leader Pendley.  This is in order to cast maximum aspersion, and to call to mind well-worn bogeymen for eastern liberals:  Financial backing from Coors, and the dude worked in the Reagan Administration — that explains everything that some people think they need to know; Pendley is said to be on record as having red-baited harmless greens; to be against any disclosure or standards for fracking on federal lands; and, to top it off, he's against equal opportunity for the various races and sexes.  Wow!

See, to do this right, you need to have enough sense to also withhold certain information, even if it's right there in plain sight on Wikipedia.  You need to understand there are simple, explanatory facts that must be left out:  MSLF is a $2 million per year operation, which is not that big in the national context of leftward or rightward NGO's, constantly duking it out over environmental issues.  But the organization's legal challenges have been important enough to frequently go to the federal appellate level, and beyond that to the U.S. Supreme Court, where it sometimes wins, and it sometimes loses.

A couple few remaining things, and I'm sorry that I have again wound up running so damn long, sticking all this at the end. 

First — given six years of Nearing's (and others') preposterously unbalanced regional media coverage — is it any wonder that New Yorkers are split on fracking?

The anti side has truly done a masterful job in demonstrating the political power of this kind of pressure —
on some level, professionally organized, but coming across to the media as carried out by a sympathy-inducing, grassroots army of the panic-stricken.  This campaign has been positively welcomed as a legitimate crusade, or as an interest-heightening crisis, by the likes of the TU's Brian Nearing, public radio's Karen Dewitt and Susan Arbetter, Gannett's former Tom Wilber, Capital New York's Scott Waldman, and many others.  But true balance with the full context — true balance with the rest of the story — has been given a valiant attempt by pretty much only one reporter statewideJon Campbell of Gannett.  And even he could do much more, and much better, in my estimation.  (On the other hand, the anti effort has been unfairly dismissed in full by only one primary voice, Fred Dicker of the New York Post.)

I urge anyone to simply compare how this issue is covered by most of PA versus, say, most of NY; or by public radio in PA versus public radio in NY; or by Binghamton, NY, versus Albany, NY; or by Campbell versus Nearing.  It is truly remarkable that all this disparity in fact and tone and angle is supposed to flow out of objective coverage of essentially the same issue.

For two, going back again, the TU's headline reads, "Gov Cuomo sued to force gas fracking start" (whereas Southern Tier Gannett — after blacking out their own reporter's coverage for two whole weeks — went with the much more reasonable, "Southern Tier landowners sue Cuomo over fracking delay.")  I neglected to point out that TU's version of reality may be accurate and truthful in terms of politics and motivation, but it's inaccurate and untruthful in terms of law and procedure

Here's why:  The DEC is already fully empowered to eviscerate the current legal assertion from landowners — by simply declaring the SGEIS to be finally finished, even with a conclusion that no regulatory scheme can possibly adequately protect New York's environment, however you want to define it, from shale gas development.  (They would have some explaining to do to get there — standing alone among some 30 states which are already regulating exploitation of this resource, including such blue locations as Illinois and California — but that's all it would take.)

So this case from the landowners (along with a parallel effort from the bankrupt estate of Norse Energy) is truly throwing down the gauntlet, or rolling the dice, on very technical grounds.  It demands procedurally only that New York just decide already, one way or the other, as compelled by the state's environmental review law.

Of course, there is a subtext:  If Cuomo finally effectively says, "Sorry, no, I misspoke — this is not really about the science, and we're not really open for (this kind of) business," then there will be a large number of parties that will have some new legal arguments to make.  But these folks believe themselves to be held up from making this very different kind of case, due to the current stalemate.

Lastly, like it or not, there is still such a thing as a Bill of Rights in this country, including ownership of property rights, operating inside a partially free market.  Furthermore, there are still a few thinkers kicking around out there, such as William Perry Pendley of MSLF, who attribute much of the standard of living in the United States to the long-slogging exercise of these very freedoms.  That sentiment may seem, to youthful ears, quaint or conservative or both, but it's not extreme, and it's not something that New York — the one-time Empire State, birthplace of IBM and Xerox, and home to Wall Street — can so readily dismiss without showing itself to be a total horse's ass.

