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Why Fracking is Not Green Energy

Click here to read Anthony Ingraffea’s July 28 New York Times Op-Ed.  The Cornell professor and longtime oil and gas engineer puts it country simple for anyone—including President Obama—who says high volume horizontal fracturing creates “clean energy.”

Urban Land Institute Sponsors Pro-Fracking Event

While a ban against high-volume horizontal fracturing in New York State remains in place pending more research into environmental and health effects, the Independent Oil and Gas Association (IOGA) sent this letter to Governor Cuomo on Monday, calling for his help in pushing their fracking agenda. From the plea, signed by IOGA Executive Director Brad Gill:

“The science is in. The public can be assured that exploration for natural gas in New York is – and has been – safe, good for our environment and for our economy. Our New New York must now join the nation and embrace the expansion of responsible natural gas development. We need your help.”

The letter is “respectfully submitted” on behalf of over 200 companies identified as members of IOGA of NY. Among them, Ecology & Environment (E&E), the local consulting firm that was hired by the state in 2011 to produce a report on the economic impact of fracking—if the practice were to be allowed in New York. The DEC touted the positive numbers subsequently produced by E&E, while environmentalists criticized the lack of scope in the study. Read about it here.

Meanwhile, the logo of the Urban Land Institute of Western New York has been affixed to “Hydrofracking: An Informational Presentation,” scheduled for Wednesday (4/24) at 6pm at the Hotel Lafayette. This event is sponsored by EnergyMark, LLC; Lumsden & McCormick, LLP; and Palmerton Group “A Division of GZA.”

All three event sponsors were among those companies that signed on to IOGA’s letter to Cuomo. Gary Marchiori, the president of EnergyMark, is one of the speakers at the event. EnergyMark was awarded a contract last April Fool’s Day to sell fracked natural gas from Pennsylvania to six State University of New York campuses—as fracking remained illegal in New York. We wrote about it here.

Miche C. Needham, CPA, Principal at Lumsden McCormick is another one of the speakers. According to the event flyer, she specializes in oil and gas taxation.

As an added bonus, another speaker is Dennis Holbrook, Executive Vice President and Chief Legal Officer of Norse Energy Corp. Which is an impressive title, except for the fact that Norse Energy is in bankruptcy. Holbrook was famously caught bragging at a gas industry event in Houston, about how he bamboozled The Buffalo News—”a Warren Buffet-owned paper”—into writing pro-fracking editorials to influence public opinion in New York. Then, when Artvoice wrote about his hijinks, Holbrook’s son Ryan—also a lawyer at Norse Energy—began posting anonymous comments on our website, criticizing our coverage. When he was caught doing this, he refused to answer the phone. So we wrote about that. You can catch up on all the nonsense by clicking here, and then following the links therein.

Until last week, the third panelist at this “informational presentation” was Rita Yelda of Food and Water Watch and WNY Drilling Defense, who was being offered ten minutes to begin the show.

Yelda was invited to speak by Holly A. Akers, Project Engineer at Benchmark Turnkey—a firm that offers Environmental Engineering, Construction and Site Management according to its website. When asked about the event last week, Akers explained that she was a member of the Urban Land Institute. When asked if there was a membership list for the Urban Land Institute WNY, she explained that there was a local list, but that it was password-protected—accessible by ULI members only. She said she was not sure why that was, and explained that the NYC group of ULI was “more serious” than the western New York affiliate.

Apparently, ULI NYC isn’t “serious” enough to get ULI WNY’s web page fully up and running. See here. ULI WNY does have a facebook page with 161 likes.

She said the “mentor” of the western New York affiliate of ULI was David Stebbins, Vice President of the Buffalo Urban Development Corporation, which specializes in urban brownfield redevelopment. Stebbins also declined to share the membership list of the local ULI affiliate, saying that policy was dictated by ULI in NYC. When it was pointed out how lopsided the panel was for this “Informational Presentation,” Stebbins asked for suggestions on who else could join Yelda in expressing environmental concerns in regard to fracking. This was last Friday, five days before the event. Apparently, the anonymous local branch of ULI doesn’t know many environmentalists.

