Dryden, NY: The Little Town That Could (Say No)

From the morning memo:

“There had not been all that interesting things happening in Dryden. Then, fracking appeared.”

Five years, ago, Dryden, NY became the little town that politely said, “No thanks” to the oil and gas industry.

“And then, of course, we were immediately sued.”

Marie McRae was one of a handful of residents in Dryden that organized a petition to essentially ban hydraulic fracturing in the small, Tompkins County town.

“It was amazing how many people were willing to sign those petitions,” Linda Lavine said. Lavine, a current member of Dryden’s Town Board, was also part of the original group of petitioners.

The group researched the process, organized public forums for anyone interested in the issue and ultimately presented their petition to the town board.

“They were willing to carry on a conversation and start the process that would move us toward a ban,” McRae said. “So, they found the time to research the law, to make a public hearing, and to then pass the law in Dryden.”

And pass it did, until it was challenged in court.

More >

Protesters to PSC: No Conversion in Cayuga

The first anti-fracking post-election protest sounded off in Albany Thursday afternoon. But this round of protesters were calling on something that may actually see a decision by year’s end: the Cayuga Power Plant.

The primarily coal-fired plant is seeking to switch to natural gas to produce its energy, but needs approval from the state’s Public Service Commission before it can move forward with that change.

Opponents of that conversion say the cost could stretch to almost $100 million, leading to higher energy prices for consumers in that area. However, a report from Tompkins County Area Development earlier this year says that rate hike would only be temporary until the conversion is complete.

In fact, the same group that opponents cite the project’s cost with has actually pointed to the economic benefits of converting the plant to natural gas.

A report released in May from TCAD says the conversion could result in the creation of 30 jobs and about $5 million in earnings annually.

But opponents say the big issue isn’t necessarily the money – it’s the environment.

If Governor Cuomo ultimately approves hydraulic fracturing in New York the plant could become a hub for energy production given its ability to process natural gas extracted from that process. That’s assuming the PSC approves the plant’s conversion, of course.

Advocates say that action would push a renewable energy future further out the door, with gas drilling in its place.

Governor Cuomo has said recently that a decision on hydrofracking will come by the end of the year, but there has been no indication on when the State Health Department expects to finish and release its review on the gas drilling process.

Cayuga Operating Company has a hard deadline of Dec. 1 to submit a formal proposal on the conversion.


Anti-Fracking Glick “Probably Wouldn’t Say No” to Environmental Chair

Manhattan Assemblywoman Deborah Glick, Wednesday, said if she was offered the chairmanship of the Environmental Conservation Committee in the Assembly come January, she “probably wouldn’t say no.”

The current chair, Long Island Assemblyman Robert Sweeney, chose not to run for re-election this year.

Before the end of his last session, Sweeney helped push another moratorium on hydrofracking through the Assembly in June. That’s work Glick said, in an interview on The Capitol Pressroom, she would continue if selected.

“Any potential threat to our water threatens our lives, our food, our animals. We’ve seen many, many problems, even with traditional drilling where methane gas or other contaminants have polluted wells without hydrofracking being in place. Hydrofracking itself is a process that requires huge, huge amounts of water. I’m concerned about using up a scarce and essential resource, and I’m also concerned about the record of the oil and gas industry in being able to avoid accidents.”

Opponents of the natural gas drilling process say fracking has the potential to harm the environment and pollute public drinking water. Supporters cite the potential job growth that could emerge if such a large resource was, literally, tapped.

But Glick says there are other energy resources that could boost the economy upstate without threatening the quality of water in the New York City watershed.

“This is not an upstate/downstate thing, it’s whether or not people believe we should be moving toward renewables, which I believe would help the upstate economy tremendously.”

As far as climate change goes, though, fracking supporters say natural gas produces lower carbon emissions than other fuels, like coal and oil. But Glick says the countless gallons of water and equipment used to transport the gas would negate that effort.

Speaking of transportation, Glick also responded to reports out last year that said a handful of upstate counties were using fracking waste to salt icy roadways, saying “It’s a bad idea, and we are potentially creating local problems.”

Among other issues on Glick’s agenda if she were selected as chair of that committee include looking at products that contain harmful toxins, certain pesticides that are legal in New York but banned elsewhere, and flame retardants.

When asked whether a Republican-controlled Senate might hinder those issues, Glick said she she’s “an optimist. Otherwise I wouldn’t be in politics.”

No decision on chair will be made until the next session begins in January and the Assembly Speaker (Silver) is re-elected.