Of course, there are inevitable conflicts, and courts have long been assigned to balance the rights of individuals (even vilified political minorities), against whatever highly politicized definition of the "public interest" might work its way forward, so as to eliminate or limit these rights.  If this sort of elimination winds up happening in New York over the shale gas issue — not through the arguably just realm of objective regulation, but rather at the hands of an emotional mob, urged on by wealthy ideologues, and unchecked by media, government, or the courts — that will unquestionably be an injustice.

And the lesson of history is you simply don't do that to people without eventually having to pay for it, one way or the other.  That's been proven true by both the American Revolution and revolutions within America — movements for abolition, civil rights, women's rights, and the list goes on.  In this narrow, provincial case, it will also be proven true for upstate landowners as an oppressed class.

Frankly, I just think these people deserve way better.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Gloves Off in Censorship Fight Between JLCNY and Binghamton Press

Smartphone pic of the indexed and time-stamped opening page of the lawsuit informally known as JLCNY vs. Cuomo — yes, on the fracking thing.  Delivered to me and the world by Twitter at 11:25 a.m. today.  The Binghamton Press and several sister Gannett papers wouldn't run a story on this lawsuit until they had proof.
In a comment today, Feb. 14, that's buried beneath a prior post from me here, Joint Landowners Coalition of New York Spokewoman Susan Oliver (not to be confused with a WPX Energy spokeswoman by the same name) has gone public with an accusation stemming from an unsatisfactory sit-down session with a key Binghamton Press reporter (now former) and editor from several years ago.

This is Oliver's comment:

"My husband and I met with Tom Wilber and metro editor Ed Christine a few years ago to address the paper's bias and we'll never forget what Christine said: 'In your lifetime, you'll never see drilling in NYS; maybe your kids lifetime, but not yours.'"

[Added Feb. 17, but without bothering to update the whole post:  I've let this quote from Ed Christine sink in for several days now.  Ordinarily, I would have something to say about it.  And this would certainly be an appropriate, transitional place to do so.  But my mouth is still hanging open.  And I think my best plan is to just let these words similarly hang.  In fact, I've now hung these words, at least for the time-being, on the opening banner of my blog — as motivation for ordinary people in Upstate New York...  But now let's move on with the rest of this story.]

This morning, the JLCNY finally formally filed its lawsuit against Cuomo on the governor's perpetual dodge to a decision on fracking.  The lawsuit was again dutifully reported by Gannett's Jon Campbell in an electronic post dated yesterday, Feb. 13, at 6:15 p.m.

However, as of 10 a.m. today, Feb. 14, I still don't see it reported online in Gannett's electronic platforms serving Binghamton, Elmira, or Ithaca.  (It did make the news at Gannett's Rochester outlet, however.)

I'm already tweeting about it, and this is what we have back so far:

So it looks like JLCNY must actually personally deliver to the Binghamton newspaper's headquarters
a time-stamped copy of the actual filing in order to get into their own local papers.

You wouldn't think the news-gathering business would be made so cumbersomely bureaucratic by those on the inside, who are employed to go up against bureaucratic stone walls every day.  But — for some newsmakers, on certain topics, and at some papers — it is.

Anyway, I'm sure these last, petty, knuckle-headed hurdles will be surmounted by the landowners, sometime today.  Helluva way to treat statewide news-making readers from your own circulation area, but that's what "unbiased" community journalism stands for nowadays.


Better get it notarized, though — certificate of authenticity, and all that.

And, if the handoff of this paperwork actually happens in person, I'd like to get a copy of a photograph of this historic occasion.  I could certainly run the picture here. 

Possibly one of those classic "Grip and Grin" shots, with a big blow-up of the paperwork, and maybe some Valentine's Day visuals — yes, that would be cool.


