01/27/2011 07:36 PM

High hopes for ‘Gasland’ at Academy Awards

By: Lori Chung
YNN Your News Now – link to original post here: http://centralny.ynn.com/content/all_news/531551/high-hopes-for–gasland–at-academy-awards/

The documentary “Gasland” is in contention for Hollywood’s highest honor. As Lori Chung reports, there is hope the film’s increased exposure will bring more attention to the fight against hydrofracking.

The documentary “Gasland” is in contention for Hollywood’s highest honor. As Lori Chung reports, there is hope the film’s increased exposure will bring more attention to the fight against hydrofracking.

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HUDSON VALLEY, N.Y. — There are many memorable scenes from the documentary Gasland – an exposé of sorts on the gas drilling industry that’s now up for an Academy Award for Best Documentary.

“To get this far and this kind of recognition, I’m really happy for him,” said Wes Gillingham, the director of the Catskill Mountainkeeper program.

Director Josh Fox screened the film all across the state, taking part in the grassroots movement to fight the gas industry’s attempts to begin fracking the Marcellus Shale, and to protect drinking water sources activists say might be polluted by the process. Gillingham took part in a few panel discussions during several of those screenings.

“There were a lot of people there that were just plain shocked and had a real visceral reaction that we would allow some of these impacts,” said Gillingham.

“In the case of Gasland, once again, you have a movie that tries to point out environmental problems and societal problems,” said film critic Neil Rosen.

Rosen said those are attributes that makes Gasland attractive to Academy voters. While the nomination has already brought more attention to the film and its cause, and Oscar win could bring an anti-fracking message to a worldwide audience.

“Most people don’t watch documentaries unless there’s a lot of press, and a lot of buzz and a lot of word of mouth,” said Rosen.

“More people will rent the DVD, more people will see it and more people will be aware of the impacts of how we get our energy,” said Gillingham.

The gas industry has long disputed the claims in Gasland. Now, America’s Natural Gas Alliance has launched a website titled “The Truth About Gasland” as a challenge to many of the points in the documentary.

But for now, many are just waiting to see if the film will earn a statuette on Oscar night.

INCIDENTS AND DEVELOPMENTS CONTINUE TO PROVE THAT GAS DRILLING ISN’T SAFE. HELP US TAKE ACTION!

The number of places where drilling has poisoned the water, air and land in communities keeps rising and we can expect that as drilling continues, these incidents will go up.  This has not lessoned the pro-drilling forces from pushing for more drilling at every opportunity and with total disregard for the consequences.  Below is a digest of some of the recent events that reinforces our need to be vigilant and active.

PENNSYLVANIA DEP LASHES OUT AT GAS DRILLING COMPANY FOR POLLUTING DRINKING WATER
depIn a public letter to citizens yesterday, Pennsylvania DEP Secretary John Hanger lashed out at Cabot Oil & Gas for denying their responsibility for water contamination in Dimock, PA. He said that there is overwhelming evidence that they are responsible for the gas migration that has caused families to be without a permanent water supply for nearly 2 years.  He continued that the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania will seek court orders to make Cabot pay for all costs relative to constructing a new 5.5 mile water main to bring drinkable water to Dimock, PA. Cabot’s response has been to launch a public relations campaign and much misinformation concerning who will be party to that solution and who will end up paying for it.  To read Secretary John Hanger’s full statement, click here.

EPA TELLS RESIDENTS OF PAVILLION, WYOMING NOT TO DRINK THEIR WATER
Pavillion MapThe EPA has told the residents of Pavillion, a rural community on the Wind River Indian Reservation in central Wyoming, not to drink their water and to use fans and ventilation while bathing or washing clothes to avoid the risk of explosion.  This warning came after the EPA found benzene, metals, naphthalene, phenols, methane and other contaminants in groundwater and area wells. The EPA has identified at least three water wells containing chemicals used in the fracking process, but will not say whether there is a definite connection until they complete their current study of the effects of fracking on water.  While we understand that the EPA cannot make definitive statements until all of their scientific testing is in, this is another clear case of how fracking has poisoned the water in a community.  Click here to join the thousands who have signed our petition asking the DEC not to greenlight gas drilling using hydrofracking until they can review the results of the EPA’s scientific study. Read the petition and signatures here.

