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Entire contents © 2008 by the author(s) and Stuart Communications, Inc.
May 22, 2008
Copyright © 2008 Mid-Hudson News Network, a division of Statewide News Network, Inc.
|New York, Pennsylvania, share common concern over gas drilling|
HONESDALE PA – Catskill Mountainkeeper is taking its latest environmental battle across the river. The rapidly growing concern over the rapid influx of natural gas prospectors threatens the Delaware River, from both sides, says Mountainkeeper Program Director Wes Gillingham.
Speaking before a crowd of more than 500 in Honesdale, about 20 miles inside Pennsylvania from the Delaware River, Gillingham said there is little, now, that would stop gas wells from being drilled practically on the banks of the river. He adds there is little that restricts potentially devastating mining practices, anywhere the wells go.
If wells are to be a part of the scene, the concern is to make sure it is done in the least invasive way.
“They’re not going to do it if don’t make them do it that way. We have to … when I say ‘we’, I’m not just talking about Catskill Mountainkeeper, I’m talking about every individual landowner and resident of this region, really have to take control of this issue, and force best management practices. Landowners, too, can band together and choose not to sign leases, because it’s not worth the risk.”
Attorney Harry Weiss, of Philadelphia, representing a group of Wayne County property owners, agreed the National Park Service authority is generally restricted to the river itself, not adjacent properties. That point also conceded by Upper Delaware Council Executive Director William Douglas.
But Weiss does not see gas prospecting as all bad. “It has potential, if things are done right”, Weiss said. He urged partnerships between property owners contemplating signing leases with drilling companies.
Many of the people attending the more than two-hour session wanted little to do with unchecked natural gas extraction. Among the concerns voiced during a question and answer session were what happens if one property owner is harmed by drilling on a neighbor’s property, what kind of chemicals are used in the extraction process and what recourses do anyone have, if there is damage by drilling companies.
One well is already being drilled in Wayne County, just across the Delaware from Sullivan County. Several people on both sides of the river have been approached by drilling companies.
The forum in Honesdale was organized by the Upper Delaware Council and National Park Service.
For more on gas leasing forum, visit PoconoNews.Net
Mid Hudson News, May 17, 2008
ROSCOE – Trout Town USA greeted the 2008 fly-fishing season by catching an eight-foot trout. The creature is a carved-wood, chainsaw sculpture by Fred Avila of Walton, which will grace the front of Verona’s Sunoco and Country Store on Old Route 17. It is part of Roscoe’s downtown gateway improvements, led by the Roscoe-Rockland Chamber of Commerce and sponsored by Sullivan Renaissance and the Gerry Foundation.
The Chamber’s Business District Enhancement Committee is coordinating Roscoe’s involvement in the Sullivan Renaissance Program. This program, aimed “Beyond Beautification,” commits three-years of funding and technical support to communities that have successfully completed beautification projects in the past and now seek to address longer-term community development goals.
The project title “Roscoe Gateways” celebrates Roscoe’s place as a gateway to the Catskills Mountains and to the region, while welcoming visitors and residents into downtown. This effort builds on past projects around the hamlet that garnered recognition and prize money from Sullivan Renaissance. These include landscaped borders and beds, seasonal flowers, directional and business signs, and an information gazebo oriented to visitors exiting Route 17 westbound at Exit 94.
The Chamber is collaborating with the Roscoe-Rockland Garden Club, local volunteers and youth groups to accomplish an ambitious schedule of spruce-ups and maintenance on past project sites, while adding new design elements that tie them together within a unified sense of place.
The initiatives for 2008-2010 emerged from a Visioning Workshops sponsored by Sullivan Renaissance and conducted by Community Planner Helen Budrock in 2007. Budrock continues to support Roscoe’s efforts through the Category C Program. The Business District Enhancement Committee emerged during these workshops, and members remained together to continue the work that had begun for downtown.
link is here:
SOMETIME in the last couple of months, the price of gasoline crossed a line. It’s not just that gas is now hovering around the dreaded $4 a gallon. It’s that an unconscious expense has become a painfully conscious one.
A year ago, the cost of gas was still a small enough portion of overall expenses that it didn’t provoke constant comparisons to everything else in life.