More on this dispute, as the day wore on:

At long last, the story "Southern Tier landowners sue Cuomo over fracking delay" was posted in Binghamton (and presumably the other papers) at 1:42 p.m., Feb. 14.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Quietly Re-Routed: Kinder Morgan's Tennessee Gas Pipeline Northeast Expansion

This is page 16 from a Kinder Morgan presentation given before the Northeast Gas Association concerning the company's Tennessee Gas Pipeline, which has for decades run all the way into the Northeast U.S. from the Gulf Coast.  You'll have to click the JPEG into a new window to see it all clearly.  The source PDF is electronically dated Nov. 30, 2012, and its opening page shows a presentation date of Dec. 3, 2012.  What's of particular note to me is the routing of the then-conceptual "TGP Northeast Expansion — Bullet Line," which is rendered as a solid blue line between the Township of Wright, Schoharie County, NY (an interconnect between multiple pipelines, including the still-proposed Constitution Pipeline), and the terminal point at Dracut, Mass.
Interesting situation here:  Between late 2012 and early 2014, the proposed routing of a major new natural gas pipeline requiring ground in New York State can be shown to have been quietly and fairly radically altered.

But nobody noticed.

Above is a Scribd embed of the full PDF from which this early map is taken, in case you're really interested.

Above is a Scribd embed of the much more current Tennessee Gas Pipeline Northeast Expansion plan, affecting what the company internally references as its "200 Line."  It is from a Kinder Morgan PDF electronically dated as last modified Jan. 24, 2014.  It was originally (and very helpfully) put into the public domain by the Town of Tyngsborough, Mass. (along the NH line), along with some additionally useful documentation obtained from the pipeline developer.

(After I tweeted multiple links to this public documentation — in an effort to trigger media recognition that this Massachusetts development also necessarily involved New York — Scott Waldman of Politico's Capital New York outlet, now a pay site, re-posted this map, and dishonestly declared it to have been "obtained by Capital."  I just love these guys.)

But what's notable is the new location of the expansion plan, especially on the New York side, marked in purple with dashed white.

Previously, we can see that TGP planners were contemplating a loop around the western and northern ends of the Albany NY metropolitan area in order to move more natgas to the Massachusetts state line.  That would have been virgin ground, for all I know owned by wealthier-than-average exurban Albany folks. 

Now, we can see that they're hoping for a much more simplified scheme of digging up the existing right of way — running along the southern end of the Capital Region, through parts of Schoharie, Albany, Rensselaer, and Columbia counties — and either adding pipe, or replacing smaller existing pipe with bigger pipe.  Most of these landowners are unlikely to be happy with the impact, but it won't be anything they haven't already lived with for years.

It looks to me as though, in the intervening year or so, the private sector took a hard look at the political reality of New York's ongoing Constitution Pipeline fight, the Watkins Glen LPG storage fight, Spectra's expansion fights downstate, the overall statewide frack fight, and the state's bitter history of long and involved long-distance electricity transmission fights, etc. — and they decided to try the more politically palatable plan of staying inside the lines of their existing utility corridor.  That's not what they're proposing to do in Massachusetts, but at least inside NYS, they propose to stay within the lines.  Syncs up in a way with what Gov. Cuomo said in the last State of the State Address about streamlining electric transmission plans that re-use existing rights of way.

A question still unanswered by a shockingly unsophisticated New York press:  Whether TGP's existing easements in the Capital Region of New York may be already so broadly written as to cover this expanded capacity, or whether the developer must go back to the current landowners and offer to pay for modifications/enlargements.  Just because I like landowners, and I like out-of-state money getting spent in New York, I'm hoping for the latter.

Here's an excellent summary of New England's building, seasonally relevant campaign for adding way more pipeline capacity.

The bottom line is that the powers that be in northeastern blue states want and need more natural gas — for economic, environmental, and reliability reasons.  Only trouble is the New England states can't get it done without triggering NIMBY fights both at home and in New York.  This demand for more natural gas is largely psychologically and popularly disconnected from at least half of this same population's negative view of drilling and fracking, which is where most new natural gas actually comes from.  That may not make any logical or ethical sense to me or to you, but it is what it is.

