By Don Hebbard
New York State Real Property Tax Law [RPTL] Section 487, adopted in 1977, provides a 15-year real property taxation exemption for solar, wind, and farm waste energy systems. These energy generating systems are considered to be capital improvements to the real property, and received this exemption from taxation to encourage their construction. The Franklin Town Board has passed Local Law 2-2016, opting out of Section 487. This allows all residential, municipal, and commercial systems to be added to the real property tax base.
This idea to remove the NYS tax exemption was first proposed to the Delaware County Board of Supervisors. Every municipal entity (county, town, village) and all school districts will have to make a decision to continue the NYS exemption, or choose to “opt out.” For forty years, NYS has been offering incentives for residences, small businesses, schools, and municipalities to install solar and wind systems to reduce their energy bills, and often as a personal action to reduce greenhouse gas creation from burning fossil fuels. Continue reading…
Photos by Eugene Marner
We are all deeply embedded in a society that thrives by exploiting resources while polluting the environment. This is not something we can change overnight nor even in a few decades. Our industrial revolution developed within a history where scarcity was a certainty and abundance a rare blessing. This is still true for most of mankind but we, the fortunate benefactors of the plenty produced by the scientific innovations of the last couple of hundred years, are finally becoming aware, thanks to that same science, of the perils and the high price of the path we are on. We are learning that we can gradually slow the pace of our pillaging of earth’s riches — without going back to living in caves — by continually deepening our knowledge of the ways things work in nature.
So what can each of us do?
The Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company, LLC (TGP) plans to build in Franklin the mid-stream compressor and office buildings for the supply path segment of the Northeast Energy Direct Pipeline. For this facility, they have taken an option to purchase a hundred seventeen acres from the Haneys. This land is mostly north of (uphill of) the proposed route of the pipeline and east of Otego Road. It is two miles above the Village of Franklin and one mile above Village of Otego.
The compressor building would occupy a ten acre site close to the pipeline, which is near the southern boundary of this property. Access to the site would be from the existing road to the unfinished tower at the northern boundary. Plot plans are expected with the revised Resource Reports in July. In the building, a C85 compressor would be powered by a single 30,000 hp gas turbine, similar to a jet engine. This model Titan 250 is the largest made by Solar Turbines Inc. Every minute it will push a half million standard cubic feet of natural gas through a pipe thirty inches in diameter. Continue reading…
Bill Huston’s video of the DEC hearing in Oneonta is linked to here:
Jeff Taggart’s comments may be found in Part 1 of 4 at timecode 20:40.
See link to Playlist at upper left of video, you can skip to other parts from there.
If you don’t want to look at all four hours, you can scroll through the videos by dragging the button at the bottom of the screen and looking out for commenters you want to hear in the thumbnails that appear as you scroll.
For your convenience, I’ve also made a list of some commenters of possibly local interest together with the timecodes at which they spoke:
Jeff Taggart 20:40
Carole Marner 31:25
Gene Marner 34:40
Felix Bridel 37:30
Anne Marie Garti 54:15
Larry Bennett 57:15
Dennis Higgins 05:00
Rachel Soper 07:35
Ray Marsh 16:00
Loddie Marsh 17:55
Thomas Collier 28:00
Pete Bevilacqua 02:55
Linda Bevilacqua 08:20
Barbara Loeffler 15:10
Robert Nied 34:30
Craig Stevens 37:20
Stuart Anderson 45:35
Ron Bishop 03:00
Mike Stolzer 10:40
Keith Schue 20:05
Norm Farwell 23:15
Cathy McNulty 26:30
Julie Huntsman 29:50
Bill Huston 32:50
By Bob Miller
Chemical and oil companies, and businesses that genetically modify food claim they have the only solution to reversing the growing problems of world hunger. We at Enviro Energy think there is a better way, by bringing back the use of carbon (biochar) to the soil. I would like to tell you about what we have been doing towards this problem for the last six years.
By Mike Bernhard
Recently, fracking promoters in Afton circulated a reprint of a press release in the Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin. The headline, “Marcellus fee nets $22M for Pa. Counties,” intended to suggest that gas revenues flowing to local government would reduce the tax burden of homeowners here in Afton and/or provide funds for services that local authorities sought to provide their residents. That suggestion is a mirage.
