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

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

link to article is here:

May 22, 2008



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Gas lease concerns get second airing

Williamsport Attorney Lester Greevey talks about the complex
intricacies of sining leases with gas companies.

Audio comments
Harry Weiss  (attorney)       :45
Wes Gillingham (Catskill Montainkeeper)    :25



HONESDALE – Another 500 people turned out, this time in Wayne County, to get the details on what natural gas leasing entails, and to voice some significant concerns.  The session in Honesdale, sponsored by the Upper Delaware Council and National Park Service, comes a month after another gathering, of more than a thousand, in Tunkhannock.

Natural gas prospecting is rapidly spreading from western Pennsylvania, to the northeast corner of the state, and across the Delaware river to the western Catskills in New York.  One well reportedly is being drilled, already, in Wayne County.  There were 14 permits issued last year in neighboring Susquehanna County, compared to just one permit in 2006.

“Most land uses can support a certain amoung of oil and gas activity”, said NPS petroleum engineer Patrick O’Dell, from Colorado.

Several speakers noted the energy crisis. Ron Gilius, director of the State Department of Enviornmental Protection’s Bureau of Oil and Gas Management, said it is driving the search for new energy sources. “Pennsylvania is very attractive for development of these natural gas, and also some of the old oil.”

Attorney Harry Weiss, of Philadelphia, representing the Northern Wayne Property Owners Alliance, said the gas companies are actively looking to expand by signing leases with as many willing property owners as they can find.

“There is potential, if things are done right”, Weiss said.  He urged partnerships among property owners.  “A large group effort to make the gas companies follow all rules and regulations, and then some”, is the best way to do that.

Weiss: “Potential, if
things are done right”

There are concerns with the Delaware River, itself.  The word from several, including the National Park Service, is they have little authority over what happens, other than actually on or in the river.  That could mean gas wells practically on the banks of the Delaware.  Wes Gillingham, program director for Catskill Mountainkeeper, 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.

Gillingham agreed that 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”, Gillingham said.

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.

lnk to article is here:

Catskill Mountainkeeper Program Director Wes Gillingham Speaks to WAMC Reporter About the Impacts of Natural Gas Drilling in the Catskills

Gas Rush Heading for New York

SULLIVAN COUNTY, NY (2008-05-22) A goldmine of natural gas that lies under several eastern states is suddenly within reach thanks to new technology. And Hudson Valley bureau chief Susan Barnett reports that’s creating a modern day gold rush and a classic confrontation between profit and environmental impact that’s just starting to be discussed

© Copyright 2008, WAMC
Link is here:

Catskill Mountainkeeper is taking its latest environmental battle across the river

WAMC Northeast Public Radio

NY (2008-05-22) 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 – in Pennsylvania and New York, says Mountainkeeper Program Director Wes Gillingham. WAMC’s Hank Gross has more…

© Copyright 2008, WAMC


Hundreds pack natural gas forum

HONESDALE — Proving that the topic of natural gas remains on the front burner for many, several hundred people packed the Wayne Highlands Middle School gym Wednesday to attend a free informational forum on the topic.

Bob Timozek made the 30-minute drive from Galilee to attend the presentation.

A member of the Northern Wayne Property Owners Alliance, Mr. Timozek said he plans to lease his 28 acres for gas drilling.

“If I don’t do it, it’s going to be done anyway,” he said, citing the “dire need for resources.”

“We just can’t ignore it anymore,” Mr. Timozek said.

Patrick O’Dell, a petroleum engineer with the National Park Service’s Geologic Resources Division, based in Denver, said new technology, such as horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing — as well as the “higher demand for energy” — has brought natural gas drilling to the industry’s forefront.

“The demand for energy worldwide is going up by leaps and bounds,” he said.

Keeping in mind three words — time, place and manner — can help minimize the environmental impact of natural gas drilling, according to Mr. O’Dell.

Mr. O’Dell said the majority of land “can accommodate a certain level of oil and gas activity, if done responsibly.”

Some responsible steps are maximizing the use of existing roads, running pipelines along roads and looking for level drilling areas, he said.

Ron Gilius, director of the state Department of Environmental Protection’s Bureau of Oil and Gas Management, offered a word of advice about research.

“When you go on the Internet … there is a lot of information that when you look at it, please take it with some intellectual content,” he said.

Wes Gillingham, program director of Catskill Mountainkeeper, urged education as well.

“These corporations have a lot of money, and they’re good at what they do,” he said. “And we have a very short time to come up to speed with all the issues here.”

Both Mr. Gillingham and Paul M. Schmidt, co-counsel for the Damascus Citizens for Sustainability, spoke about the potential environmental impacts of natural gas drilling.

