Archive (2010)

Massa on Paterson

The papers and the telly are full of stories like this, where Eric Massa says that he's glad Paterson is leaving and that he wants Andrew Cuomo to enter the race.

It looks like the statewide major office races will be walks for the Democrats. No big-name Republican has stepped up to run for either Governor or Senator, so Cuomo and Gillibrand will both do well, barring a screw up.

This isn't good news for Massa -- a tight, hard-fought race would keep voters interested and send them to the polls. Tight races would also cause those candidates to put some money behind a statewide get out the vote effort, which would help Massa in the 29th.

Healthcare Summit

Reader Vincent sends this link to the Sunlight Foundation's live blog coverage of today's summit at the Blair House. They're a non-profit good government bunch and can probably cut through a lot of the bullshit that's going to be flooding that meeting.

By the way, in case anybody wonders, no, Eric Massa has not changed his position on the reform bill. I'd be surprised if this meeting changes anybody's mind, including his.

Reed Opposes Federal Drilling Regulation

Today's Democrat and Chronicle and Star-Gazette cover Tom Reed's latest position on the regulation of Marcellus Shale drilling. He's against almost all Federal regulation:

Reed said he would vote against giving the Environmental Protection Agency authority to use the Clean Water Act or Safe Drinking Water Act to regulate such drilling. He also would oppose requiring drillers to disclose the chemicals they add to the water injected into the rock.

Reed's position is that the state should do the regulating. However, Federal water laws like Clean Water Act have been around for decades because water doesn't respect state boundaries.

Here's a simple hypothetical. Say St. Bonaventure College, which is about 10 miles from the Pennsylvania border, finds chemical contamination in their drinking water. In Tom Reed's world, they would have the right to find out if a Pennsylvania fracking operation caused that pollution only if Pennsylvania law says they can. In Eric Massa's world, they'd have that right because Federal law requires drillers to disclose what they inject into rock that could contaminate the water supply.

I'll leave it to the reader to imagine which world Saint Bonnies' students (and their parents) want to live in.

MCDC Failure Explained

A couple of years ago, I posted a long rant about the Monroe County Democratic Party. I thought that the chair, Joe Morelle, should step down, because he had failed to place even a token candidate on the slate for County Executive, the top race on the ticket.

Today, at Mustard Street, writer Philbrick explains why Morelle didn't field a candidate in 2007: he wants the job himself. The evidence that Philbrick gives in his piece is fairly convincing. Morelle has risked the ire of public unions, critical in the inner city but not a power in the suburbs, to support Mayor Robert Duffy's plan to take over the Rochester schools. And Duffy has engaged the services of a major strategy group, which would indicate that he's looking at Federal or statewide office, not County Executive.

If you're not convinced by Philbrick's analysis, here are a couple more points. First, Morelle is sponsoring Katie's law, which is a "tough on crime" measure that would allow cops to take DNA samples from suspects, not those convicted. That's probably unconstitutional, but it would certainly be popular with suburban conservatives. Second, there's the whole 2007 County Executive debacle, mentioned above. If you're county chair and want to run for County Executive, but the time isn't right, you're going to make sure that nobody else runs, no matter what this does to the party.

Monroe County is key to Massa's victory in 2008, and to his re-election in 2010, but the party apparatus here is completely useless. In the last 10 years, Democrats have gone from a 4,000 voter registration advantage to a 40,000 voter advantage over Republicans. Yet Republicans still control the legislature. After the last election, one Democrat even switched parties, which indicates that there's little hope that Democrats will regain control anytime soon.

Since he's now running for County Executive, I'm sure Joe Morelle will be hoarding MCDC assets for his coming race. Eric Massa will once again have to run his own get out the vote operation. The status quo in Monroe County won't change until the leadership changes.

More Chesapeake Ads

Reader Elmer sends two full-page Chesapeake ads that appeared in the Corning Leader. Wednesday's ad [pdf] tells us that Chesapeake is "ready" to drill in the Marcellus Shale. Yesterday's ad [pdf] is Chesapeake's attempt to explain their Pulteney application, which was covered here yesterday.

In other drilling news, Reuters has a drilling water background story that quotes Chesapeake officials as well as Eric Massa.

So, About Those Regulations

Reader Don sends this DEC spill report [pdf] which documents a 1,143 gallon petroleum product spill at a Chesapeake well near Pulteney. The spill, which was apparently caused by a rusted-through holding tank, occurred last August and hasn't been cleaned up, according to the DEC report. The report was part of a letter sent by Walter Hang, who runs the hazardous waste tracking site Toxics Targeting, to the state DEC.