ORGANIC FARMER IN PA FILES LAWSUIT STATING THAT DRILLING POLLUTED HIS WATER AND LAND
A Pennsylvania organic tomato farmer, George Zimmerman has filed suit against Atlas Energy

Gas Drilling Site in Hickory, PA
Atlas

Inc.for polluting his soil and water with toxic chemicals used in or released there by hydraulic fracturing.  Water tests near his home found seven potentially carcinogenic chemicals above “screening levels” set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Baseline tests that were done on the property a year before drilling began were “perfect”.  However, tests done in June 2010 found arsenic at 2600 times acceptable levels, benzene at 44 times above limits and naphthalene 5 times above federal standards. These are substances that can’t be made by nature, and yet that is what is now in the ground.  If Zimmerman wins, it would be the first case to prove that hydraulic fracturing causes water contamination.  He said he has invested about $11 million in the estate, which includes a winery and an heirloom-tomato business, but he now just wants to walk away because he believes it has been ruined by gas drilling.  Zimmerman rates his chances of selling it, as “slim to none” because of the proven water contamination.   For more on this story, click here:

Despite this clear and empirical evidence the rush to drill continues.

DEC PROPOSING TO ALLOW FRACKING IN OUR STATE FORESTS
state forests mapThe DEC has said that they are “inclined to consider natural gas developed on State Forests due in part to the fact that it is a cleaner burning energy alternative.”  That is, of course, the rationale that the gas industry uses. While it may be true that the burning of natural gas may produce fewer particulates and other polluting emissions than other fossil fuels, it also causes more strain on the water supply, introduces pollutants into the water supply, chemically poisons land in the case of accidental chemicals spills and more.  Right now commercial mines in State Forests are prohibited. State forests were created precisely in order to protect these lands from development, and that status should be maintained. The DEC is taking public comment on its draft forest management plan until October 29. You can comment by emailing the DEC or mailing them at:
Strategic Plan for State Forest Management
NYS DEC, 625 Broadway
Albany, NY 12233-4255.”

For a thorough analysis of the this issue read the story Julia Reischel in the Watershed Post

SMALL GAS PIPELINES CAN NOW BE BUILT IN NEW YORK STATE
Despite the fact that gas wells using hydrofracking are not yet approved in New York State, gasPIPELINE
companies can now apply for and get permission to build shale gas pipelines that connect their well pads to larger pipelines because approval of these smaller pipelines is not covered by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).  The approval is done by the New York State Public Service Commission (PSC) who can approve pipelines that are up to 10 miles in length.  Each pipeline is approved individually, and because PSC is not doing a cumulative impact analysis pipelines are likely to proliferate dangerously and with massive environmental degradation.  On Wednesday October 20th, Mountainkeeper Program Director Wes Gillingham will testify at the PCS public hearing.  The written comment period lasts until October 29th, 2010.  We urge you to click here to submit written comments asking that all pipelines regardless of their length be under DEC approval jurisdiction.

THE DRBC HAS POSTPONED THE RELEASE OF THEIR DRAFT REGULATIONS
The DRBC did not release their draft regulations on drilling for natural gas using fracking last week DRKas they had previously scheduled.  They have now delayed that release until November or December 2010.  While some groups have hailed this as a “victory”, it is unclear whether this delay is good news or bad news for safe gas drilling.  Regardless of their intention, we have to keep up the pressure to require them to wait until the science has been reviewed and analyzed before releasing any regulations.   We need to tell the DRBC Commissioners that it is essential that the cumulative impact study be completed before they issue draft regulations.  Please write a letter to the Commissioners today calling on them to keep a moratorium on drilling in place until the results of the scientific studies can be reviewed and analyzed.  Click here to send a letter to the Commissioners from the Delaware Riverkeeper’s site.