Now gas prices have become the elephant in the middle of countless conversations. A tank costs roughly as much as the phone bill — or a pair of shoes. For what you spend on gas each month, you could buy a new dishwasher or get a cheap weekend package to the Caribbean. Some day, the gas legends of ’08 will live on like the myths of Paul Bunyan. “I remember when gas got so high, you could have built a 17-room mansion from the ground up!”
Actually, where I live in Delaware County, a rural area overlapping the Catskills that lies about three hours from New York City, the mood is anything but light. We are dependent on our cars here. Most of the county’s 42,000-odd residents are scattered among a few dozen tiny towns and villages, with at least 10 or 15 miles between them.
Until recently, most people thought nothing of zipping 45 minutes down the road to take advantage of better shopping opportunities in the bigger towns. Now those basic routines are stretching people’s budgets. For us to go to the nearest mall costs $16 round trip.
“You don’t just get in the car anymore,” said Laura O’Connor, who works in a kitchen goods store in Margaretville, but lives about 20 miles from there in Andes. “If I have errands to run, I try to make a giant loop and do everything in one day,” she said. “Most of us are carpooling, too.”
But with prices rising so rapidly, the usual ways of economizing aren’t enough to keep gas costs down. In the Catskills, you can’t just switch to mass transit.
Steve Yaekel, who owns the Margaretville Liquor Store (yes, in Margaretville), said he was driving home to Roxbury, about 20 miles away, one night recently. When he passed a local gas station, he was too tired to refill his tank. “I saw that it was about $3.74, and I decided I’d fill up in the morning,” he said.
The next morning, he said, the price had spiked to $3.82. “With prices going up this fast, how are you supposed to adjust the family budget?” he asked, noting that it now costs $50 for just half a tank of gas for his truck.
Many small-business men here depend on trucks or vans that get very low gas mileage. Allen Taylor, an appliance repairman based in Delhi, travels as much as 170 miles a day for work and says that he spends about $800 a month on gas.
Mr. Taylor says he was appalled when his accountant told him, “I had to increase my basic service charge from $60 to $65 just to break even,” Mr. Taylor said. That was in 2007. With gas costs pinching his customers so much, Mr. Taylor says he is reluctant to raise his prices. “I’m worried with the way the gas is going now, it’s going to put small-business owners like me out of business,” he said. “There’s only so much we can charge, only so much people will pay.”
GAS has become a preoccupation for many people who own second homes in the region, a large number of whom live in New York City. Michael and Lily Idov said their old car consumed about 15 gallons to travel 300 miles round trip from their home in Brooklyn to their house in Andes. They recently bought a Mini Cooper, which gets about 40 miles per gallon, Mr. Idov said. Fuel economy was their chief concern. “Now we go both ways on just two-thirds of a 10-gallon tank.”
In the category of unintended but happier consequences, the backlash against driving may bolster some parts of the local economy.
“We can’t believe how much business we’re getting,” said Helen Voultepsis, who works at Ace Hardware in Delhi and believes that people are less inclined to drive 40 miles to the nearest Lowe’s or Home Depot. “Local businesses are definitely benefiting.”
Speakers are announced for May 21 natural gas forum
The Upper Delaware Council, Inc. and National Park Service Upper Delaware Scenic & Recreational River will co-sponsor a free public information forum on natural gas issues on Wednesday, May 21, from 7 to 9 p.m. in the Wayne Highlands Middle School gymnasium on Grove Street in Honesdale.
The objective of this Pennsylvania-focused forum is to present factual information on natural gas and its exploration methodologies, extraction techniques, the state Department of Environmental Protection’s regulatory authority, potential environmental impacts and the execution of mineral rights leases by property owners.
Speakers will include:
• Patrick O’Dell, a petroleum engineer with the National Park Service Geologic Resources Division.
• Ron Gilius, director of DEP’s Bureau of Oil and Gas Management.
• Wes Gillingham, program director of the Catskill Mountainkeeper non-profit organization.
• Attorney Lester Greevy, of Williamsport, a specialist in mineral rights.
Following their remarks, the panel will participate in a question-and-answer session with the audience.
No reservations are required. For more information, contact the UDC at 845-252-3022 or the NPS at 570-729-7842.
I am inspired.