This could be just a bookkeeping issue, or it could be something more serious, but it's another example of how Chesapeake's actions are getting the utmost scrutiny by local activists.

Reed on Fracking

Reader David sends Tom Reed's weekly video. In it, Reed sets out his position on hydrofracking. Reed wants tough regulation, a lifetime ban on drillers that violate environmental regulations, he opposes storage of wastewater in wells, and he would like to see communities get involved with the recycling/treatment of hydrofracking fluid.

Reed's position is pretty sensible, and I don't see a whole lot of light between him and Massa in the big picture. One issue that Massa has raised and Reed didn't address is royalties. New York's mandated royalties are quite low, according to Massa.

Reed's video is embedded after the break:

Chesapeake Full-Page Ad

An anonymous reader sent the text of a full-page ad in today's Corning Leader, paid for by Chesapeake Energy. It's essentially a declaration of war against Eric Massa, indirectly accusing him of misrepresenting the situation and using "political rhetoric". I've included the whole thing after the break, but one claim merits closer inspection.

Chesapeake says that "Congressman Eric Massa was informed on February 2, 2010 [...] that we are no longer actively pursuing our permit request [...] We have since followed up ad that commitment an have formally withdrawn our permit application for it." [emphasis in original]

Here's what Chesapeake actually said in that letter: "[...] it is premature for us to pull the application at this time." There was no commitment in the February 2 letter.

Chesapeake says that it is "disappointing that our positions continue to be misrepresented" -- apparently they're disappointed with themselves, because they misrepresented their own letter, written less than three weeks ago.

Here's the whole letter:


Dear Residents and Citizens of New York State:

There has been much discussion in recent weeks about Chesapeake Appalachia LLC's application to convert an existing natural gas well into an underground injection well near Keuka Lake to dispose of water from natural gas production. This is a common and highly regulated practice in the natural gas industry and Chesapeake wants you to know the facts:

Congressman Eric Massa was informed on February 2, 2010, in a letter from the Chairman and CEO of our company that we are no longer actively pursuing our permit request for this injection well. We have since followed up on that commitment and have formally withdrawn our permit application for it.

Chesapeake did not withdraw its permit request because we believe the well would have been a threat to the environment. In fact, the EPA runs the underground injection well program, and it is among the most successful and safest waste management programs. In addition, the proposed well is an existing gas production well that has been in service sine 1998, and it is part of a gas field in this area of the Finger Lakes region that has produced for decades with no adverse effect on the environment.

This application and careful regulatory review process was initiated a year ago. We withdrew the application for two reasons. First, we determined that an injection well in this area is not presently necessary given the inability to drill Marcellus wells in New York due to regulatory delays. Second, since initiating the permit application process, we have been increasingly successful in recycling our produced water, greatly reducing our need for additional New York disposal facilities.

We find it disappointing that our positions continue to be misrepresented, even at the public meeting held with area residents on February 7, 2010. It is detrimental to our efforts to constructively work together as we drill for and produce clean, domestic natural gas in a safe and responsible manner. Comparisons of our industry's operations to "Love Canal" are inappropriate, unconstructive and reflect ignorance of the protective measures being taken by both our industry and the regulatory community in managing natural gas development. It is also detrimental to efforts to provide the public with factual information regarding an issue of critical public importance, especially at a time when natural gas exploration holds such economic promise for stakeholders across southern and central New York.

Chesapeake shares the desire of local residents to serve as fully committed stewards of the environment. We have successfully drilled thousands of wells over the past 20 years and have a solid track record of drilling safely and responsibly in some of the most eco-sensitive areas of the country. Despite many unfounded claims, the independent, nonprofit Groundwater Protection Council recently submitted written comments in New York, and the EPA provided corroborating testimony in Congress in December, 2009, that there has never been a single documented case of groundwater contamination as a result of fracture stimulation in the development of natural gas reserves. For more information, go to

Chesapeake also knows that drilling for natural gas in New York's area of Marcellus Shale could create thousands of jobs, generate billions of dollars of investment, create billions of dollars of landowner wealth and provide tax revenue that could be used to fund education, health care and other programs across the state. Deep shale natural gas exploration is helping revitalize regional economies in every area where this activity takes place. In fact, over the state line in Pennsylvania, Chesapeake has paid more than a billion dollars to mineral rights owners and is employing almost 1,000 people directly and thousands more indirectly. New Yorkers deserve the opportunity, too. We are confident our investment in your area could be of great value locally while playing a vital role in reducing our nation's dependence on foreign oil. At the same time, we can protect the environment by producing and using more cleaner-burning natural gas instead of higher-polluting coal.