Monday, February 10, 2014

New York's State of Drilling Decline 2012

The NYS DEC Minerals Division's annual report for 2012, which I linked to in this tweet, is internally dated as last modified Feb. 6, 2014.  I just noticed it today, popping up on the DEC's web site (though I suppose the files could have been posted sometime late last week or over the weekend).

This represents further primary source information detailing New York's State of Drilling Decline — occurring concurrently with a shale gas boom occurring in other Appalachian Basin states.  It's basically an illustration of what happens when technology changes, causing the economics of resource extraction to also change, but the government's regulatory response is 5 1/2 years late, and millions of dollars short, on account of overheated political conflict, coupled with zero leadership.

As in prior years, this stuff is unlikely to get much notice.  There are few observers around with the free time to call attention to it, or to digest, analyze, and remark upon.  And it gets filtered out of most media outlets' news dragnet, because there's just not much of an audience for things that a lot of people simply don't want to hear.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Follow the Money: NY's Own Pro-Drilling Grassroots Now Funding "Industry" Lawsuits

JLCNY President Dan Fitzsimmons interviewed by TV people outside the NYS DEC's frack hearings in Binghamton, back in November 2011:  It's now becoming clear that Fitzsimmons' hesitant brand of activism has pushed frustrated pro-drillers from his own base to look for other angles.
The jaded assumption from both pro- and anti-drilling forces in New York is that Big Oil and Gas entities, probably from out of state, were anonymously bankrolling the legal challenge to the Cuomo Administration which features the pathetic (old meaning) bankrupt estate of Norse Energy as lead plaintiff.

Word of Norse's new case
was first publicly broken by NY Shale Gas Now on Nov. 23, 2013.  And then there was a formal filing on Dec. 17, 2013, after which it got quite a bit more coverage as collated here.  It is the first case out of the gates to challenge Cuomo's misuse of the state's environmental review laws in order to thwart fracking — by never making a decision, one way or the other.  The allegation, in bureaucratic terms, is that the governor has illegally frozen the Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (SGEIS) as a perpetual draft, under a tangled process spawned by the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA).  It all amounts to a mechanism for Cuomo to uncourageously pocket-veto any shale gas getting produced from inside the state's lines.

It was already widely understood that the bankrupt Norse, its losing penny stock investors, and its other bag-holding creditors were not as a class paying for this lawsuit.  These interests are all broke.  In fact, the only way Norse's bankruptcy trustee could get the federal bankruptcy judge to okay such a litigation scheme was to promise that it wouldn't cost anything to any of the parties caught up in the wind-down bankruptcy, relying instead on
"independent third parties ('The Funding Parties')."

Nobody has previously revealed who these anonymous funders are, but, as of Friday, we have some new clues, and they are surprising.

Let me first note that the funding situation in Norse vs. Cuomo also implies that these same anonymous donors were more or less the same group that was keeping alive Norse's previously launched test case against the Town of Dryden in Tompkins County.  The Dryden case is on the equally important but different front of whether New York is devolving into an unworkable drilling balkanization by letting localities use "home rule" to trump the state's drilling statute and zone out any such activity within their municipal lines.  The case actually started out with a Colorado-based industry plaintiff, Anschutz Exploration, but then those guys packed up, and Norse Energy got itself assigned ownership of enough of Anschutz's local leases to fulfill standing requirements.  And then Norse proceeded with the necessary appeal, the first rounds having been won by the town and its anti allies.

But then Norse went into bankruptcy, and somehow its Dryden case lived on.  Anybody wonder about that?

If you're pro-drilling, you celebrate the anonymous white knights that are keeping these sorts of efforts alive, and you wonder who could possibly still have enough interest in New York State's future shale gas development to take a flier on such long-term, long-shot efforts.  If you're opposed, you emblazon your rhetoric with a bitter, seething resentment at the Greedy Out-of-State Big Gas Fat Cats who scheme to disrupt the comfort (for some) of New York State's ongoing paralysis.