As I write my first blog post @ KilowattOurs.org, I am resting in the gorgeous Catskill Mountains of New York/Pennsylvania/New Jersey. I was invited to speak here by the Homestead School, an amazing Montessori program for grades pre-K through 6. A student group calling themselves the Green Power Alliance organized this event, “Your Coal Connection,” to raise money and awareness for the the effort to stop mountain top removal coal mining. Larry Gibson from Kayford Mountain, West Virginia is also here to speak. I am so inspired by these enthusiastic, motivated and caring kids and their passion for making a difference. They are a delight and I feel blessed to meet them and their parents. These students recently took a field trip to Larry’s mountain and one of the students wrote the short essay about it. These kids also handed some mountain top removal literature to former President Clinton during a recent campaign visit to their community. The kids urged Bill and Hillary to help the cause.
Bluestone Boom Opens Quarries to New Allies, and to Change
New York Times, May 13, 2008
link to original article is here:
Gerald Wormuth at a Catskill quarry. Mining permits could become permanent for New York’s bluestone industry, which is one of the state’s oldest. More Photos >
By ANTHONY DePALMA
Published: May 13, 2008
HANCOCK, N.Y. — Five-foot-10, 270 pounds, with truck axle arms and a rawhide neck, Earl F. Hennessey is a third generation Catskill quarryman who always did things the way his daddy and granddaddy taught him.
Now the state wants him to change.
Hennesseys have been pulling bluestone out of a ridge near Gee Brook since 1934. Mostly they used hand tools — sledges and wedges and rock hooks and butterfly plugs — to get at the smooth, flat slabs of stone that are shipped off to New York City and other places for old-fashioned sidewalks and new rustic patios. When they were done with one section, they would push the scrap rock over the ridge, and let their old trucks rust wherever they died.
After more than 70 years of gnawing at this rock ledge, the Hennesseys have roughed up their mountaintop some. As big a man as he is, Mr. Hennessey is dwarfed by the rusted metal, old wood and mounds of bluestone scrap of his past.
But since he took out a state mining permit for the first time two years ago, this 53-year-old quarryman in jeans, T-shirt and blue bandanna headband, has been piling up scrap rock where he can easily put it back when the bluestone runs out. He’s also been cleaning up. “The state told me I really should get rid of the old metal, and that’s what I’ve been doing,” he said. Last month he sliced up a 1936 International Harvester dump truck and hauled it to a scrap yard.
That, in essence, is the kind of reaction the State Department of Environmental Conservation has hoped for since it started experimenting with mining permits in 2002. The new permitting process combined with an increased demand for bluestone has led to a boom in one of the state’s oldest and most traditional industries.
Scores of new mines have been opened in the last six years, and many old ones have been reactivated. Bluestone, which had shrunk to little more than memories — is now a $100 million-a-year industry, located mostly in economically depressed Delaware and Broome Counties in the Catskills.
At the same time, the state hoped that by issuing permits it could assert some control over the bluestone industry, rein in renegade miners from out of state, and change the habits of the fiercely independent quarrymen.
State officials consider the effort so successful from both economic and environmental perspectives that they have taken the unusual step of openly lobbying to extend the two-year measure, which expires at the end of July. Legislation to make it permanent has passed the State Senate and is expected to come up for a vote in the Assembly this month.
“Rather than go in wholesale with guns blazing and multiple enforcement against the industry, we decided to first undertake an education program with them saying, ‘This is what you’ve got to do,’ and then give them time to come into compliance,” said Bradley J. Field, director of the division of mineral resources at the Department of Environmental Conservation.
That softer approach has convinced some quarrymen that the state does not mean to harass them. Even those who have never gotten a permit before find themselves siding with the department and asking for the law to made permanent. Environmental groups are more tentative. “The state says it’s a win-win situation because the law will improve the economy of the region, and at the same time give regulators the ability to keep an eye on what’s happening,” said Ramsay Adams, executive director of the Catskill Mountainkeeper, an environmental group. “If that’s the case, then it’s something worth looking at. But I’m just not sure that the law they are trying to pass permanently is strong enough.”
The link between the Catskill Mountain bluestone quarries and New York City is as durable as the stone slabs themselves. Some of New York’s first sidewalks laid in the early 19th century were made of Catskill bluestone, and in parts of the city they are still in place, though Mr. Hennessey said he had never seen one because he has never been to New York. The rock, a kind of sandstone found only in New York and eastern Pennsylvania, usually is light blue, but it can be gray, green or red.