Hawkins: ‘Scandal’ That Bills New Owner Is Fracking Rich

Green Party gubernatorial candidate Howie Hawkins thinks there are “real issues” to debate about the NFL, but which candidate roots for what team is not one of them.

In a statement released this afternoon, Hawkins took Gov. Andrew Cuomo to task for the Erie County Democratic Party ad that slammed his Republican opponent, Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, for being a Miami Dolphins fan, and featured an Astorino family photo that had been edited to remove his 11-year-old son, Sean, from the foreground.

“While the rest of the country was debating the issues of domestic violence, child abuse and the NFL, Cuomo spent his campaign dollars photoshopping Astorino’s son out of a sport attack ad,” Hawkins noted. “Rather than debating which sports teams we follow, we should be debating jobs, health care and climate change.”

“The NFL needs to send a stronger message that it is not going to tolerate violence against women, children and its own players. One way to show they are serious is by firing Commissioner Goodell.”

According to Hawkins, the “real scandal” related to the Buffalo Bills is that the team’s new owner, Terry Pegula, made his money in fracking – the controversial natural gas drilling process to which the Green Party is vehemently opposed.

Also, Hawkins believes the NFL has deteriorated into a “modern version of the gladiator fights with its misuse and abuse of its players.” He is a supporter of non-profit community ownership of sports teams on the model of the Green Bay Packers, and opposes tax subsidies and other giveaways provided to billionaire NFL owners to keep them from relocating their teams.

In case you were wondering, Hawkins, a San Francisco native, is a fan of the 49ers and the Oakland Raiders. His second tier favorites are the Green Bay Packers and Buffalo Bills. He also roots for his hometown Syracuse Orange and his alma mater Dartmouth Big Green in college football.

Also, Hawkins is not alone in his call for the gubernatorial race debate to turn to more substantial matters. Daily News columnist Bill Hammond took both Astorino and Cuomo to task for focusing on sports and political gamesmanship instead of issues.

Hammond slammed Cuomo for failing to put forth an agenda for the second four-year term he’s seeking, noting that in 2010, candidate Cuomo released seven book-length white papers addressing everything from ethics reform to energy policy. But Hammond also had some sharp words for Astorino, saying the county executive lacks a clear message and affirmative priorities, and instead is offering a “mish-mash of proposals and talking points.”

Shah Says He’ll Release Health Review When He’s ‘Comfortable’

The review of the health impact of high-volume hydrofracking will be released when Health Commissioner Nirav Shah is “comfortable” he told a joint Assembly-Senate budget panel.

Shah, who was grilled for more than three hours on Monday by the committee, insisted he wasn’t delaying the delivery of a final report to Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Nirav Shah assessing the impacts of fracking on human health.

But when that report will be released is anyone’s guess, including Shah’s.

“It’s not in the near in the future where I can predict it,” he said during a back-and-forth with Senate Finance Committee Chairman John De Francisco. “I can’t say it’s going to be this month.”

“Somehow I expected that answer,” DeFrancisco responded.

Shah’s review of the impacts of hydrofracking began in 2012, following the state missing a series of self-imposed deadlines to develop an impact assessment and regulations governing high-volume fracking.

At the time, DEC Commissioner Joe Martens wrote in a letter to Shah that the permitting for fracking can still go forward based on the results of the health review.

But lawmakers on the budget panel were frustrated that they — and the public — haven’t had access to the information Shah has been reviewing over the last 19 months.

At one point, Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal, presented Shah with a stack of more than 100 different studies on hydrofracking.

“We’re looking at ongoing, existing studies that impact health related to high-volume hydrofracking. To the extent that there were 40 such studies published last year, we are reviewing them,” Shah said.

He added that one of the complicating factors has been the shifting nature of the natural-gas industry and the differing studies that been released, calling it a “moving target.”

“It’s a work in progress,” Shah said. “What I’ve said in the past, with human health I’m not willing to take any chances.”

Speaking with reporters after testifying, he insisted there hasn’t been any involvement or political from the governor’s office on the review.

“He’s let science lead the way,” Shah said. “He has not in any form impacted it. And when I asked for more time, he said, OK, have more time.”

Watch Shah and DeFrancisco Here >> (TWC ID required)

Norse Trustee Files Fracking Suit

Bankrupt Norse Energy Corp. has followed through on its threat to sue Gov. Andrew Cuomo, DEC Commissioner Joe Martens and Health Commissioner Nirav Shah in hopes of, as its trustee Tom West says, “compel” the administration into making a decision on whether to allow fracking in the Marcellus Shale.