Marcellus Shale gas mining discussed at forum


Panel listens to opinions on both side

NEW PALTZ – Should natural gas be mined from the Marcellus Shale formation, all safeguards against groundwater contamination must be in place, Congressman Maurice Hinchey told a forum in New Paltz Monday evening.

A panel was organized in part by the SUNY New Paltz Environmental Task Force for the purpose of allowing both pro and con opinions to express their arguments regarding gas drilling in the region.

According to Hinchey, a member of the Natural Resources Committee, what’s most important is that the proper standards and regulations are in place to prevent contamination of any population’s drinking water and to ensure that the process of drilling for natural gas will not spawn health problems in the future.

“This kind of drilling really can’t take place within the confines of New York City’s unfiltered drinking water supply,” said James Gennaro of the New York City Council’s Environmental Protection Committee.

“It’s not the appropriate kind of activity that could ever take place safely within an unfiltered water supply.”

Vice President of Chesapeake Energy Scott Rotruck clearly stated that his company would never be drilling in areas affecting the watershed. However, he did speak very highly of the potential for economic benefit that extracting natural gas would bring to the state.

“It can be a tremendous wealth builder for New York,” he said. “New York, right now, produces about five percent of its own natural gas usage. If it could produce more of its own natural gas that would be an economic benefit not only for the drilling and other associated activities but it could lower the cost of energy usage in New York.”

During public comment, questions were raised as to what sort of impact permitting gas drilling in state park areas would have on the preservation of those parks and the tourism they generate.

According to Catskill Mountainkeeper’s Program Director Wes Gillingham, allowing this type of drilling on park land would, in the long term, affect visitors to the area.

“People don’t want to come and hunt and fish next to 24/7 drilling activity.”

State Department of Environmental Conservation Executive Deputy Commissioner Stuart Gruskin assured the audience that, “should this happen in New York State, it is going to happen in an environmentally responsible way.”

MID HUDSON NEWS

http://www.midhudsonnews.com/News/2010/March/09/MarSha_forum-09Mar10.html

NYDEC Draft Scope Natural Gas Drilling (PDF) Download, October 5, 2008

draftscope1

(Download the PDF from the link above)

Draft Scope for Draft Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement on the Oil, Gas and Solution Mining Regulatory Program

Well Permit Issuance for Horizontal Drilling and High-Volume Hydraulic Fracturing to Develop the Marcellus Shale and Other Low-Permeability Gas Reservoirs

Draft Scope (PDF, 404 KB)

The Department is accepting written comments on this draft scope through the close of business on December 15, 2008. A schedule of public meetings in the Southern Tier and Catskills to receive verbal comments will be announced shortly.

Submit comments to: Attn: Scope Comments, Bureau of Oil & Gas Regulation, NYSDEC Division of Mineral Resources, 625 Broadway – Third Floor, Albany, NY 12233-6500

or email to: dmnog@gw.dec.state.ny.us with “Scope Comments” as the Subject

Executive Summary

The Department of Environmental Conservation is responsible for regulating the development and production of oil and gas resources in New York State. Natural gas exploration and production companies, and mineral rights owners, are interested in developing a potentially significant gas resource in the Marcellus Shale through the use of horizontal drilling and a hydraulic fracturing technique known as “slick water fracturing.” This technique requires large volumes of water. The Department has identified the action of well permit issuance when high-volume hydraulic fracturing is proposed as one which requires further review under the State Environmental Quality Review Act (“SEQRA”). This draft scope and the public meetings where it will be discussed are the first steps in that process.

The Department evaluated its oil and gas regulatory program through development of a Generic Environmental Impact Statement (“GEIS”) which was finalized in 1992 and which sets parameters that are applicable statewide for SEQRA review of gas well permitting. This draft scope describes the topics related to well permit issuance for high-volume hydraulic fracturing that the Department has identified for review in a draft Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (“dSGEIS”). Written and verbal comments from all interested parties will be considered in the preparation of a Final Scope, and then the dSGEIS will be released for additional public review and comment. The final SGEIS, to be prepared after consideration of comments received on the draft, will set additional parameters for SEQRA review. The Department will then issue well permits for gas well development using high-volume hydraulic fracturing in accordance with both the GEIS and the SGEIS.

