Monday, February 27, 2012

NY Supreme Court Judges Uphold Town Gas-Drilling Bans

On February 21, 2012, New York Supreme Court Justice Phillip R. Rumsey ruled in favor of the Town of Dryden, affirming its right to adopt zoning that prohibits natural gas drilling within its borders in Tomkins County.

In August, Dryden's town board passed a zoning law prohibiting gas drilling within town limits. The next month, a gas drilling company, Anschutz Exploration Corp., sued the town, saying the ban was illegal because state law superseded the municipal rules. In the case of the drilling company against the Town of Dryden, Judge Rumsey concluded that the town zoning ordinances is not preempted by the state Oil, Gas and Solution Mining Law.

ProPublica reported that two very similarly worded laws govern the regulation of mining and oil and gas drilling. The oil and gas provision gives the state the power to "regulate the development, production and utilization of natural resources of oil and gas." The town of Dryden argued that it was not trying to regulate fracking but merely trying to protect its citizens and property. It pointed out that courts have allowed towns to ban mining, and said Dryden should be allowed to do the same for fracking. The justice agreed, concluding that the state's oil and gas laws don't prohibit localities from barring drilling.

The decision sets a precedent that citizens and their local governments can cite to legally ban gas drilling in other New York towns.

"By upholding Dryden's fracking ban, Judge Rumsey has brought a renewed sense of hope to the many cities and towns concerned with fracking. Regardless of fracking's documented dangers--particularly New York's failure to study industrial gas drilling's health impacts or responsibly plan for the treatment, transport, or disposal of hazardous fracking waste--the communities targeted for drilling need the power to determine for themselves when, where and if fracking is permitted," said Katherine Nadeau, Water & Natural Resources Program Director, Environmental Advocates of New York.

It didn't take long for a different Supreme Court judge to arrive at a similar ruling in favor of another NY town.

On February 24, 2012, Otsego County Acting Supreme Court Justice Donald Cerio ruled that the Town of Middlefield was within its rights under state law to ban oil and gas drilling. Justice Cerio wrote in his decision that the clause in the state’s environmental conservation law that transfers regulatory rights to the state for oil and gas drilling does not prevent the town from banning it altogether.

UPDATE - February 28, 2012: While those opposed to fracking in New York are savoring these victories for home rule, the legal battles are likely not over. An attorney representing the gas drilling companies who were defeated in the courts discusses the cases and potential appeals in a news interview here.

Clean Energy Tops List of Environmental 'Super Bills' for 2012

Green Super Bills Designed to Invigorate NY’s Solar Industry and Create Jobs, Close Hazardous Waste Loophole for Fracking, Cut Climate Pollution

Albany - Nine New York environmental groups today released their annual slate of “Super Bills” for 2012. Green priorities for the State Legislature include measures designed to bolster economic development while addressing New York’s highest profile environmental challenges, including expanding the use of solar energy, cutting the pollution that is changing our climate and protecting the state’s waters and communities from gas drilling by means of “fracking” by closing a loophole that exempts the oil and gas industry from responsibly treating drilling waste. The groups also announced this year’s Earth Day Lobby Day will be held on April 25.

“New York’s leaders tell us they support cleaner and more sustainable energy. And elected officials say they will act responsibly before opening the floodgates to fracking in the Marcellus Shale,” said Dave Gahl, Deputy Director, Environmental Advocates of New York. “We’re calling on the Legislature to pass the 2012 Super Bills and send a message—New York is open for business—clean, safe business that creates new jobs, holds industry accountable and benefits our communities with clean air and safe water.”

“Citizens Campaign for the Environment urges the Legislature and Governor Cuomo to stand up for clean air, clean water, job creation and a strong economy by enacting the 2012 Super Bills,”
said Adrienne Esposito, Executive Director.

The 2012 Green Super Bills are:

Solar Industry Development & Jobs Act (A.9149 - Englebright) would create thousands of new solar jobs and jumpstart investment in New York’s growing solar energy industry by requiring state utilities and energy service companies to supply an increasing percentage of their electricity from solar, ultimately resulting in 5000 MW on the grid by 2026—enough to power more than 500,000 homes and reduce as much carbon pollution as taking nearly three million cars off the road.