As we look to the future, we are hopeful that our discussions -- and your decisions -- about natural gas drilling can be based on the facts and not misinformation and political rhetoric. You have our commitment to listen to your concerns and to work together to safely and responsibly drill for America's most abundant and affordable clean energy source -- natural gas.


Dave Spigelmyer
Vice President, Government Relations
Chesapeake Energy Corporation

The Non-Working Stimulus

Today's Corning Leader quotes Eric Massa and Tom Reed on the stimulus. Reed says the stimulus "failed", was a "mistake" and "didn't work".

There are many reasons to oppose the stimulus, but saying that it was a failure just flies in the face of reality. The economy, and the jobs picture, is better today than it was a year ago, and the stimulus has created jobs. Whether the short-term benefit was worth the cost is certainly worth discussing, but a reasonable discussion has to begin with the facts, not ungrounded assertions of failure.

Bacalles (reluctantly) On the Record

Reader qka (not to be confused with reader "keuka") sends Assemblyman Jim Bacalles' response to qka's constituent letter. Qka asked if Bacalles would support a bill to extend the protections given New York City's water supply to the rest of the state. Bacalles' response, which addresses the Pulteney disposal site rather than the broader question, is attached after the break.

I've only seen Bacalles in action once, at the 2006 League of Women Voters debate. He clearly took his lead from George Winner at that event, and he tends to keep a low media profile. For example, today's Corning Leader story on Chesapeake only quotes George Winner and Eric Massa.

Here's the letter:

February 12, 2010

I'm writing in response to your communication expressing concerns about Chesapeake Energy's application to utilize one of its spent gas wells in Pulteney to dispose of hydrofracking wastewater drilling. [sic] I want to go on record as adamantly opposing this application. It is also my understanding that Chesapeake Energy has decided not to pursue this permit application.

As a legislator and Assembly Environmental Conservation Committee member, I've been involved in the natural gas development issue for some time. I have been and will remain in direct contact with the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner, Pete Grannis, together with other top DEC officials throughout the regulatory efforts being undertaken regarding the Marcellus Shale natural gas industry. I expect the DEC's proposed regulations will integrate, or at least adequately address, the environmentally-sensitive issues related to gas drilling and wastewater disposal.

No one, including me, wants to risk environmental damage, particularly to our watersheds, our agricultural region, our infrastructure or our tourist and wine industry. It's because of the DEC's careful regulatory process that gas drillers in New York have compiled such a good environmental record. And, we want to keep it that way. New York's record in this area is better than any other state in the country.

James G. Bacalles
Member of Assembly

Chesapeake's Ham Fist

Reader Groundhum's recent comment linked to the Star-Gazette's story on Chesapeake's application withdrawal. That story contains Chesapeake's letter to the DEC, and one paragraph illustrates how poorly Chesapeake continues to handle this whole mess:

We are not rescinding the application because we believe our proposed well would have been a threat to the environment or because of vocal opposition to the project. Quite the contrary, the well in question is an existing gas production well that has been in service since 1988, and it is part of a gas field in this area of the Finger Lakes region that has produced for decades with no effect on the environment.

First, the notion that public pressure had nothing to do with the application withdrawal is laughable. On February 2, Chesapeake told Eric Massa that they were not withdrawing the application. Two weeks later, the application is history. The only thing that happened in between was a series of highly-publicized meetings about Chesapeake's application.

More importantly, contrasting the safety of existing gas wells with the proposed use of the well as a wastewater dump is completely misleading. Chesapeake wanted to dump thousands of gallons of chemical-laden brine down one of the Finger Lakes gas wells that's less than a mile from Keuka lake. That's an entirely different proposition from taking gas out of that well.

The safety of existing Finger Lakes wells is also irrelevant to Chesapeake's desire to drill in the Marcellus Shale. Those old wells used traditional drilling techniques. Extracting gas from the Marcellus Shale will require the high-pressure injection of thousands of gallons of chemical-laden brine. The risks involved aren't the same, and Chesapeake knows it.

Chesapeake has shown nothing but arrogance and a desire to mislead throughout this controversy. Being one of Chesapeake's allies in the Southern Tier is pure political poison.

Chesapeake Withdraws Pulteney Application

The Corning Leader reports that Chesapeake Energy withdrew its application for a permit to dispose of wastewater in an abandoned well near Pulteney. The withdrawal happened this morning, and contradicts Chesapeake's earlier position expressed in a February 2 letter to Eric Massa.