Aspects of high-volume hydraulic fracturing identified in this draft scope for further review include the potential impacts of (1) water withdrawals, (2) transportation of water to the site, (3) the use of additives in the water to enhance the hydraulic fracturing process, (4) space and facilities required at the well site to ensure proper handling of water and additives, and (5) removal of spent fracturing fluid from the well site and its ultimate disposition. Noise, visual and air quality considerations are noted, along with the potential for cumulative and community impacts. The well permitting process is described, and regulatory coordination with other jurisdictional agencies and local governments are also discussed.

Narrative background and context is included in this document solely for the purpose of assisting the reader in evaluating the draft scope, is based upon the Department’s experience implementing the GEIS and regulating oil and gas drilling in New York State, and is for reference only. Nothing contained in this draft scope is intended, nor should it be construed, as stating a position with respect to any matters that will ultimately be addressed in the SGEIS. In order to avoid duplication, and to ensure that the SGEIS serves to complement the GEIS, interested persons are urged to carefully review the GEIS in connection with the preparation of any comments. Note that the GEIS also includes a glossary of technical terms.

Hydro projects sought at reservoir dams in the Catskills

By Patricia Breakey
Delhi News Bureau

Published: June 06, 2008 04:00 am

The Delaware County Electric Cooperative is seeking to harness water spilling from four New York City reservoirs to produce enough electricity to power 20,000 typical homes.

Greg Starheim, DCEC chief executive officer, said an application for a preliminary permit and a pre-application document were submitted to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission last month.

Starheim said the proposed Western Catskills Hydro Project would involve installing modular design independent intake structures at New York City’s Schoharie, Pepacton, Cannonsville and Neversink reservoirs.

“I am very excited about this project,” Starheim said Thursday. “We started evaluating the potential to produce electricity at the Gilboa Dam a year and a half ago.” The New York City Department of Environmental Protection’s $600 million renovation project for the Gilboa Dam was the impetus for the idea, Starheim said.

“The timing seemed appropriate and we began discussing the preliminary engineering with DEP engineers, which led to the decision to formerly approach the DEP about submitting an application to the FERC,” Starheim said.

“DCEC has reached out to DEP with an interesting proposal; we look forward to reviewing it and to further discussing it,” Michael Saucier, DEP public affairs director, said Thursday.

Starheim said there are no generating facilities at the four dams included in the project.

“There is a tremendous loss of potential energy and the DCEC board is very interested in capturing it,” Starheim said. “This has been a missed opportunity for hydro electric generation and in today’s energy world, we can’t afford to miss opportunities.”

The decision to move ahead with the application process came about when DCEC officials became aware that two private international developers were interested in generating projects at two of the reservoirs.

“The way the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission works is that whoever applies first has an opportunity to pursue the project,” Starheim said. “We were concerned about local projects being operated by outside companies.”

Starheim said obtaining a federal license is a long process that involves numerous studies and structure milestones, but the Co-op is hopeful that the license will be issued as early as 2011. He said construction and operation would take a year or two after that.

“This is the single largest non-developed hydro project in New York and it would help the state achieve its renewable energy quota,” Starheim said.

The amount of electricity generated at the dams would be seasonal and dependent on the amount of water being released.

Starheim said there would be different numbers of modular generating devices at each of the reservoirs, with the greatest potential at the Gilboa Dam. The total design potential would be to general 65 megawatts during peak water time in the spring.

The devices would be installed over the top of the dam and would run all the way to the bottom where the water is released into the rivers. Starheim said the Co-op is only interested in using available water and will not be involved in decisions about how much water is released.

The project is part of the Delaware County Electric Cooperative’s effort to explore ways to secure its entire electricity supply using renewable local energy sources.