Now it turns out the Litigation Funding Out-of-State Fat Cats might be way more local, and way less fat, than previously realized.  And, by implication, it turns out that Big Oil and Gas is now largely M.I.A. from the onetime Empire State, and has indeed lost hope that the situation in New York will ever get turned around, at least within the time frame of even the most far-sighted business plan.

Here's the evidence:  On Friday, the Norse bankruptcy trustee's contracted lawyer, Tom West out of Albany, put out the word by email (significantly, not yet on his blog), indicating that his plaintiff's table could use — ummm — a little more funding in order to press Norse's procedural case, which is barely underway. 

And West noted that what legal bills have been covered so far were actually paid right out of New York's Southern Tier, not by
Big Oil and Gas:
"This litigation was commenced with funding from several forward-thinking businessmen in the Southern Tier of New York who recognize this as the only path forward to reopen New York State to oil and gas development, revitalize the Southern Tier and provide much needed jobs and economic development."
West's palm-out plea should be jarring for all those who already had their minds made up regarding which side in this battle should be rhetorically made to look bad with charges of wealth and power, and which side should be left alone to cloak itself as impoverished grassroots underdogs.  It should be jarring, but most people have a knack for filing facts away in such a way that their religion isn't challenged.

Meanwhile, the Binghamton-based Joint Landowners Coalition of New York has now shrugged off nearly a full year's self-imposed hamstrungedness by finally starting the clock on a parallel case against Cuomo — lining up the property-rights-focused Mountain States Legal Foundation to send the governor and his minions a two-week warning letter dated Jan. 31, 2014.  That news was broken by an obviously coordinated advance effort at 5 a.m. the same day by Gannett's Albany-based reporter Jon CampbellBut then it was blacked out from both print and screen platforms at the chain's own daily newspapers — on knuckle-headed grounds that Gannett doesn't facilitate idle lawsuit threats from bullies

No, I am not making this up.

Yes, that Binghamton is one helluva messed-up town.

Binghamton is both the epicenter for true pro-drilling grassroots activism statewide, while at the same time it is home base for a kind of Soft-Palmed Leftward Gentry — who are alarmingly disconnected from what's really going on with the Carhartt's in their own backyard, their own Ordinary People.  (Quick! — let's run a story instead on an organic goat's milk farm, or those cool Amish dudes, or maybe the highly promising economics of the upcoming maple syrup season!)

Assuming the landowner coalition's elders don't further delay things on grounds that they still don't have enough money (they were short just a remaining $4,447 out of their originally stated $100,000 goal as of late today, Saturday, Feb. 8 — as can be kept tabs on by looking at the fund-raising thermometer to the upper left of a web page here), JLCNY's case is due to be filed this coming Friday, Feb. 14, or Valentine's Day.

That should be fun. 

But who's really paying for JLCNY's case?  If I were JLCNY, I would compile some statistics and publicly summarize them on the same day they finally file.  I would acknowledge how much cash or in-kind effort Mountain States has really committed to kicking in, and openly outline where that funding comes from.  And I would also state the number of donations it took for JLCNY to get to $100,000, the size of the largest check, and the size of the smallest, and the average size of those donations, and which state the money really came from.  Some of it — not a lot, but some of it — came from me, and if you want to join me by Paypal you can do so here.  I suspect the lion's share of the rest has come from thousands of ordinary land-holding and job-holding people, right in upstate New York, representing a legitimate faction that's now ready to fight to re-legalize opportunity hereabouts through shale gas.

Add it all up, and frack battle spectators and participants now have two sets of parallel cases — one each ostensibly from industry, and verifiably from landowners, on the local drill bans (
Norse vs. Dryden, and  Cooperstown Holstein vs. Middlefield), and one each ostensibly from industry, and verifiably from landowners, on Cuomo's pocket veto (Norse vs. Cuomo, and JLCNY vs. Cuomo).