By 1870, cutting the slabs out of mountain ledges became such big business that William M. Tweed, the political boss, finagled a partnership out of the New York and Pennsylvania Bluestone Company. He profited greatly by then arranging for the company to supply bluestone for city sidewalks.
By the end of the 19th century, an estimated 10,000 men worked bluestone in New York. The Catskills were riddled with quarries.
As concrete sidewalks replaced bluestone, the industry declined. Then, in 1996, Pennsylvania tightened its restrictions on bluestone mining. Pennsylvania quarrymen flooded into New York, apparently misreading New York’s bluestone mining law.
The law requires quarrymen to have a permit if they extract more than 1,000 tons of minerals in a year. The Pennsylvania quarrymen assumed that meant 1,000 tons of bluestone, and they simply never bothered to get their permits. But officials said that “overburden” — the dirt and rock that have to be moved to get at the bluestone — was meant to be included in the 1,000 tons.
Harry S. Triebe Sr., owner of Sonny & Sons Stone Co. in Downsville, N.Y. and a past president of the New York Bluestone Association, said that quarrymen usually have to remove ten times as much overburden as bluestone when they mine a deposit. He said they could exceed the 1,000 ton threshold in as little as a day.
“Until we actually work a quarry, we don’t know what’s there,” Mr. Triebe said. That meant going through the process of getting a full scale mining permit, and putting up a $5,000 to $10,000 reclamation bond, without knowing if there was enough good quality bluestone to even recoup the cost of the permit. An average quarryman can make about $25,000 to $35,000 a year, Mr. Triebe said.
Most bluestone quarries are nothing like the big sand and gravel excavation pits commonly seen in New York. Bluestone quarries typically cover less than five acres and are worked by one to five men. Most are invisible, hidden in hollows or at the far end of back country roads.
There are now 85 fully permitted bluestone mines in New York. Many more continue to operate without permits. In 2002, New York amended its mining law to give quarrymen more flexibility in exploring for bluestone. Instead of forcing them to get a full mining permit before they could start working, the state issued less costly exploration authorizations. These permitted Mr. Hennessey and other quarrymen to work on less than one acre for a year to see if there was enough bluestone in a new ledge, or in an abandoned one, to turn a profit.
But there’s more. The permitting process allows state officials to get onto the quarries, where they can work with the men, as they did with Mr. Hennessey, to clean up and better protect the environment.
“Earl’s quarry is a perfect example of what the state wanted to accomplish,” said Thomas P. Decker, a geologist who works with the quarrymen. “Before, the state didn’t have knowledge of places like this. Now they know where they are, and they can make sure that after the quarrymen are done, they put these places back the way they were.”
The authorizations can be renewed for a second year. After that, they must either be converted to a full five-year mining permit, or surrendered, and the one-acre site restored. There are now 85 fully permitted bluestone mines in New York. Many more continue to operate without permits.
Blood ties to land and stone are strong in this region. Mr. Hennessey’s father first brought him to the quarry when he was 3, and rock dust has been in his blood since then. Even during the 20 years he served in the Navy, he dreamed of coming back to the mountain.
“It’s kind of like farming; it’s a way of life,” Mr. Hennessey said. His days start at sunrise, summer and winter, and when he is on the ridge, alone or with his brother-in-law Gerald Wormuth, there is no phone, no electricity, no water. The work is back-breaking hard, and the material pleasures are few.
But at 2,500 feet above sea level, Mr. Hennessey can see across several valleys without spying a house or a road. Deer and hawks come close, and it’s awesome, he says.
“It’s a hard way to make a living,” he said, “but it’s a good way to live.”
The quarrymen have won the support of Senator John J. Bonacic, an upstate Republican who sponsored the bill to make the exploration authorization laws permanent. He did the same three years ago when the law expired for the first time, but the effort stalled in the Assembly.
Assemblyman Robert K. Sweeney, a Long Island Democrat who is chairman of the Environmental Conservation Committee, said the state’s endorsement of the measure this time should make the difference. “Without that, we wouldn’t be making it permanent,” he said.
Mr. Hennessey said he did not look forward to changing the way he had done things since he was a boy, but he realized that change may be necessary, and he was willing to give it a try.
“I’m not saying it’s bad, the stuff they want us to do,” he said. “You’ve just got to do things different than you did them years ago.”