On April 2, 2010, NYS Assembly bill 10490 was referred to the New York Assembly’s Environmental Conservation Committee (EnCon). The Bill will establish a moratorium on gas drilling in New York State until 120 days after the Environmental Protection Agency releases its study of the gas industry and its impacts.
On April, 13, 2010, NYS Assembly Bill 10633 was referred to the Assembly’s EnCon Committee. The “home rule” bill will give local governments zoning control over where gas drilling can occur in their jurisdictions.
Two days later, April 15th, was a busy, busy day in New York gas news:
- New York’s gas extraction lobby, the Independent Oil & Gas Association (IOGA-NY) proposed to rescue “New York State’s environmental and parks budgets“ by drilling in New York’s protected park lands. IOGA-NY’s press release asserted, “New York State could raise more than $200 million in fiscal year 2010-11…” and urged, “expediting the auction of state land leases and the application approval process.” (According to Governor Patterson’s Budget Briefing Book, the current budget deficit is $3.2 billion and is expected to reach $6.8 billion in 2010-11, $14.3 billion in 2011-12 and by 2013, $20.7 billion.)
- Department of Environmental Conservation (NYS DEC) Commissioner Grannis admitted at a conference that his agency, which oversees gas extraction, is understaffed.
- At the same conference, “DEC Director of Mineral Resources, Bradley Field…[said] the entire process, including the issuance of [gas drilling] permits, would be finished in 2010.”
To ensure that New York taxpayers get a return on the billions of gallons of free water the gas companies use in gas extraction and to offset the possible contamination of State parks “which welcome “more than 55 million visitors each year,” (2009 Annual Report) Governor Patterson has proposed a 3% severance tax on some gas extraction companies. (Budget Briefing Book, pp 98-99). Unfortunately, the tax won’t be levied until 2011-12 and will garner only $1 million in revenues.
(By comparison, Texas’ 2007 severance tax on the gas industry was 7.5% and produced $2.76 billion in revenues. Mayor Tillman of DISH, TX assured an audience in Callicoon, NY,
“We don’t have a state income tax in Texas. We have the severance tax on the gas companies. It’s good for a lot of reasons. The tax is paid by volume on the gas so if you’re leasing, you’ve got a measurement of how much your wells are producing. It’ll tell you how much gas is coming out of the ground and how much money you should be getting.” (A previous Breathing article, referenced a court judgment that found Chesapeake had defrauded royalty owners in Texas out of $134 million in payments by under-reporting the amount of gas Chesapeake extracted from its lessor’s wells.) Tillman continued to tout the benefits of enacting a severance tax, “Do you have enough inspectors in New York? A severance tax could pay for that, too.” Then, looking out over the audience, he asked, “How are the roads holding out around here?” When the audience groaned and laughed, he said, “A severance tax can fix that.”
Although IOGA-NY’s April 15th press release expressed concern for the terrible state of New York’s finances, the gas lobby continues to oppose a severance tax while urging lawmakers to entrust the State’s public lands to them for $200 million.
Despite the industry’s offer, Texas’ annual severance tax of 7.5% sounds like a better deal than the 3% proposed by Governor Patterson or our $200 million share in their multi-billion dollar profits; especially since the DEC (dSGEIS, Chapter 9, page 6) estimates, “… 2,000 wells per year ± 25% in the New York Marcellus play.”
Two thousand wells per year? Only 29 new DEC staff (Budget Briefing Book, page 53) to oversee billions of gallons of toxic fracking fluids and radioactive waters produced by the fracking process? Billions of dollars of gas company profits on the backs of New York State’s taxpayers and our parks and water resources? Billions of gallons of our water used in fracking operations for free? And the gas lobby believes we can be bought off with a $200 million mosquito bite out of our multi-billion dollar deficit?
Email, call or write your Assembly and Senate members and tell them to support a Moratorium and local control over the siting of gas wells in our communities. (Assembly member Aileen Gunther has already signed on to both bills.) Call your friends and neighbors. Email them this article so they know what’s at stake. And then, write letters to the editors of your local newspapers. Spread the word any way you can. The gas lobby has the money. We have the votes.
Get busy and we can do the other thing Mayor Tillman suggested, “Get it right. Learn from the mistakes made in DISH, TX.”
DISH, TX…where new studies have revealed that not only were the air and water contaminated by the gas industry, but so were the people.
And look again at the April timeline above. The gas lobby has drawn a bead on elected representatives who are working for community rights, Home Rule and studies of hydraulic fracturing. Is the lobby worried New York residents and taxpayers will vote for the health and welfare of New York and against gas company profits and a few pieces of silver?