Akers described the ULI of Western New York as a “group of younger professionals, 30 to 35” years old. “Our group is made up of a lot of real estate professionals and developers. We have people from Uniland and Savarino. It’s not so much a political statement as it is a real estate perspective on a controversial topic.” She said that Marchiori, for example, would be “trying to stay neutral on the topic,” even though his company has a vested interest in fracking New York.

Akers also said that Holbrook would be speaking to the pro-side of fracking. As if he is geared to do anything else. She was aware that his company is in bankruptcy. “The reason we’re using him is more for informational purposes. We need someone to speak ‘pro’.”

“Urban Land is an educational Institute and what we try to do is put on, for local members, events that we think would be informative,” said Stebbins last Friday, “we do stuff on real estate projects. A lot of it is done by individuals like Holly in this case, who put a program together—she’s in one of our young leader groups.” Urban Land “isn’t taking a position on this at all,” he added.

Then, on Monday, Stebbins said that they had chosen Don Duggan-Haas of the Paleontological Research Institution (PRI) to help balance the lopsided panel. Here is an example of his work:

We believe that the Marcellus cannot be understood in isolation and are striving to not only provide evidence-based understanding with as little bias as possible (that is, we will not advocate for or against drilling in the Marcellus Shale), but also help our audiences to investigate deeper questions than the question many in the Ithaca-area are initially drawn to. Residents justifiably focus on the question: Is this bad for the environment? Without contextualization, the answer is invariably “yes.” A more appropriate context-dependent question might be, “Is this better or worse for the environment than what we are doing now, or might reasonably do in the near future, to meet our energy needs?”

A noted anti-fracking lawyer commented that “PRI is a decidedly pro-industry organization in my opinion—although they would say they were neutral.”

This is how ULI WNY provides another environmentalist voice on the panel?

No one at ULI NYC has returned calls since last Thursday. On Monday, after sending several emails to ULI NYC as well as the main ULI office in Washington, DC, two email responses arrived. The first, from acting Executive Director of ULI NYC Stephanie Wasser, reads as follows:

I believe you did speak with Dave  Stebbins who returned your call. I am in meetings today and tomorrow in Philadelphia and Dave leads the Buffalo satellite. I am happy to discuss ULI, its mission, and it’s policy re: keeping its members contact information private. If you would like to attend the program on May 2 we can help you register, and I am available on Wednesday to speak with you.

I replied that I did not ask Stebbins for members’ contact information. I simply wanted to know who they were. She has not replied to that. I also have no idea what event she’s referring to on May 2.

Later yesterday, I received this email from Trish Riggs, Vice President for ULI Communications in DC:

Hi Mr.  Quigley,
I’m Trish Riggs, vice president of global communications for the Urban Land Institute. I understand you had a question about a program being hosted this week by ULI Western New York. This is one of thousands of events on topical land use and urban development issues that are hosted throughout the year by ULI and its district councils and national councils around the world. ULI programs include speakers representing a broad range of viewpoints; a speaker’s participation in any program does not suggest that the Institute endorses or supports a speaker’s view. Please note that you are welcome to attend the  April 24 event as a member of the media. I will contact the district council to confirm your complimentary registration.

It’s nice to see that as a member of the press I’ll be spared the $40 on-site admission charge to witness this dog and pony show. Click here to see the current list of attendees.

Amazing how many gas industry lawyers/lobbyists and real estate personnel can crowd into a room at the Hotel Lafayette to hear a presentation under the auspices of the Urban Land Institute, right here in Buffalo—which was the first urban area in New York State to ban fracking, back in 2011.

This whole affair is reminiscent of the hilarious local screening of the gas industry-funded movie Truthland at Buffalo State College last year. It also seems to be about as balanced as the ill-conceived Shale Resources and Society Institute that lasted briefly at the State University of Buffalo last year, until it collapsed under its own stupidity.