This move follows comments by Shah and Cuomo during yesterday’s Red Room cabinet meeting that made it clear the Cuomo administration feels no urgency in speeding up the review process, despite the fact that it has dragged on for more than five years.

“This open-ended timetable and lack of transparency is an abuse of power and nothing more than a sham excuse for political delay,” West said. “The decision to delay the development of our indigenous natural gas resources will go down in history as one of the great economic blunders of all times.”

“…Since this litigation was announced, Landowners have contacted me to thank me for bringing this action, complaining that they have lost their farms and their lives have been ruined as a result of the inability to participate in the shale revolution.”

The case is returnable on Jan. 24 in Albany County Supreme Court. The court papers were filed this afternoon and will be served tomorrow. Below is the memorandum of law related to the case.

Memorandum of law for Norse Energy lawsuit vs Cuomo admin over fracking decision delay. by liz_benjamin6490

Langworthy: Kennedy ‘Out Of Touch’ With WNY

Erie County Republican Chairman Nick Langworthy swung back at Democratic Sen. Tim Kennedy after the lawmaker sent a letter to the state ethics panel seeking an investigation of state GOP Chairman Ed Cox.

Kennedy in a letter to Joint Commission on Public Ethics Chairman Daniel Horwitz called for the probe after Cox gave a speech critical of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s hesitation on permitting high-volume hydrofracking in New York.

Kennedy in the letter noted that Cox has financial ties to the the natural gas industry.

But in a statement Thursday afternoon, Langworthy comes to Cox’s defense.

“Tim Kennedy has demonstrated just how out of touch he is with the hardworking people of Western New York,” Langworthy said in the statement. “Our State Republican Chairman Ed Cox has been admirable in his full, voluntary public disclosure of his ties to Noble Energy, a successful company that has no stake in New York State. Tim Kennedy should spend less time grabbing cheap political headlines and sound-bytes and more time worrying about jobs for Western New Yorkers. Erie County residents want more jobs and economic development. They showed that on Tuesday by electing Republicans across Erie County — including electing a Republican Majority to the County Legislature for the first time in 36 years.”

Siena: Cuomo Under 50 Percent; Pro-Casino Ballot Wording Works

Today’s Siena poll is a mixed bag for Gov. Andrew Cuomo, bringing him good news about the constitutional amendment on casino gambling (not to mention his manipulation of the ballot amendment wording on the subject), but bad news about his own job approval and favorability ratings.

For the first time ever, Cuomo’s job performance rating has slipped just below the magic 50 percent number – a development that comes as he prepares to seek re-election next fall.

Cuomo saw a slight drop in his favorability rating, a small drop in his “re-elect” number, and a small drop in his job performance rating, bringing him to his lowest level – 49-50, down from 52-46 percent in August – since he took office in January 2011.

The governor is viewed favorably by 64 percent of voters and unfavorably by 32 percent (down slightly from 65-30 percent in August).

He has a 49-50 percent job performance rating (down from 52-46 in August).

Fifty-two percent say they are prepared to re-elect him, while 39 percent would prefer someone else (down from 55-35 percent last month).

Cuomo is still doing well (60 percent) among Democrats and New York City voters are prepared to re-elect him, but a plurality of Republicans and independents and a majority of upstaters say they’d prefer someone else in the executive mansion.

When it comings to casino gambling, New Yorkers remain evenly divided at 46-46, down from 49-42 last month, on whether to allow the expansion of non-Indian run gaming facilities across the state.

But, when given the specific wording of the amendment on the ballot in November, which plays up the job growth and property tax reduction possibilities of more gambling, voters changed their tune.

Fifty-five percent said they would vote “yes” on that amendment, compared to 42 percent who said they would not.

“Clearly, the wording on the ballot for the casino amendment matters,” Siena pollster Steve Greenberg concluded.

Also, a small majority of voters said they think the amendment is fairly worded, although that depends in part on whether the voters were pro or anti-casino expansion in the first place.

For the first time in nearly two years, more New Yorkers (46-43) believe the state is heading in the wrong direction than those who believe we’re on the right course.

On the controversial question of fracking, the largest plurality ever in a Siena poll has said “no” to the natural gas drilling technique, with 45 percent opposed and 37 percent in favor.

Heading into the 2014-15 budget season, voters say by a 53-41 percent margin they would rather see an increase in state spending in areas such as education than a broad-based tax cut.