___

Patricia Breakey can be reached at 746-2894 or at stardelhi@stny.rr.com.

link to article is here:

http://www.thedailystar.com/local/local_story_158040031.html

Camping conscientiously

 

THE RIVER REPORTER CLIMATE CHALLENGE
Business carbon impact worksheet   Household carbon impact worksheet

Camping conscientiously

Outdoor ethics minimize environmental impacts

By SANDY LONG

UPPER DELAWARE RIVER REGION — In 2007, Wes Gillingham, a resident of Sullivan County, NY led a group of students on a three-week trek that traced the 100-mile course of New York City’s water supply from Highmount, NY to lower Manhattan. The group employed low-impact camping practices during the backcountry stretches of their trip to minimize disturbances along the trek.

Gillingham spent a decade honing his outdoors skills as a ranger for the National Park Service, Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River, and has served as acting director of field programs with the National Audubon Society Expedition Institute (AEI), leading backpacking trips all over the country.

The well-schooled outdoor educator and organic farmer believes that a low-impact attitude is key to enjoying the outdoors sustainably. “It’s a mindset, more than just a set of practices,” said Gillingham. “You become cognizant of your impact as an individual.”

A set of principles referred to as “Leave No Trace” (see sidebar) has been developed to guide outdoor recreationists to employ more mindful practices while backpacking in the wilds, enjoying a family camping outing at a state park or hiking one of the region’s many trails. Many state parks actively encourage LNT principles and have begun offering programs that show how to put them into action (see sidebar).

The guiding principle is to foster an understanding that our enjoyment of natural settings can be accomplished without inflicting harm upon the very resources we seek. For example, vegetation or artifacts such as stones should never be altered or removed.

“In the Catskills, once you get above 3,500 feet, the fragility of the environment increases. It’s important to be aware of your impact on the vegetation in such places,” noted Gillingham. “Stay on trails to avoid contributing to erosion problems, set up camp away from trails and out of sight of other campers. And use compact backpacking stoves, rather than open fires, to cook food.”

The main objective of conscientious recreation is to participate in such a way that your activities have no altering effect on the setting. “You’re there to enjoy the place and to leave it as you found it,” said Gillingham. “It’s a reciprocal relationship.”

Gillingham is also a founder of the non-profit Catskill Mountain Keeper, which works to protect the ecological integrity of the Catskill Mountain range while promoting sustainable growth. He plans to lead another expedition of students in 2008. For more information, visit stroudcenter.org/nytrek2007/.

Leave No Trace principles

• Be prepared: Poor planning can result in unforeseen events leading to solutions that cause environmental degradation. Select gear and make plans by thinking about how it will impact the environment.

• Camp and travel on durable surfaces: Stick to worn trails and campsites to minimize damage to untrammeled areas and avoid increasing soil erosion.

• Pack out what you pack in: Take trash home with you. Don’t bury or leave it behind.

• Properly dispose of what you can’t pack out: Empty dishwater far away from springs, streams and lakes. Eliminate soaps and detergents. Bury human waste in “catholes” that are six to eight inches deep and 200 feet from water.

• Leave what you find: Don’t disturb natural features such as rocks and plants, nor alter campsites by digging, chopping or hammering.

• Minimize use of fire: Lightweight camp stoves minimize the demand for firewood at campsites and produce faster food results. If a fire must be constructed, keep it small, use established fire rings and avoid leaving any sign that it has occurred. Never burn plastics.

• Practice “Negative Trace:” Go beyond LNT and clean up trash left behind by others. Undo damage by dismantling cairns or firepits constructed in otherwise wild areas.

Resources for conscientious outdoor recreation

• The Pocono Environmental Education Center ( www.PEEC.org ) in Dingmans Ferry, PA is offering a series of programs about environmentally friendly outdoor recreation activities. On June 14, “Summer Outdoors” will teach how to prepare for overnight camping, hydration and Leave No Trace (LNT) practices. August 22-24 is the “Catskills Backpacking Trip,” which includes a backcountry overnight outing. September 12-14 concludes the series with “Canoe Trip,” meant to teach LNT practices for canoe travel and basic paddling skills. Call 570/828-2319 for more information.

• Promised Land State Park in Greentown, PA will offer a LNT program, focused on preserving natural settings as they are found, at 7:00 p.m. on June 28.

