Posts containing my opinion of the race.

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 We have since followed up ad that commitment an have formally withdrawn our permit application for it."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:

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:

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.

Sorting Through the Confusion

A lot of the comments and public statements about the Chesapeake Energy dust-up mistake opposition to the Pulteney disposal well, and opposition to Chesapeake Energy, with opposition to drilling in the Marcellus Shale. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Saying that Tier residents must bow to the demands of Chesapeake Energy in order to extract gas is the same as saying that one should marry the first person one kisses. Chesapeake is just one of many companies that could successfully extract gas from the Marcellus Shale. There may be other companies with better fracking technology that could extract the gas more cleanly. Perhaps in a couple of years, the combination of new technology and higher energy prices will make everyone glad they waited.

The key point is that the valuable resource here is the gas, not the ability to drill it. Those who have allied with Chesapeake often sound like Chesapeake is the only game in town, and that the economic future of the Southern Tier rests on getting Chesapeake to drill immediately, no matter what the cost.

The truth is that the gas in the ground will only get more valuable over time, and the Tier will see a boom sometime in the near future because of it. This will happen with or without Chesapeake Energy, no matter how much they, and their supporters, want to make us think otherwise.

Parsing Chesapeake's Statement

Today's Corning Leader contains this terse statement from Chesapeake Energy:

Our enhanced water re-use techniques have greatly diminished the need for us to dispose of produced water, therefore, we have no intention of pursuing the injection well in Pulteney, N.Y.

This is clearly not good enough. When Chesapeake says "we have withdrawn our application", then this controversy is over.

Pulteney Rejects Wastewater and Winner Keeps Digging

Today's Corning Leader has two interesting fracking-related stories.

The first, more important one, covers yesterday's Pulteney Town Board meeting. At that meeting, the board laid the groundwork for a resolution for a moratorium on wastewater storage, and they voted to send a letter to Chesapeake Energy asking them to withdraw their application to store wastewater in a Pulteney well. The story contains this quote from Town Supervisor Bill Weber:

“It is very clear, from all my discussions with the board, and my own conscience, I can’t, in fact, I have yet to find anyone who supports this project,” Weber said, his voice choked with emotion.

The second, comical story concerns George Winner. Winner, who did not attend Sunday's meeting in Pulteney, yesterday accused Eric Massa of hiding the contents of a letter from the standing-room-only crowd there. After Massa and a number of meeting attendees pointed out that Massa distributed 250 copies of the letter at the meeting, Winner now says that Massa was wrong because he didn't distribute enough copies of that letter to the crowd.

What's next from Winner? A complaint about the color of Eric Massa's tie? Perhaps there was a spot on the car that Massa drove to the meeting.

Winner's response is all the more interesting because he agrees with Massa on the fundamental issue: he opposes the storage of waste water in the abandoned gas well in Pulteney. I don't know if this is a new position on Winner's part, since there wasn't a word about his opposition in yesterday's Leader story.

Maybe if Winner had just showed up at the biggest political event in the history of one of the towns he represents, he'd look like a leader rather than an ill-informed Monday morning quarterback.

Follow-Up on Winner's Statement

George Winner's allegation that Eric Massa is misleading constituents about Chesapeake Energy and their wastewater proposal has taken a couple of interesting turns.

First, commenter keuka confirms what Eric Massa says in this press release: Massa handed out 250 copies of the Chesapeake letter [pdf] at Sunday's fracking meeting. So, Winner's contention that Massa misled the attendees at that meeting is simply false.

Second, keuka points out that Tom Reed's brother was at the meeting taking notes. I assume this is Tom's brother John, who appears in this You Tube campaign video with Tom.

Finally, in Massa's letter to Winner [pdf], he makes an interesting point:

[...] I understand that you actually have a copy of this letter which was sent to me and distributed at this meeting. Since you did not attend Sunday's panel discussion and the only copies that I know of were provided at this meeting, I can't help but wonder how you came across a copy of the letter which you claim I withheld.

I think Senator Winner has some explaining to do.

Update: An anonymous reader sent this picture of Tom Reed's brother at the meeting:

Update2: Reader Groundhum, who was at the meeting and contributed this eyewitness report, sent a scan of Massa's letter to Chesapeake and their response [pdf], both of which were distributed at the meeting. Groundum also sent some additional testimony which was attached to the letter from Chesapeake [pdf] and was also distributed.

Winner Carrying Chesapeake's Water

Today's Corning Leader story is headlined "Winner: Massa Withheld Information". There's a lot less there than the headline would indicate, and what is there is bad for Southern Tier Republicans, not Massa.

The information that Winner says Massa withheld is contained in a letter from Chesapeake Energy, the company that wants to put wastewater down a well one mile from Keuka Lake. Chesapeake says that they have found a new process to filter, dilute and re-use fracking water, so they won't be "actively pursuing" the application to store that water in an abandoned gas well near Pulteney.

Winner thinks that this letter means that Chesapeake won't be using the well. But Chesapeake clearly says that they aren't withdrawing their application to store water in the well:

“While we remain confident that these technological practices will eliminate the need for the injection well permit, it is premature for us to pull the application at this time,” McClendon said.

“However, you have my commitment that we will keep you posted on our recycling program and any change in our position related to the permit application.”

In other words, the fox won't be having chicken for dinner today, but be sure to let him keep the key to the henhouse door for safekeeping. And don't worry -- he'll "keep you posted".

George Winner is either dumb enough, or duplicitous enough, to take Chesapeake's statement at face value. But that's no surprise. Ever since Chesapeake showed up in the Southern Tier, he and Tom Reed have been falling over themselves to accommodate the drilling company's interests. For Winner and Reed, the valid concerns of Tier residents, Republican and Democrat alike, take a back seat to an Oklahoma company's desire to have drilling and wastewater carting start immediately.

The politics of this are dead simple. If Tom Reed had the 29th seat today, there would be no high-profile elected representative asking skeptical questions and slowing down the process so all can be heard. Oklahoma fairy tales would be swallowed whole, along with a big glass of "shut up".

If anyone needs more evidence that Massa's election is making a positive difference in the lives of Tier residents, today's Leader has it, in spades.

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