Whether JLCNY's case against Cuomo will also put forward — or keep ultimately alive — its long-vowed "mineral takings" angle remains to be seen.  I sure hope so.

The bottom line is that, if you're willing to at least try following the money, virtually all the frack-related litigation now underway in New York State is looking more and more like a situation where certain New York State citizens are at war with their own state leadership — and less and less like the anti's preferred rhetorical narrative, where Big Evil Out of State Oil and Gas is trying to force Poor Helpless New York to go frack itself.

Do I expect that fact-supported observation to sink into future media coverage, and to further make it into the public consciousness? 

I don't. 

It's politically harder for Cuomo to cope gracefully with a situation where it's his own disheveled upstate landowners and ordinarily mild-mannered business interests that are fed up.  Mainstream media in New York are going to continue to protect him by declining to rewrite the fable that's already been told and told — that this is all about heartless industry versus homespun greens, as covered for by a paralyzed Cuomo.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Totally Outrageous: Binghamton Paper Censors its own JLCNY v. Cuomo News

[This is a hyper-linked, likely-to-be-further-modified version of some thoughts I sent tonight to various editors and reporters with the Binghamton (NY) Press — though I'm sure it's far too long to ever see print.]

I'm writing to protest a decision by the Binghamton Press (and presumably its sister papers) to suppress from both print and screen a weekend news development that its own salaried Albany-based reporter was paid to research, write, and blog post by 5 a.m. Friday.

The Joint Landowners Coalition of New York announced it had lined up sufficient resources to finally trigger a two-week clock on a long-threatened lawsuit against the Cuomo Administration on the eternal fracking question.  Building along a parallel line with industry interests represented by the now-bankrupt Norse Energy, which filed something similar six weeks ago, JLCNY has now committed to formally challenge the notion that New York's environmental review laws can be abused by elected and appointed state officials as an open-ended ticket for indefinite delay.  The organization has also said it would — for the first time, at least on this issue statewide — raise additional constitutional questions of unjust, uncompensated confiscation of private property rights in favor of what amounts to, in my estimation, a not objectively accepted "public interest" in nothing happening.

Having visited my hometown of Whitney Point, NY over the weekend, I could see from my mother's yellow bin that the story — again, first reported electronically by the Gannett Albany Bureau's Jon Campbell — had not seen print Friday.  Then it didn't run Saturday.  And then it wasn't even held for maximum possible readership on Sunday.  Ordinary people from Broome and Tioga counties that I ran into at a large house party on Saturday night — most gung ho for shale gas, a few opposed (including a cousin of mine), and the rest much more interested in food, beer, basketball or bald eagles — had not heard the news, despite coverage by Gannett and other Internet outlets, Binghamton public radio, and at least a couple Binghamton TV stations, such as here and here.

I suppose it's fair to say that there may now be many fewer upstaters that are still attentive, with the stamina, hope, concern, panic, free time, interest, or electronic resources to keep on top of the latest developments in this aging, tiresome saga.

But I found it both maddening and curious for the Binghamton newspaper to further public ignorance by censoring a timely, topical development such as this.  To suppress actual news, triggered by a cross-section of upstate landowners, as organized by a Binghamton-based group, working together with individually named Binghamton-area landowners, with expert guidance over a fairly long haul by a prominent Binghamton law firm — it all just blew me away.

Starting on Twitter and then moving things to email, I managed to provoke a conversation with one of your editors, Jeff Platsky:

