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Work has begun to replace the 150 year-old system that supplies water to the Village of Franklin.
Beginning in late September, streets were trenched 3 feet wide and 5 feet deep. Green PVC pipe was laid above the existing water mains. Two 10 inch pipes were laid from the well house along Otsego Street. From there, an 8” pipe was laid down Center Street with 6” pipes branching off down side streets of Institute, Maple, Water, Wakeman, Second, Third, and West.
New hydrants were connected to the new pipelines, finally providing sufficient pressure and volume in case of a structure fire. An additional hydrant was added next to the firehouse to allow the trucks to fill their tank. Next, the trenches were backfilled. The old pipes were left in place, but the old hydrants will be removed.
Then the crew began connecting individual services, each of which will get a new shut-off valve. Once that work was completed in mid-November, the trenches were paved.
Work was done by a crew of eight from LRS Excavating, Inc. from Lansing and Vacri Construction Corp from Binghamton.
Lines down Main Street will not be installed until spring. They will require digging-up the sidewalks because the NYSDOT does not want Route 357 disturbed.
A Gallery of Believe It Or Not
Our Delaware County Board of Supervisors has been taking care of business — and doing it their own way.
When they were offered presentations on gas drilling, our Supervisors heard one from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and one from the Independent Oil and Gas Association of New York. They refused to hear one from their own residents – they refused repeatedly.
When IOGA-NY sent a letter to Albany in support of drilling for gas in the Marcellus Shale, it was signed by many business groups that stood to profit. Our Supervisors signed on — the only town or county government to do so.
When residents took their protests about the lack of representation on gas drilling to the Delhi village square outside a scheduled meeting of the Board, our Supervisors abruptly canceled the meeting rather than talk with their constituents. Chairman Eisel claimed that the meeting was canceled due to a lack of business – an unprecedented excuse.
When New York City succeeded in getting from the State special protection from drilling pollution for their drinking water, our Supervisors demanded “reparations from the City and State for the mineral rights taken … of $81.3 billion to be paid over 60 years plus millions in real property tax revenues and lost employment opportunities;” or over $28,000 per year for each man, woman, and child living in Delaware County. (The Board was more likely to get the City to stock their reservoirs with mermaids.) Resolution No. 40 was passed by the votes of 12 out of 19 Supervisors – including Franklin Supervisor Don Smith.
When the controversial Constitution Pipeline was proposed, a letter was sent in the name of our Supervisors to become an intervener at the urging of Chairman Eisel and Commissioner of Watershed Affairs, Dean Frazier. This “motion to intervene” was premature, made months before the project was even filed with the federal government. This was a waste of the lawyer’s time and our money — not our usual county lawyer but Watershed’s high-priced Albany lawyer.
When it was revealed that the question of supporting the pipeline had never been brought before the Board, Resolution No. 149 to support that letter was filed on the usual short notice. This resolution was passed by votes 14 out of 19 Supervisors — weeks after the letter was sent
Elected officials have the obligation to collect the facts, listen to their voters, obey the rules, and act sensibly.
The proposed 2013 budget for the Town of Franklin is $1.83 million. Subtracting the $0.29 million in expected revenues and a balance from last year of $0.26 million, the amount to be raised through property taxes is to be $1.27 million. Compared to last year, this will result in an increase in property taxes of $0.027 million or approximately $27,000 thousand.
This is an increase of 2.6%, but the Town is not required to waive the 2% tax cap because one third of this raise (0.9%) is for our contribution to the state mandated New York State retirement system, which is not counted towards that cap.
Most of this increase, $26,570, is for Highway Department medical insurance ($13,724), state retirement ($9,586), and social security ($260).
Raises are proposed for some town officials: Highway Supervisor ($1,000), Deputy Fiscal Officer ($515), Justice ($500), Assessor ($500), Clerk ($500), and Health Officer ($50), which totals $3,065. Some of these increases are offset by a small increase in expected revenues.
This $1.83 million is distributed among highway 69.2%, general expenses 18.9%, fire district 10.5%, and Treadwell water and light 1.4%.