First of all, the funds at issue are not taxes collected by the localities in question, but 40% of the “impact fees” collected by the state on a per-well basis, not on the well’s output. Pennsylvania is only one of two gas-producing states that does not impose a severance tax (a state-level tax based on the output of the well), which in other gas-producing states is available to fund education, health, infrastructure and other social programs. The other state without a severance tax: New York. Continue reading…
By Tom Martone
Members of the Delaware County Electric Cooperative (DCEC) interested in local green energy were in for a bit of a surprise when the cooperative announced in its Jan/Feb 2014 newsletter (PDF) that it was abandoning its long standing net-metering based agreement with its own members who had installed grid-tied member-owned distributed generation, such as rooftop or ground mounted solar systems or small residential wind turbines.
DCEC, which has about 5,200 members, is one of four small electric cooperatives in New York, founded in the early 1940s as part of the Rural Electrification Administration which brought electricity to unserved rural areas. The vast majority of New Yorkers are customers of investor-owned utilities, such as NYSEG and ConEd. Customers of investor-owned utilities in New York State who install distributed generation systems receive full credit at the retail rate for each kilowatt hour their renewable energy systems produce. This arrangement, called net-metering, has been in effect since 1998. In stark contrast, DCEC’s new member-owned distributed generation policy will credit members at the coop’s wholesale cost of energy, which is under 3 cents per kwh. As the energy flows back and forth across the meter, to and from the grid, the member loses much of the value of the energy produced by the system they have invested in as the energy is bought and sold throughout the day. The effect of this is so dramatic that several members’ yearly electric bill will more than triple under the new policy.
In fact, the new policy will virtually ensure that DCEC members will be unable to install economically viable solar and wind systems in the future.
DCEC CEO/General Manager Mark Schneider participated in a panel discussion closing out this year’s Delaware County Sustainable Energy Symposium at Delhi College in March. Some DCEC members, having spent the day at the symposium learning of many exciting advances in local renewable energy, wanted to know the rationale behind DCEC’s policy. They described the negative impact the policy change would have on members’ ability to add economically viable renewable energy generation to their homes. Those members were not satisfied with what they heard from their CEO/General Manager.
Since then, several members have been trying to get the CEO and the board of directors to reconsider the policy. They have attended board meetings, generally held on the fourth Tuesday of every month, and have spoken for their allotted five minutes about their concerns, trying to understand the cooperative’s position. At this point, the board seems fully committed to this policy, even though they have been made aware of its potentially negative effect on its own members and on the growth of local green energy in Delaware County.
Each year, the cooperative holds an annual meeting to elect directors to the board and vote on other issues. This year, three of the seven board seats are up for election. Perhaps changing the makeup of the board of directors is one way to coax the cooperative toward policies which promote clean energy, local economic development and enhanced resiliency on the cooperative’s electric grid.
This year the cooperative holds its annual meeting on Friday, September 19 at the Delaware Academy in Delhi. All members concerned about guiding the cooperative towards policies which support local green energy and economic development in Delaware County should seriously consider voting to install three new directors this year.
Members can also exercise their vote through the absentee ballot procedure. The first step is to obtain an absentee ballot by filling out a request form and sending it to the cooperative by August 20. You can find further details and a link to download the request form at
Tom Martone lives in Bovina, and is a member of the Delaware County Electric Cooperative. He says about 150 co-op members live in the Town of Franklin.
After repeated requests by the Franklin Town Board, Leatherstocking came to the May meeting to brief them on a possible natural gas distribution line to run from the proposed Constitution Pipeline through Franklin to industry in Fraser, Town of Delhi. (Both Morningstar Foods LLC and Clark Inc. could be large consumers of gas.) Probably this pipe would be low pressure ten-inch high density polyethylene, but medium pressure four-inch steel is an option. Either would be buried three to five feet deep.
Leatherstocking Gas Company LLC is a joint venture between Corning Natural Gas Corporation and Mirabito Holdings. It has started constructing distribution systems in the townships of Bridgewater and Montrose, Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania.