Global Warming Pollution Cap (A.5346 - Sweeney / S.2742-B - Avella*) would require that climate-altering pollution from all sources is cut by 80 percent by the year 2050. These are the reductions in greenhouse gas emissions that scientists say will help us avert the worst impacts of climate change. *These bills will be amended to match.

Hazardous Waste Loophole (A.7013 - Sweeney / S.4616 - Avella) would end special exemptions that allow the gas industry to circumvent requirements for hazardous waste disposal. This bill would update state law so that all waste resulting from gas drilling that meets the definition of hazardous waste be treated as such and subject to all regulations related to its generation, transportation, treatment, storage and disposal. Thanks to the leadership of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Environmental Conservation Committee Chair Robert Sweeney, the Assembly acted to close the loophole by passing this Super Bill on February 13 by wide margins.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

FRACKONOMICS: Economic Myths of Fracking


Are Sponsoring


Is this really a contest between the economy and the environment?
Learn about the myths and hype being used by the gas industry and some politicians to convince us that environmental and health risks are worth the money to be made.

DATE:    Sunday, February 26, 2012
TIME:    4pm to 5:30pm
WHERE: Lafayette Presbyterian Church, 865 Elmwood Ave, Buffalo NY
 Use the church entrance near the Lafayette Ave parking lot
FLYER:   Click here

 Chris Burger, a Co-Chair of the SC Atlantic Chapter’s Gas Task Force, is a college instructor who has degrees in Chemical Engineering, Economics and Social Psychology. His many activities in environmental issues include his being the Co-founder and Chair of the Binghamton Regional Sustainability Coalition. He was a former Broome County Legislator and Chair of the Cornell University Eco-Justice Project.

This program is free and open to the public

Screening & Forum: Clean Water and Western New York's Future

WHAT: Film Screening - "Everybody Lives Downstream"
WHAT: Forum - Presentations by experts and stakeholders
WHEN: Saturday, February 25, 2pm-5pm
WHERE: Burchfield Penney Art Center, 1300 Elmwood Ave., Buffalo

This is the first in a series of forums on critical public policy choices. It begins with a showing of Anna Scime's film "Everybody Lives Downstream," a documentary tracing the roots of today's Army Corps of Engineers dredging project on the Buffalo River, a very troubled body of water.

The showing will be followed by brief presentations by experts and stakeholders who will address the environmental work that remains, the potential economic impact of restoring the health of the Buffalo River and its watershed, and the community benefit from taking a "green" approach to the challenge.

Confirmed participants in the panel include Buffalo State College Geography Professor Kim Irvine, and AFL-CIO Federation President Richard Lipsitz. 

Bruce Fisher will present a review of clean-water initiatives underway in Cleveland, Pittsburgh and Syracuse, with special emphasis on how these communities bring federal and state funding sources together to help region-wide initiatives.

Elected and appointed officials with responsibility for water-quality issues have been invited and their participation has been assured.

The "Challenges and Choices" Forums are co-sponsored by Artvoice and the Center for Economic and Policy Studies at Buffalo State College.

TALK: Climate Change in the Great Lakes

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Click here for a full-screen flyer.
Sponsored by the WNY Sustainable Energy Association

Monday, February 13, 2012

Seeking Social Media Assistant for GrowWNY Website

by GrowWNY
The Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo (CFGB) is seeking a Social Media Assistant who loves the environment, and will blog, post status updates on Facebook and Twitter, and more for the website.  The Social Media Assistant is a full-time position offered in collaboration with The Service Collaborative of Western New York.  This position will report to CFGB’s Environmental Program Coordinator and will be responsible for working with CFGB to support the broader environmental community in Western New York.

The Community Foundation created the website to connect over 80 environmental organizations throughout Western New York with people concerned about the preservation and restoration of our regional environment.  Since the site’s launch in August 2010, more than 25,000 people have visited the site to find local news and information about the environment.  Ultimately, the goal of is to bring about positive change through enhanced communication and social media.  A great opportunity to practice your social media skills for a good cause, is the place for all things green in Western New York.

Monday, February 6, 2012

The True Cost of America's Gas Rush

In an effort to promote drilling, the gas industry has repeatedly stated that hydraulic fracturing ('fracking') is safe, without acknowledging that the current technology is new and unconventional. The wealthy industry influences popular opinion through TV and press ads that promote shale-gas drilling, touting only the economic benefits. 