The final 2013 budget may differ slightly from this. It was voted for immediately after the annual public hearing on Tuesday November 13th, which was after this issue went to press.
The reconstruction of the intersection of Routes 28 and 357 in North Franklin is scheduled for 2015 with a budget of $850,000. This is a year later and $50,000 more than was projected a year ago. NYSDOT has not yet made the choice between a roundabout and a T-intersection.
Sketches of the two alternatives are in The New Franklin Register Vol. V, No. 3 (#15). A second presentation on the project is expected in Franklin. A public information meeting will be preceded by letters to stake holders and a news release to the media.
Oil & Gas Pollution in New York State
Eventually the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) will release the final Supplemental GEIS, which will include guidelines for the safe horizontal drilling and fracturing of black shales. If and when drilling and fracking come to Franklin, will the DEC assure that it is done safely? If past is prologue, then the DEC’s record should predict their future success or failure.
In New York State, existing regulations for the DEC’s Division of Mineral Resources (DMN) are antiquated and inadequate, most having been written in 1972.
In 1992, the Generic Environmental Impact Statement (GEIS) on the Oil, Gas, and Solution Mining Regulatory Program included the first set of guidelines for safe drilling. The DMN did not see the need for such guidelines, and only began this study after being compelled to by the passage of State Environmental Quality Review Act. Even with the study completed, the DMN under Director Sovas repeatedly failed to codify these guidelines through regulations. Instead of uniform and transparent statewide regulations, DMN uses a changing list of conditions attached to each individual permit to drill, and available only at regional offices or through a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request. One draft of the GEIS regulations was obtained by this newspaper through FOIL, but only after an appeal, as described in Volume V, Number 3.
What of the claim that NYS already has the best regulations? Earlier this year, the International Energy Agency published a study Golden Rules for a Golden Age of Gas. In the Annex [appendix] of Regulation and Best Practice are examples of regulations from Pennsylvania, Colorado, EPA, Bureau of Land Management, Alberta (Canada), and Queensland (Australia) – but not a single regulation from New York.
The DEC planned to permit this new combination of horizontal drilling and high-volume fracturing without a SGEIS until compelled to by Governor Paterson. (In May of 2008, the Department claimed “Adequate state regulatory programs [are] already in place.”) The writing of the guidelines has overtaxed the DEC for more than four years, and even today there is much dissatisfaction with the quality and completeness of their work. Codifying these guidelines and enforcing the resulting regulations will be a larger burden still.
The GEIS (1992) was long overdue. Contrary to claims that there has been no pollution of water from the estimated 75,000 oil, gas, and brine wells drilled in New York, there were numerous such reports. So many so that in 1981 and 1986, the DMN had to strengthen the requirements for the casing of these wells — the latter under the direction of the Commissioner of the DEC.
Regulations by the DMN for drilling of oil, gas, and brine have been a day late and a dollar short, with change coming only after pressure from outside.
The Pollution Record
It is unrealistic to expect perfection from any regulatory process. To make an informed decision on whether drilling is regulated enough, we need to know the record. Exactly how often does exploration and production (E&P) pollute aquifers? We do not know because the DMN withholds this information.
Since 1985, DEC has compiled reports of all sorts of spills. Among these hundreds of thousands of spills, there are hundreds of oil, gas, and brine spills, but the Division of Mineral Resources does not list them separately. In 2009, a search by Toxics Targeting found 270 such reports, and in 2011, 72 more. The map below shows the more significant of these pollutions.
View Reported Oil, Gas, & Brine Pollution of Air & Water in New York State, 1983 to 2011 in a larger map
Map above shows oil, gas, and brine pollution of water and air in New York State, 1983 to 2011. Click on link below map to see details of reported pollution.
Unlike DEC spill reports, DMN non-routine incident reports are unavailable even through a FOIL request. Also, in the three western counties where most of the drilling has occured, complaints of polluted water wells are reported to county departments of health and these do not make it into state records. Included on the map are some incidents from files of Chautauqua Department of Health from the 1980s and 2000s.