Mike German, president of Leatherstocking, showed two speculative routes. One would run 20.4 miles down County Highway 28 and State Highway 10 through North Franklin, Meridale, Meredith, and Delhi. The other would run 19.6 miles down Chamberlin Hill Road, State Highway 357, County Highway 14, and County Highway 16 through Leonta, Treadwell, and West Delhi. The latter is considerably different from the one shown last year to the councilmen of the towns of Delhi and Meredith, and to the trustees of the village of Delhi. That would have run down Otego Road to State Highway 357. Unlike the old, this new version does not go through the village of Franklin, and therefore to supply gas to the village a spur would have to be built from Leonta, a distance of 2.5 miles.
Leatherstocking does not have the power of eminent domain and would have to negotiate for all easements. It could gain that power by becoming a utility.
At the tap into the Constitution Pipeline (i.e. the station gate), there would be built a twelve foot by twelve foot utility building containing equipment to meter, reduce pressure, and odorize the gas. This distribution system would not require a compressor.
This distribution line is contingent on the construction of the Constitution Pipeline. Even if that is completed by March 2016, construction of this line would not begin until 2017 or 2018. Prior to the Franklin/Delhi line, Leatherstocking is planning to build distribution lines from Millennium Pipeline to Windsor and then from Constitution Pipeline to Sidney. Other possible service areas are Bainbridge and Unadilla.
Over the past seven years, The New Franklin Register has offered articles that attempted to help our readers to understand the relationship between energy supplies and the economy. In our issue in Spring of this year (NFR #22, Spring 2014), I laid out a brief history of energy use and tried to describe how fossil fuel energy became essential to our modern way of life. In this article, I’d like to bring the story up to date, with our present predicament.
We all know that we use a lot of energy, most of it derived from fossil fuels. Until now, it has been so abundant and easily available that we take it entirely for granted. We walk into a room and switch on the lights. That’s using electricity, much of which is generated by burning coal or methane gas. All our transportation of goods and people, all mining of resources, manufacturing of machinery and consumer products depend on diesel and other liquid fuels. Our workplaces are powered by fossil fuels; our vacations and amusements are powered by fossil fuels.
You see where I’m going with this: there is virtually no getting away from fossil fuel energy in our very energy-intensive lives – unless perhaps we go fishing. And even then, the fishing line is nylon (oil), the hooks are steel (coal), and the fishing tackle came to market in a truck (oil again). The fact that we cannot turn around without seeing or touching something that arrived courtesy of fossil fuels might explain most people’s reluctance to contemplate a life with ever less oil and other fossil fuels. It seems natural to think that things will continue as they have all our lives.
I have often written that the depletion of fossil fuels is not a matter of belief or technology but a question of geology. If you keep using something that comes out of the earth, eventually you use it up.
There’s another problem, however, and that has to do not with shortages of supply but with debt. In our system, money is not created by the government but rather loaned into existence by banks. The bank does not have the money it lends you; it creates that money out of thin air when you sign an agreement to pay it back – with interest. You, the borrower, create the real value of that money by going out and earning it at some productive task. The bank just collects the money you give them each month and pays bonuses to their executives.
In order for this system of money creation to function, there must be continual growth in the economy to produce the new wealth that the new money represents. But without growing our supply of energy, there can be no growth. Faced with the need to keep this precarious system functioning, everyone – producers, consumers, bankers, workers, governments – has resorted to ever increasing levels of debt, rolling over old loans into new loans. Lending standards are relaxed in order to allow the borrowing to continue as the real economy slows. Eventually the debt burden becomes so great that interest payments take up all the productive capacity of a society. When that happens, the bubble bursts, for no one will either lend or borrow. Government debt, corporate debt, student debt, credit card debt, underwater mortgages: we’re close to that point already.
How does the debt crisis affect energy availability? Leaving aside the urgent questions of climate change and environmental damage caused by fossil fuel extraction and use, let’s just pretend for a moment that using fossil fuels is not irreparably damaging our life support systems, so we can just drill, baby, drill. With the cheap and easily extracted fuels already gone, what remains is deep under the sea or trapped in deep rock formations that must be shattered at great cost by fracking to release the fuels. Deep-sea drilling rigs cost between one and three billion dollars each to build and as much as $500,000 a day to operate. That’s real money and must be financed.