After all that, this is what Platsky told me by email Sunday, with full, advance knowledge that I had absolutely no intention to keep his replies to myself:
"The Press & Sun-Bulletin has a long-standing policy of NOT reporting lawsuit threats. Why? It is a long way from making a threat to actually filing a lawsuit.  A threat is easy to make and costs virtually nothing.  There is  a long road from threat to actual lawsuit. Making threats is easy. Filing a lawsuit is not. You can make a threat without an investment of time, money or even an actual legal leg to stand on. When the suit is filed, it  demonstrates an actual commitment to the cause. You must detail your legal reasoning for bringing the lawsuit. In the past we have found that some people, organizations, etc. make lawsuit threats without ever intending to file the lawsuit. A threat is used as a scare tactic, tantamount to bullying. We do not advance bullying. In many instances, we have found, that those making the threats are USING the media to advance their cause without actually intending to carry through on their threat. For that reason, we have adopted the policy of not publishing lawsuit threat stories. We will dutifully report the story when the lawsuit IS FILED in court. Not until that point. When the lawsuit is filed we will detail the legal reasoning, and, in all likelihood, attach a copy of the complaint to the online story."

"Now, I am not going to say that we have never published lawsuit threat stories before. We probably have. But that was because the editor on duty was not aware of our long-standing policy.  If it was done before, it was a mistake."

"I can assure you the policy would be enforced as stated whether it was a lawsuit threat from the pro-drilling or anti-fracking elements, or for that matter any other controversial pro or con issue. There is no attempt at censorship here. We are not, however,  going to advance bullying."
And in a second email sent a few minutes later:
"Let me just add: The Albany bureau blog is an entirely different animal than the newspaper or its official web site. And though the Press & Sun-Bulletin may have the policy expressed in the previous email, those may not apply to the Albany Bureau blog."
First, I do appreciate Platsky's commitment to replying — especially on a busy weekend involving a quadruple play of family commitments, the big SU game, Greek Peak skiing, and the Super Bowl.  But I'm just one interested reader, and I suspect there are many others on all sides of this issue who would want to see this.  Platsky's explanation may not be convincing for me, as you might imagine.  But at least it is an explanation, which is better than the silent mystery suffered by any attentive Gannett reader, electronic or print.

Secondly — bullying?  Is that even remotely close to the truth of this situation?  Contrary to popular, media-driven belief, there are grassroots active on both sides of this issue.  And JLCNY's effort unquestionably ranks as a genuine grassroots effort by ordinary people, largely from your own readership area, to plead with each other for enough small, incremental donations in order to go toe-to-toe with Governor Cuomo, in a legitimate, legal assertion of their rights as land-owning citizens.

Thirdly, any kind of journalistic common sense is getting mangled into nonsense here by your own rule-bound minions.  Any blanket, non-discretionary implementation of such an editorial "policy" winds up suppressing all, both the bullying and the bonafide.  In fact, this is a case where "policy," like "statistics," may hold within it a kernel of original wisdom, but it too easily becomes the last unthinking, unfair refuge of a scoundrel.

And that's exactly what I would call whichever anonymous editor it is that's still hiding behind both Campbell and Platsky, in what amounts to suppression of legitimate state and local news.

Totally outrageous.

Full disclosure:  I am in favor of a reasonable balance in most forms of economic development, drilling, fracking, energy, jobs, opportunity, taxes, regulation, and the environment — all guided by an honest press, a truly informed citizenry, official expertise, political leadership, and a foundation of tolerance between all self-interested factions, between all ideologies, and between all classes of people.  Having considered this issue for quite some time, I simply don't accept that developing this resource will be any more or less dangerous, devastating, or unworkable for Upstate New York than a railroad, a highway, a large farm, a timber cut, a power plant, a manufacturing facility, or new housing, all of which have impacts.  I am one of a very small number of New Yorkers currently making a living in oil and gas (land title work), myself for the past 14 years, but none of it on New York projects for at least the last four years.  I have a 1/9th interest in 20 or so acres of recreational property in northern Broome County, but it's never been under lease, no one's ever asked about it, and there's certainly no one asking about it now.  The land is not enrolled with JLCNY, or any of its constituent coalitions, nor do I have any official function with JLCNY, though I am on their email list, and I have personally contributed money in order to get this lawsuit moving.

(And I encourage anyone who manages to read this, and who wants to support this cause, to do likewise, and pronto, at

Andy Leahy

Blogging and tweeting as:  NY Shale Gas Now