The DMN Annual Reports contain no listings of spills, non-routine incidents, or county reports. What is more, the DMN maintains numerous searchable databases related to drilling, but none on spills and non-routine incidents, despite the fact that these risk-based data management systems were funded by DOE through the Ground Water Protection Council expressly to protect and conserve ground water resources.
The Record of Enforcement
The DMN provides even less information on their enforcement record. Typically, spill records are closed before enforcement actions are completed. County departments of health refer incidents of pollution to the DMN for enforcement. But the enforcement records of DMN non-routine incidents are also unavailable.
Fines imposed by the DMN could tell something about pollution incidents and enforcement. However, DMN Annual Reports cite the total of fines but list neither the companies fined nor their infractions nor the sites effected. (And the fines themselves are minor: typically a few tens of thousands of dollars each year, on an industry that grosses hundreds of millions of dollars annually.) The DMN does everything within its power to shield the oil and gas industry from scrutiny.
Some complaints of polluted water wells became so publicized that the DEC could not ignore them. In one such case, back in 1983, the Short family’s sump exploded in Levant, Town of Poland, Chautauqua County. During the preceding two years, a dozen gas wells were drilled in the hills above, including a few less than a mile away. A consulting hydrologist concluded “the natural gas in [sic] at the Short’s property … is being caused by activities associated with gas well drilling and production.” The DEC wrote three reports on this polluted aquifer, which affected fourteen other families. In the first, it proposed that the source of the pollution was land-fill gas. Later, analyses identified the gas as from shales. Also, the DEC suggested that the pollution was not caused by work at neighboring gas wells, but from the Blue Mountain earthquake in the Adirondacks, over 270 miles away. Saying that it was unable to “pin-point the source of the problem,” the DEC took no action.
Twenty years later, little had changed. In 2007, the Feruggia family’s well in Kiantone, Chautauqua County, began pumping water that tasted salty, stained fixtures brown, and intermittently smelled of hydrogen sulfide. Two years earlier, the Eckman 7-468 gas well was drilled 330 feet uphill of their home. Analyses of their drinking water showed high concentrations of TDS [total dissolved solids], sodium, chlorine and barium. Chautauqua County Department of Health identified the cause of this pollution as gas production, but a subsequent report by the DEC disagreed. Geologists at US Geological Survey and SUNY Fredonia Department for Geosciences reviewed the two reports, and both agreed with CCDoH that this required further investigation. The DEC took no action.
These two are the best documented, but they are not isolated incidents. A review of reports on polluted water wells show repeated attempts to disregard or explain away pollution. In the final report on Levant, the DMN admits that “some cases [are] attributable to gas wells.” But it does not list any of these industrial pollutions. while in the same report listing several naturally occurring pollutions.
A case of industrial pollution that the DMN cannot deny was in 1996. In the Town of Freedom, Cattaraugus County, the water wells of the Lewis family and others were polluted by gas from the K.C. Powell et al 1 oil well — over a mile away. The several plaintiffs were awarded damages by the NY Supreme Court, County of Cattaraugus.
It should be clear that current oil and gas regulation in New York State is insufficient, that pollution is significant, and that enforcement is deficient.
Can horizontal drilling and fracking be safely regulated in New York? Given its flawed oversight of the relatively simple vertical drilling, this is something that the Division of Mineral Resources has yet to demonstrate.
For full details of the FOIL request, see Freedom of Information Law request – FOIL 11-1415.
The preferred route for the Constitution Pipeline (PF12-9) runs through 10 miles of Franklin. Your opinion on the content of the Environmental Impact Statement to be drafted by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission can be made until Friday November 9th. Written comments can be made by e-mail at:
or by US Mail at:
Kimberly D. Bose, Secretary
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
888 First Street, NE, Room 1A
Washington DC 20426
Testemony can be made in person at the hearing in the atrium of the Foothills Preforming Arts & Civic Center, Market Street, Oneonta on Wednesday the 24th of October from 7 to 10 pm. Written comments on any other aspect of the project can be made until the project is formally filed, possibly in January 2013.