However, three-quarters of voters believe a state income tax cut in next year’s budget is at least somewhat important.

And last but not least, some not-so-fabulous news for former Gov. Eliot Spitzer if he was perhaps mulling another comeback attempt – maybe a run at state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli? – after he failed NYC comptroller bid this fall.

At least 62 percent of voters from every region of the state and every party agree that Spitzer should leave his political aspirations on the shelf next year and refrain from seeking statewide office, although he does continue to have a reservoir of support (more than 40 percent) among black and Latino voters.

Siena poll, Sept. 30 by embenjamin2001

Siena: Gov’t Is A Mess, But Cuomo’s Numbers Stop Sliding

The latest Siena poll contains some head-scratching results.

On the one hand, half of New Yorkers agree with Gov. Andrew Cuomo when he says state government is working again.

But when asked how they feel about the government in light of the recent series of public corruption scandals, only 26 percent said it’s working effectively, compared to 67 percent who said it is becoming more dysfunctional every day.

A vast majority of poll respondents – 88 percent – believe more arrests of legislators are on the horizon. That’s up from 81 percent last month.

A plurality of voters – 41 percent – said passing laws to address corruption should be the top end-of-session priority.

Addressing the governor’s Women’s Equality Agenda came in a distant second at 21 percent, with more than twice as much support from women as from men, followed by public campaign financing at 15 percent and the casino amendment at 13 percent.

All this turmoil has, oddly, been good for Cuomo’s favorability rating, which had fallen incrementally in each of the last four months.

According to this poll, Cuomo’s numbers – both approval and re-elect – have edged up a little, while his job performance rating remains identical to last month.

Cuomo now has a 64-32 favorability rating, up slightly from 62-33 percent last month.

Fifty-two percent say Cuomo is doing an excellent or good job as governor, and 47 percent say he’s doing only a fair or poor job. That’s unchanged from April.

Fifty-five percent say they are prepared to re-elect Cuomo, while 36 percent would prefer someone else – up from 53-39 in April.

Support for a casino gambling constitutional amendment, 53-37 percent, is the highest it has ever been. This makes some sense, given the amount of attention given to the Cuomo administration-Oneida Indian Nation deal struck last week.

On fracking, 39 percent of voters say they’d like to see drilling move forward, while 41 percent are opposed. The numbers last month were 45 percent opposed, 40 percent in favor.

Statewide, 57 percent of New Yorkers support the idea of a taxpayer funded campaign finance system, (in other words, using public dollars to match donations to candidates while also lowering contribution limits).

More than 60 percent of Democrats and independents support creation of a public system, while Republicans are evenly divided.

SNY May 2013 Poll Release — FINAL-1 by embenjamin2001

New York vs. Texas On Morning Joe

Daily News columnist Bill Hammond isn’t alone in questioning the tax-cutting, business-friendly New York claims the Cuomo administration has been making in its latest TV ad campaign.

“Morning Joe” host Joe Scarborough isn’t buying it, either. Consider this exchange between the former congressman and one of the show’s frequent commentators, Steve Rattner, which took place earlier today. (Rattner was on with Texas Monthly editor Erica Grieder, who just wrote a book on the Lone Star State’s booming economy).

The moment in question comes shortly after the three-minute mark in the video below. Here’s the transcript, compliments of CapTon’s Bryan Terry:

Joe: “By the way I saw a New York commercial, Steve Rattner, New York State talking about New York open for business, we’re cutting taxes, we’re cutting regulations.”

“And let me tell you something, I hope you’re shaking your head because New York needs to cut taxes, they need to cut regulations they need to be more business friendly. It is stunning comparing New York to the state of Florida, that anybody comes to start a small business.”

Rattner: “But lets take a specific example that relates to Texas. And again we can debate whether it’s right or wrong. But New York has yet to allow fracking in upstate New York. There’s a ton of natural gas in New York state, across the border in Pennsylvania, they’re drilling and fracking it. New York has not issued regulations. Governor Cuomo has not made up his mind and obviously in Texas, they drill everywhere.”

Joe: “…Well, Steve, do you really think it’s a good idea that Andrew Cuomo is dragging his feet on natural gas exploration in New York? Because I can tell you, Texas loves the fact that New York is dragging its feet. Pennsylvania loves the fact they’re dragging. Do you think that’s a good thing?”

Rattner’s answer: No. But he was pressing Grieder on whether all of Texas’ success has come at the price of lax regulations that are taking a toll on the environment – especially when it comes to drilling.

Her short answer: No.

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