“There’s a huge number of chemicals involved in freeing up the reserves that are trying to be obtained,” Mr. Schmidt said.

Wednesday’s forum was sponsored by the Upper Delaware Council Inc. and Upper Delaware Scenic & Recreational River — a branch of the National Park Service.

Contact the writer:

Link to article is here:

May 13, 2008

<nyt_headline version=”1.0″ type=” “> Bluestone Boom Opens Quarries to New Allies, and to Change

Nathaniel Brooks for The New York Times

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 >

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.”


The future belongs to them

Green energy expo runs on kid power

link is here:


DINGMANS FERRY, PA — There’s a Native American saying that we do not inherit the planet from our ancestors, but rather borrow it from our children.

Last weekend at the Pocono Environmental Education Center (PEEC), a group of those owners stepped into the spotlight to remind us about what we owe them—and the planet—at “Your Coal Connection,” a green symposium brought about in large part by children belonging to the Green Power Alliance (GPA).

GPA was founded by faculty and students of The Homestead School in Glen Spey, NY. The event was the latest in many examples of the group’s activism, including a public presentation to Pennsylvania Congressman Chris Carney to urge his support of the restoration of the Clean Water Protection Act, a tour of Mirant Corporation’s Bowline power plant on the Hudson River and a trip to the coalfields of West Virginia (see “Power to the Little People” in our March 27 issue).

The group’s current focus is on mountain top removal in coal mining, but the event was an occasion for people of all ages to see how our lifestyles, habits and policies are connected to the degradation of the environment in a variety of ways.

Wes Gillingham of Catskill MountainKeepers was also present, along with filmmaker Jeff Barrie, whose documentary “Kilowatt Ours” was shown during the day. A green energy expo provided information about environmental organizations, alternative energy options, green building technologies and more. Family-friendly activities included wildlife picture coloring, tie dye T-shirt production and musical performances by Wooden Spoon. Nature hikes and a raptor show reminded all present of the magnificence and fragility of the heritage these youngsters have stepped forward to protect.

TRR photo by Sandy Long
A bigger-than-life image of mountaintop removal activist, Larry Gibson, towers over the real-life version. Standing with Gibson, from left, front row, are Homestead School students Henry Hamill and Zakary Steingart and head of the school, Peter Comstock. Second row, from left, Gibson’s fiance, Carol Kirkpatrick, Gibson, student Nayana Pratt and activist Amber McCoy. (Click for larger version)
TRR photo by Sandy Long
Fifteen-year-old Amber McCoy addresses the crowd with her message that by acting collectively, mountaintop removal (MTR) can be stopped. Amber’s father died due to consuming drinking water contaminated by coal waste. Amber founded a group at her school called ROAR: Restoring Our Appalachian Respect. Her mother, Brenda, an activist who works for Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition Coal Sludge Safety Project, also spoke. The women reside in Mingo County, West Virginia. (Click for larger version)
TRR photo by Sandy Long
Sabrina Artel, of Trailer Talk, interviews documentary filmmaker and grassroots organizer Jeff Barrie whose award-winning film “Kilowatt Ours: A Plan to Re-Energize America” was shown. The film presents the case against coal while championing energy efficiency and green power alternatives. Artel spoke with participants throughout the day. To hear the broadcast of her radio program based on the event, tune in to WJFF, 90.5 FM on May 16 at 2:00 p.m. Trailer Talk is also available at and on iTunes. Artel will take her 1965 Beeline trailer on the road for an eyewitness look at the destruction occurring in West Virginia during an Independence Day celebration on July 4th. (Click for larger version)
TRR photo by Sandy Long
Parked in front of PEEC’s main building was this electric “Thinkmobile,” provided to the center by National Park Service (NPS) rangers. PEEC is located within the NPS Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. (Click for larger version)
TRR photo by Sandy Long
Children also enjoyed face painting and a mammal show. (Click for larger version)

UDC and NPS to co-sponsor May 21 public forum on natural gas issues

Wayne Independent

HONESDALE -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 to 9 p.m. in the Honesdale Middle School gymnasium, located 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 DEP’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 (NPS) Geologic Resources Division;
•   Ron Gilius, director of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) Bureau of Oil and Gas Management;
•   Wes Gillingham, program director of the Catskill Mountainkeeper non-profit organization; and
•   Lester Greevy, Esq., a specialist in mineral rights law from Williamsport in Lycoming County, PA.
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 the UDC at (845) 252-3022 or the NPS at (570) 729-7842.

link is here:

The search for natural gas

Western Sullivan County might contain vast reserves

By Victor Whitman

Times Herald-Record

March 08, 2008 6:00 AM

LONG EDDY — Is Sullivan County sitting on a pot of gold?

