Thursday, December 1, 2011

NYDEC Hydrofracking Hearing One BIG Dog and Pony Show

Wanted to hold off on this article until the hearing down in New York City was held yesterday. If I were to adhere too Thumper's sage advice, "If you can't say something nice, don't say nothing at all" this article would end right here. The natural gas industry, and the New York DEC should both be ashamed of themselves.

I arrived at the Sullivan County Community College campus a little after ten in the morning, the rain pouring from the sky in buckets. First thing I noticed, was the Natural Gas Industry had spent a LOT OF MONEY trying to stack the deck at the hearing, thinking one might guess that might makes rights. They had a white event tent set up, had BUSED IN scads of bodies, and were feeding them all breakfast. There was a portable bill board truck parked in a highly visible fashion shouting out their propaganda for all to see. Parking my car, got my camera and starting taking pictures until several large burly UNION MEN said, "You're not welcome ASSHOLE". As Snagglepuss used to say, "Exit stage right even", and that is exactly what I did, snapping a few more pictures before retreating to the safety of my car.

Sure some will want to know how it is that I knew these men were union men...first, that has for decades been a tactic employed by large corporations at hearings of this nature. They routinely use union members who are beholden to them for a paycheck to create artificial support of their positions. Secondly, one of the union members at the public hearing was at this hearing, and he told me flat out he was there because his UNION told him to be there...privately, this man is against fracking, but at the hearing, he was there to be a supporter of Hydraulic Fracturing because he was ordered to be. Can hear some of you going WTF...even worse, every regulatory agency in America sworn to protect human health and the environment knows this too be true, but they turn a blind eye to the reality in front of their eyes, and let these Union workers provide statements of support that become a part of the PUBLIC RECORD...perhaps that explains why said hearings NEVER TAKE SWORN STATEMENTS.

I parked my car in a more appropriate space, and made the hike to the hearing in the pouring down rain, wrongfully assuming that once at the building I could come in out of the rain...WRONG. Even though there was a perfectly good and dry building there in front of all of us, and even though the hearing was in a theater that had a SEPARATE SET OF DOORS, the DEC did not want any of us inside the, they had a large police presence BLOCKING THE DOOR, making all of us stand outside in a TORRENTIAL RAIN STORM for almost two full hours, finally letting all of us drown rats into the building at just after noon.

Even worse...which most of us did not know until we were inside the building, is that the NYDEC had DELIBERATELY CHOSEN a auditorium that only sat 250 people. Imagine standing in line in torrential rain for over two hours only to be told, "Sorry, you cannot go into the auditorium, as we are at capacity...HOW CONVENIENT.

In the meantime, some shrew from the NYDEC came outside and selectively started giving out cards...if you were fortunate enough to receive one of these cards, you were (supposedly) guaranteed a chance to make a comment on the public record at this hearing. They had figured out just how many people they would be able to hear in the three hour afternoon hearing, and handed out cards based on that number...problem is, once the hearing started, once all the public officials were heard, once some more public officials showed up later, but allowed special privileges, it became obvious that not everyone who had been given a card was going to get a chance to speak. Something was going to have to give, including FAIRNESS...the person in charge of the cards started doing some shuffling of the deck, started some picking and choosing as they selectively started choosing who the last speakers would be, leaving the rest on the table, our voices silenced.

How do I know this...I was one of those tossed aside, one of the voices who would not be heard from in the afternoon session. Seeing what was going on, I went out into the hall to make a formal inquiry with the staff...I was told, "Sorry, but we just are not going to be able to get to everyone, but you can submit written comments instead if you would like."

I made what I thought was a reasonable suggestion...since I filled out the card, since I stood out in the rain for almost two hours to have that chance, wouldn't it make sense to let the 26 of us who stood out in the rain be the first speakers at the EVENING HEARING? They found that totally unacceptable, told me that the evening session was a completely SEPARATE HEARING, and if I wanted to speak at that session, I needed to go back outside (in the rain) and stand online again, get a NEW CARD, fill it out and then and only then could I have a second chance to speak.

Now, while we were having this discussion, another member of the staff had run off and showed back up with a POSSE of uniformed officers who SURROUNDED ME IN A VERY MENACING MANNER, one of they tapping me on the shoulder and suggesting it might be wise if I took the NYDEC direction, and went outside to wait in line in the rain. I had made no threats, had not used a single vulgarity, yet found myself surrounded by some six GUN WIELDING POLICE OFFICERS, some of them I am sure equipped billy clubs and mace...I excused myself, and went outside into the rain to wait for a SECOND CHANCE to fill out a card so that my voice could be heard.

In the hearing itself, several things became very clear.