At the same time, we’re trying to build so-called renewable energy systems. That means new infrastructure, new machines like wind turbines and solar panels. Factories must be built, ores mined and refined, equipment installed. All of that requires large amounts of energy and, equally, large amounts of financing.
Whether we’re talking about drill, baby, drill or so-called renewable energy, the debt burden is just too great. We can see the evidence in the world around us. The oil majors are all cutting back on exploration and new projects because the returns are not good enough to justify the investment. At the same time, the financial system is seizing up as it chokes on more debt than can be serviced. That leaves energy descent and contraction as our certain future, whether we choose to embrace it and try to learn to live simpler, less energy-intensive lives––or simply wait for collapse to arrive like a tsunami.
By Andy Bobrow
Here in Franklin and in the surrounding counties, contentious issues are being debated, and the outcome of these debates will have a profound impact on the quality of life in our communities for decades to come. Whether or not to permit gas production by hydraulic fracturing in the Marcellus Shale is one of these issues.
Another is the proposed construction of the Constitution Pipeline through the area. Both of these projects have sharply divided the region. Mirroring the polarized political climate of the nation as a whole, these debates are being driven by those with the strongest – and most divergent – opinions.
As concerned citizens, many of us are opposed to hydrofracking in the region and do not believe that the proposed pipeline serves the interests of those who live on its path. There are strong arguments to buttress our positions and we feel it crucial to press the fight to persuade our fellow citizens.
However, there are other citizens who believe that the potential economic benefits of these projects – to individuals, if not to the region as a whole – are powerful arguments in their favor. If we want to change the opinions of those who believe, rightly or wrongly, that their own economic wellbeing is aligned with either the pipeline or fracking, we need to understand their reasoning.
Everybody is familiar with the classic image of the three “wise” monkeys — see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil. But living in the real world means seeing and hearing things we would perhaps prefer to ignore, and occasionally saying things that others may prefer not to hear. Not listening to those with whom we disagree will not keep them from spreading their message. More important, it leaves us without the tools to refute their arguments or persuade them to change.
Persuasion is, after all, not something you do to people but something you do with them. It is a conversation, not a monologue. Arguments are not won by shutting down those with whom you disagree. They are won by changing minds.
Social judgment theory is one way that social psychologists explain how this process of persuasion works. The theory asserts that opinions and attitudes are rarely changed dramatically or instantaneously. Instead, persuasion is an incremental process.
People tend to compare what they hear or read about an issue to what they already believe, their “anchor” position. Arrayed around the anchor position are “latitudes” of acceptance, rejection, and non-commitment. The latitude of acceptance is the range of positions that are most likely to be welcomed or accepted. The latitude of non-commitment consists of positions about which an individual is neutral and the latitude of rejection is, not unexpectedly, those positions that an individual disagrees with most strongly. All of us tend to locate information within one of these latitudes when we receive it. Similarly, people tend to distort incoming information based on the anchor position they hold on that issue, what some like to call the “Fox News effect.”
So, for those of us who are trying to sway public opinion, what are the implications of this principle and how can we apply it to make our arguments resonate more strongly?
Quite simply, if you advocate positions that fall into the latitudes of rejection of your intended audience, you are not going to be persuasive. And one way we can determine just where these latitudes might fall is to listen to their arguments.
Our best chance of changing someone’s opinion, then, would be to advocate a position that falls within the latitude of non-commitment — even if it isn’t where you ultimately want them to end up. If you are coming from a position in the latitude of rejection, you won’t get too far, and might even cause them to cling to their anchor position more strongly. This means that persuasion takes place in a series of small movements. As we shift their anchor position ever so slightly, we are also shifting their latitudes of non-commitment and acceptance ever so slightly, which means that they will be a little more receptive to our next round of persuasion. The idea is to get people to open up to new ideas rather than cling to their preconceptions.
It is much easier to get someone to agree with you if they have already agreed with you on another point, so you can develop a pattern of “yes” responses. In effect, they get into the habit of agreeing with you. In our case, we might need to find another issue – separate perhaps from the pipeline or fracking and within their latitudes of non-commitment– upon which we can find a point of agreement. Our best chance to find that space is to start hearing them out.
Andy Bobrow is an assistant professor in the School of Media Studies at New School University and a lecturer at SUNY Oneonta.