• Learn what’s happening in your area through the Leave No Trace State Advocate Program, which assists LNT educators and volunteers with local efforts to promote and teach minimum impact outdoor ethics. (Visit lnt.org/training/stateadvocate.php for more information.)

• Visit nols.edu/ for information on improving outdoor skills through the National Outdoor Leadership School.

• Visit outwardbound.org/ for programs that improve resilience and problem-solving skills through interactive outdoor education.

• Visit dec.ny.gov/outdoor/camping.html for information on New York State camping.

• Visit dcnr.state.pa.us/outdooradventures.aspx for information on Pennsylvania camping.

• Visit kta-hike.org/index.php?option=com_frontpage&Itemid=1 for low-impact hiking and trail opportunities with PA Keystone Trails Association.

• Though based in Washington state, Wilderness Awareness School offers a home study outdoor skills course that helps students refine knowledge of their local natural resources. Visit wildernessawareness.org/.

 

TRR photo by Sandy Long  
Campfires should be avoided or minimized. Utilize existing firepits or, better yet, a compact camping stove. Don’t leave evidence of burning behind. (Click for larger version)

TRR photo by Sandy Long  
The smallest tent that will meet your needs will also minimize the footprint it leaves at your campsite. Select sites that are already established. Avoid removing vegetation to create a site. (Click for larger version)

New York, Pennsylvania, share common concern over gas drilling

Thursday
May 22, 2008

Copyright © 2008 Mid-Hudson News Network, a division of Statewide News Network, Inc.
This story may not be reproduced in any form without express written consent.

New York, Pennsylvania, share common concern over gas drilling

Gillingham: “… make
them do it that way”

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


Bluestone Boom Opens Quarries to New Allies, and to Change

Bluestone Boom Opens Quarries to New Allies, and to Change
New York Times, May 13, 2008
link to original article is here:
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/13/nyregion/13quarry.html

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.”

Catskill Mountainkeeper, UDC and NPS to Co-sponsor May 21 Public Forum on Natural Gas Issues

Catskill Mountainkeeper Press Release
link is here:
http://www.catskillmountainkeeper.org/node/408
Catskill Mountainkeeper, UDC and NPS to Co-sponsor May 21
Public Forum on Natural Gas Issues

YOUNGSVILLE – The Catskill Mountainkeeper, The Upper Delaware Council, Inc. (UDC) and National Park Service Upper Delaware Scenic & Recreational River (NPS) will co-sponsor a free Public Information Forum on Natural Gas Issues on Wednesday, May 21, from 7-9 p.m. in the Honesdale Middle School gymnasium, located on Grove Street in Honesdale, PA.

The objective of this forum is to present factual information on natural gas and its exploration methodologies, extraction techniques, the DEP’s regulatory authority, potential environmental impacts, and the execution of mineral rights leases by property owners.

Catskill Mountainkeeper will focus on the environmental impacts that natural gas drilling will have on the region, including its potential impacts on ground water, drinking water and the reservoir systems that provide drinking water to both New York City and Philadelphia, as well as the impacts on air quality, wildlife and tourism.

Catskill Mountainkeeper is a member based advocacy organization dedicated to preserving and protecting the long term health of the six counties of the Catskill Region.
Speakers will include:

* Wes Gillingham, program director of the Catskill Mountainkeeper non-profit organization;
* Patrick O’Dell, a petroleum engineer with the National Park Service (NPS) Geologic Resources Division;
* Ron Gilius, director of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) Bureau of Oil and Gas Management;
* Lester Greevy, Esq., a specialist in mineral rights law from Williamsport in Lycoming County, PA;
* Paul M.Schmidt, Attorney, co-representing the Damascus Citizens For Sustainability.

Following delivery of their remarks, the panel will participate in a question-and-answer session with the audience.
All are welcome to this free program. No reservations are required.

For more information, contact:
Beth Scullion
Caskill Mountainkeeper
845.482.5400
beth@catskillmountainkeeper.org
Catskill Mountainkeeper
Ramsay Adams
Executive Director

Catskill Mountainkeeper
Wes Gillingham
Program Director