Click image for larger view

Click image for larger view



Groundhog Day

Fracking Groundhog Day


Courtesy Marquil at

UB & The Buffalo News—Bamboozled by Natural Gas Industry

Sharon Wilson once dreamed of getting rich like her north Texas neighbors who seemed to be driving out the gate in the morning in a beat up pickup, only to return in “new, fully loaded Dodge diesels wearing new 7x beaver hats.” She began to research the best way to reap the benefits of the mineral rights she owned while also preserving the surface of her Texas land. It became an enlightening journey, to say the very least. Along the way, she became known as a “fracking insurgent”—a label she proudly wears today. Click here to read her story, and take some time to explore her enlightening TXSharon blog.

Last Halloween, as fate would have it, she attended the “Media & Stakeholder Relations Hydraulic Fracturing Initiative 2011” in Houston. Her $1,299 admission to the two-day gas industry event was paid for by EARTHWORKS’ Oil and Gas Accountability Project. The event included senior industry speakers from Chesapeake Energy, Range Resources, EQT  Corporation, Cabot Oil & Gas, Encana Oil and Gas, and Norse Energy, among others. Wilson brought her tape recorder along to document the event.

Among the shocking things she took away from the conference was the way the gas industry labels anti-frackers “insurgents” and employs ex-military PSYOPS to do intelligence and work within communities to thwart opposition and further the industry mission. Click here Click the icon above to listen to Matt Carmichael (Manager of External Affairs, Anadarko Petroleum) advising attendees to download the US Army/Marine Corps Counter-Insurgency Manual to be prepared for the fight ahead. He also considers “Rumsfeld Rules” to be his bible. (You can also click here and scroll down to the Carmichael link.)

Another speaker, Dennis Holbrook (Executive Vice President of Regulatory and Public Relations, Norse Energy) was recorded sharing a number of tips on how the gas industry can better manipulate public opinion toward the gas industry cause. Here are some anecdotes he tells those in attendance about New York State, UB, and the Buffalo News:

“We consider New York a pretty significant battle ground so…we aren’t there yet. We have a Governor , I think, that believes this thing should probably move forward. And I’ll just give you a couple more quick observations—I made some notes to myself while these gentlemen were speaking. We talked about “don’t dump the media,” be an information source for them, develop a rapport, keep it simple, don’t let the opponents define the issue, make it your meeting rather than theirs because they keep it far too superficial, seek out academic studies and champion with universities—because that again provides tremendous credibility to the overall process. We tend to be viewed, as I said earlier, very skeptically. We’ve aligned with the University at Buffalo—we’ve done a variety of other activities where we’ve gotten the academics to sponsor programs and bring in people for public sessions to educate them on a variety of different topics. One last thing: The key in all this is to keep it credible. I’m gonna read you a quote to sort of finish up right here so we still have some time for Q&A. This is an editorial that showed up not too long ago. It says, ‘Life is about managing risks, with sensible protections. Hydrofracking includes certain inherent risks, but so does any exploration for oil or gas—which virtually all New Yorkers use. New Yorkers who insist on never taking any risks should not get into a car—though they could get hit by one while walking. Or, just stay in bed all day—risking bed sores.’ I like this quote, obviously. I pulled it out and bring it along with me. I’ve told some media folks: ‘You probably think that’s coming from somebody in the industry.’ What you might find sort of fascinating is to find out that this quote actually comes from the Buffalo News—which is a Warren Buffet owned paper, so it’s not known for being overly conservative. A year ago it endorsed the moratorium on hydrofracking. So this is a major turnaround for this paper. And we spent a good year and longer meeting with editorial boards, providing essays to the paper, and doing whatever we could to educate the reporters on a different perspective than what they’d been led to believe until now. So I view this type of turnaround as a major success story. And these are the type of areas that I think can have a tremendous amount of influence. It doesn’t matter whether they’re gonna throw a well in Buffalo or not. But the spread of that information out there has a tremendous impact on the politicians and the other folks that we ultimately have to bring around to understanding that we can do this safely.”

Click here Click the icon above to listen to Holbrook’s full talk at the event. The above quote emerges around the 10:30 mark. (You can also click here and scroll down to the Holbrook link.)

Good to see that the State University of New York at Buffalo and our daily paper, the Buffalo News, aren’t swayed by the arguments of corporate shills. Here’s one of Holbrook’s slanted essays the News published August 30,2010. Here’s another one of his they published July 20, 2011.