Despite their best efforts to stack the deck, it was obvious that those supporting Hydraulic Fracturing were out numbered...they had succeeded in having ten from their side first in line, so once the politicians had spoken, they got to speak their voice first. Funny thing though...the ANTI's (that is the label assigned us by those in the Natural Gas industry) actually had our concerns expressed quite eloquently by the elected officials...all but one of them making it very clear that they OPPOSED FRACKING, end of story.

Those that spoke in favor of fracking all had very vested interests in seeing Hydraulic Fracturing moving forward here in New a one, they were either landowners who had already sold out to the industry, and were waiting to reap the financial benefits, or they worked in the industry.

Those who were landowners had pretty much one rally cry, "Frack Baby FRACK" and one could almost see Sarah Palin leading the chant after wrapping herself in the red, white and blue. The industry folks were very dull and droll, delivering canned remarks all aimed at seeing the document under review GREATLY WEAKENED, their primary coal to greatly decrease or even eliminate the set backs that do not go far enough in protecting our water and environment.

The judge was an anorexic looking woman of pursed lips who seemed to spit her words out at us, relishing in her authority. Even though she works for the DEC, regularly interacts with other departments in the DEC, dines with them, stays in the same hotels with them, she went to great lengths to present herself and her department as being fully independent, and capable of making a unbiased decision on all the facts as presented to herself, and her staff...question there Ms. Judge lady, "If, as your words stated, you are so unbiased how is it that you never once told us to behave when the Pro Hydraulic Fracturing members in the audience made noise or applauded, but always called our side on the carpet when we did the same?"

For the record, this same unbiased adjudicator of the facts not only corrected and chastised one side, but went so far as to bring in the police to remove one of our sides members for doing nothing more than dozens of Pro Hydraulic Fracturing citizens had done throughout the much for unbiased.

It was obvious that most people at these hearings are opposed to fracking, or oppose it until it can be done safely. It was obvious that everyone, including all but one politician want a comprehensive assessment done...something we should as stakeholders be entitled too, but something both the DEC and the Natural Gas industry are opposing...uhhh...curious here why the DEC and the industry would opposed a study that would show us the FULL PICTURE? Could it be, that by compartmentalizing the entire process, by segregating the various and assorted risks you can find a way to justify allowing FRACKING, but by doing a comprehensive study, showing New Yorkers the FULL AND TRUE COSTS of the entire process you know that drilling WOULD NEVER OCCUR in the Marcellus Shale? Come on Ms. Judge Lady, you can tell me, I promise to keep it a secret....who paid you and the DEC off? We know they have bought Governor Cuomo off, and guessing here that a backroom deal has been struck between the DEC and the Natural Gas industry as well.

In the evening hearing, one of the first speakers was an industry paid hack by the name of Tom who spoke in favor of weakening the already weak regulations. I would strongly encourage every elected official in Sullivan County to contact YNN. Get a copy of the video, and listen to this mans opinions on our county. His words alone should convince you that FRACKING SHOULD NEVER BE ALLOWED IN OUR COUNTY....Tom is a MAJOR PLAYER in the Hydraulic Fracturing industry, and he made it so very obvious how much he LOATHES Sullivan County. He is the poster child for the Pro Hydraulic Fracturing crowd, was surrounded by his cronies, and if you listen to his words made ON THE RECORD, it should be pretty clear that they want to drill our county AT ALL COSTS, but hold NO RESPECT FOR that what we really want?

In the end, it was a typical DEC dog and pony show. They had and have no real interest in hearing our concerns, and will put no weight in them when the decisions is made(whoops...that's right, the decision has already been made). They hold these hearings as window dressing, it allows them to assuage their own guilt, allows them to pat each others backs as they smile and say,"See, we gave the little people their chance to be heard, now, lets go back to our hotel and order steak on the taxpayers dime."

In BREAKING FRACKING NEWS...another victory for OUR SIDE!

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On what was supposed to be the last day of public comment hearings on the Draft SGEIS, the Cuomo Administration's plan for fracking New York, it was announced that the deadline for submitting written comments on the Draft will be extended by another month, until January 11th.

This is our third big win in a month. Just a few weeks ago DEC Commissioner Martens announced that the DEC probably wouldn't be able to begin issuing drilling permits in 2012, and just last week the Delaware River Basin Commission temporarily dropped plans to adopt drilling regulations for the Basin.

All these delays are undoubtedly a response to the widespread and increasingly vocal opposition to fracking, but they are also evidence that even the highest levels of government are beginning to wake up to the unprecedented risks posed by high-volume fracking. Shortly before the DRBC cancelled plans to vote on regulations, Delaware Governor Jack Markell released a powerfully worded letter that made it clear he's unwilling to jeopardize the drinking water supplies of the residents of his state.