But what about the costs incurred when unconventional drilling occurs close to places where people live and farm? How does shale-gas drilling and fracking affect the well-being of homeowners and rural communities? How does this chemical-laced and water-intensive process affect the quality and quantity of their drinking water? What will become of the toxic and radioactive wastewater? Are there risks to human health, now or in the future?

You can read all you want about the costs of the gas rush, but there is nothing like seeing with your own eyes and hearing from affected people about the impacts of unconventional shale-gas drilling. 

The video below is an investigative report on shale-gas drilling in Pennsylvania communities, where drilling has been going on for over 3 years. Please watch it and share this link - - with your friends.


Recent reports about shale-gas drilling: 
For more reports about shale-gas drilling and fracking, click here.

Global Warming, Fossil Fools, and Real Science

Is the planet really warming? 
NASA scientists answer that question with an unequivocal YES! 
Below is a NASA video animation that shows 130 years of global warming in 26 seconds. Blue colors indicate Lower temperatures. Red colors indicate Higher temperatures. The year is shown at the bottom of the world map.

This visualization of the data is from NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York, which monitors global surface temperatures. Temperatures are compared to the average temperature during the mid-20th century baseline period (1951-1980).

How can some people argue that global warming has stopped?
The video above shows a clear trend of increasing global average temperatures over 130 years. Dr. Peter Gleick, a member of the National Academy of Sciences and an internationally recognized climate expert, wrote that "global warming has not stopped and those who repeat this claim over and over are either lying, ignorant, or exhibiting a blatant disregard for the truth."

Dr. Gleick explained: "All of the false claims take advantage of one fundamental truth about the average temperature of our planet: it varies a little, naturally, from year to year. Some years are a bit warmer than average and some are a bit colder than average because of El Niños, La Niñas, cloud variability, volcanic activity, ocean conditions, and just the natural pulsing of our planetary systems. When you filter these out, the human-caused warming signal is clear."

Those who make false claims about global warming to justify the continued burning of fossil fuels, are sometimes called "fossil fools." Gleick points out that false claims about global warming do not look at the 130 year temperature data set and examine the overall trend, which shows a clear temperature increase with time. Instead, they select specific data points within the natural variability, or select one limited time period, and use this "cherry-picked" data to support no temperature change or even cooling.

In conclusion, Dr. Gleick wrote: "The climate drives the weather. People care about the weather – what happens day to day – our weather can bring us joy or misery. It is time to care about the climate as well, because our decisions and actions today will reverberate in our weather for centuries to come."

For additional details, see Dr. Gleick's article.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Free Movie on 'Fracking' in Niagara Falls

Millions of gallons of toxic wastewater from gas drilling using the controversial process of hydraulic fracturing (hydrofracking or 'fracking') will be heading to Niagara Falls every day if permitted by the NY state government.

To learn more about fracking and what's in the wastewater, see the award-winning documentary film 'GASLAND' at the Niagara Falls Library Auditorium [see MAP here] at 6pm on February 15th and on February 21st . Q&A session with Rita Yelda and others will follow. It's FREE! Invite your friends.

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Watch this brief TV News report: Could fracking waste water go to Falls?
For articles on treating fracking waste at Niagara Falls, click here.
For more stories about fracking, click here.

Help Secure Air Monitoring by Signing Petition

By the Clean Air Coalition of WNY

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Air monitoring by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) in Tonawanda has been critical to diagnosing the air pollution challenges, holding polluters accountable and tracking progress to reduce dangerous emissions.
The DEC is considering shutting one of the two remaining air monitors in Tonawanda. We can't let that happen!

We are also asking for an air monitor to be placed on Buffalo's lower West Side to monitor harmful matter from diesel emissions in the neighborhoods.  It's not right that a known toxic hot spot is not being monitored by the state.

The Coalition has been knocking on doors in Tonawanda and the West Side collecting signatures on postcards that we will deliver to legislators.  We have also started an online petition to demonstrate support for this critical community need.  Will you take 30 seconds to sign the petition and pass it along to your networks?

You can sign the petition at:

UPDATE:  New York State Assemblyman Sean Ryan called on the DEC today to install air monitoring equipment at locations on Buffalo’s west side.