Norse Energy recently pulled offices out of the area and relocated back to Texas. ““What’s bad news for Buffalo is good news for Houston,” Holbrook said. Click here to read about that.


Olmsted Parks Conservancy Honors Pro-Fracking Lawyer

According to a press release received this morning, former Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy board chair David J. Colligan is being honored at the 10th annual Frederick Law Olmsted (FLO) Gala on Friday, July 13. Colligan also served as a co-chair of Re-Tree WNY, and is currently a board member of the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp, and chairman of the Outer Harbor Development Committee. 

“We are deeply appreciative of David’s dedication to the parks and to this community.  The impact of both his knowledge and his hard work will be evident in the parks and beyond for many, many years” said Thomas Herrera-Mishler, president & CEO for the Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy.

Now let’s look at Colligan’s day job. As a partner at Watson Bennett Colligan & Schecter LLP, he handles business related to oil and gas leasing, and has hosted a pro-fracking blog ( for the past several months. From the blog:

On April 17, 2012, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued regulations which include the first Federal air standards for natural gas wells that are hydraulically fractured.  The new regulations also have new requirements for several other sources of pollution in the Oil and Gas industry that currently are not regulated at the Federal level.  The final rule can be found at the following link:

             To individuals in New York State who hope someday to use their properties for oil and gas exploration utilizing hydraulic fracking, this new EPA rule can be viewed as good news.  New York has been gaining a reputation throughout the country as being too heavy handed in formulating their regulations with respect to hydraulic fracturing.  However, as is often the case in new, risky, and potentially dangerous activity, individual states tend to regulate the activities with a myriad of often overlapping and conflicting regulations.  In the past when this has happened, the Federal government steps in and begins passing regulations that apply to all industry participants.  This is the first example of an industry wide federal regulation being enacted with respect to hydraulic fracturing.  It’s reasonable to believe that new and different rules will be issued by the EPA.  The net effect of these new rules will be to make the New York State Regulatory scheme look less burdensome to the industry and therefore make New York State more attractive to future oil and gas exploration.  This blog will try to keep you up to date on developments as they occur.

He also spoke optimistically on the future of fracking in New York state in this Business First article from May 25, saying: “I think there’s a very good chance that we could be drilling the Marcellus here in New York by year-end.” He’ll be speaking at the Cornell University Cooperative Extension’s Landowner Liability Workshop on Saturday, September 29, 2012. With his experience in timber law, Colligan is also well suited to advise clients looking to sell their trees to clear space for the many work roads, pipelines, and well pads that will need to be constructed if New York lifts its current moratorium on high-volume horizontal fracking. 

On May 31 we sent Colligan an email asking why he thinks “there’s a very good chance that we could be drilling the Marcellus here in New York by year-end.” He did not respond.

Colligan is also quoted in a June 22 Business First story, along with John Martin, co-director of the widely criticized Shale Resources and Society Institute at UB.

This year’s swank FLO Gala is dubbed “One Golden Evening.” Guests will enjoy a memorable evening with cocktails, a gourmet dinner prepared by Magnolia Events, classic car rides, live musical entertainment by the Buffalo Swing and an exciting auction. The evening will be capped by a beautiful fireworks display, according to the press release. Watson Bennett Attorneys are listed as a sponsor of the event.

Click here to read all about this year’s soiree. Tickets are $175 per person.


Pop Quiz for New Yorkers: Is the Sky Pink?

Here’s a report from Rolling Stone about Josh (Gasland) Fox’s new short film, “The Sky is Pink?”

Natural gas wells leak, inevitably, over time. The casings degrade, crack, and the gas, etc., seeps into the groundwater.

Yet “He said, She said” journalism will leave readers with the understanding that the verdict is still out, and that a rational debate is raging among experts—some saying the sky is blue, and others saying the sky is pink.

Based on what you know, pick the best answer.

Your entire grade is riding on this one question. Pass or fail. So think hard, New Yorkers. Is the sky blue, or is it pink?

I know, it’s a lot of pressure. 







Click here for more hints.









3 Haiku


Courtesy Marquil at

Frack Addicts


Courtesy Marquil at

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