Gas companies think so. Competing energy companies are exploring the possibility of drilling into long-suspected natural gas reserves in western Sullivan.

Several river towns, including Fremont, Delaware and Cochecton, are on the eastern edge of the Marcellus Shale, where a “supergiant” field of natural gas is believed to be locked in the rock nearly 8,000 feet below, but has been out of reach of technology.

With new drilling methods, companies have been tapping huge, and previously inaccessible, reserves in the Barnett Shale in Texas. And with the price of natural gas at a 10-year high, the Marcellus Shale is considered the next great opportunity.

Chesapeake Energy and Cabot Oil & Gas Corp., among other companies, have signed up homeowners in Wayne, Pa., and recently pushed into western Sullivan and southern Delaware counties.

Companies have drilled a few wells in Susquehanna, Pa., and also are interested in Lycoming, Pa., and Broome and Chenango in the Southern Tier.

“It is exploratory now, but I believe it is inevitable that they will get what they can,” said Gary Lash, a professor of geoscience at SUNY Fredonia, who has studied the Marcellus Shale for two decades. “There’s a lot of gas right there. I think it will end up being well worth the effort.”

That could become controversial in Sullivan, where some drilling might take place near the Upper Delaware Scenic Byway, where eagles soar and pristine forests border the Delaware River in one of the most beautiful areas of the state.

While the landsmen — the agents of about six competing energy companies interested in the Marcellus Shale — have been quietly knocking on doors to sign leases for drilling rights, environmentalists have been watching them.

“We are trying to get to the bottom of it, literally,” said Ramsay Adams, executive director of the Catskill Mountainkeeper, a watchdog group based in Youngsville.

“From our perspective, we are not against natural gas, which is cleaner than coal. What we are concerned about is the environmental health — the roads to be developed, clear-cutting and the effects on ground water,” Adams said.

“If it is environmentally sound, we would potentially support it. The key is, there are so many unanswered questions, but there is a real push by the energy companies to sign leases, especially in Sullivan and Delaware counties. To sum it up, one needs to be concerned.”

Dozens of Sullivan landowners already have visions of striking it rich, with companies now offering leases at about $750 an acre and a royalty.

“The smart money is not signing,” said Noel van Swol, whose family owns land around Long Eddy and is organizing property owners to negotiate directly with the energy companies.

“What they haven’t been telling people is that they (the landowners) are sitting on the greatest unconventional gas reserves in the history of the United States.”

 Unconventional natural gas

The Marcellus Shale is thought to contain at least 168 trillion cubic feet, and up to 516 trillion cubic feet, of natural gas. A supergiant field contains 30 or more trillion cubic feet. The Marcellus Shale extends all the way to the eastern half of Ohio and through West Virginia, but exploration efforts have been focused in Pennsylvania and New York.

Sources: Gary Lash, SUNY Fredonia; Terry Engelder, Penn State University.

Catskills topic of talk

Catskills topic of talk

ONEONTA _ Wes Gillingham, program director for Catskill Mountainkeeper, will give a talk titled “The Future of the Catskills: Can Catskill Mountainkeeper Help?” on Tuesday.

The event will be at 7 p.m. in the Strawbale House at Hartwick College’s Pine Lake Environmental Campus as part of the ongoing “Conversations at the Lake” series.

Gillingham will discuss his work with Catskill Mountainkeeper, a nonprofit advocacy organization whose mission is to protect the ecological integrity of the Catskill Mountain range and the quality of life of those who live there.

Through a network of concerned citizens, the organization works to promote sustainable economic growth and the protection of natural resources essential to healthy communities, he said.

Gillingham is program director at Catskill Mountainkeeper, as well as the leader of its volunteer program. He lives in the Catskills, where he and his wife Amy have been growing organic vegetables and herbs commercially since 1997.

For more information, contact Pine Lake program coordinator Dan Morse at 431-4520 or, or visit the spring 2008 events listing online at

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Conservation Groups Sue to Block Electric Transmission Corridors

Conservation Groups Sue to Block Electric Transmission Corridors
WASHINGTON, DC, January 10, 2008 (ENS) – Eleven regional and national environmental organizations today announced plans to file suit against the Department of Energy over its final designation of a mid-Atlantic National Interest Electric Transmission Corridor.

On October 5, the Energy Department published its order designating two National Interest Electric Transmission Corridors – the Mid-Atlantic Corridor, and the Southwest Corridor.

Led by the National Wildlife Federation and the Piedmont Environmental Council, the groups are challenging the designation on grounds that the Energy Department violated the National Environmental Policy Act and Endangered Species Act by failing to study the potential harmful impacts of the corridor on air quality, wildlife, habitat and other natural resources.

“The Department of Energy has ignored the public interest in favor of the private interests of power companies,” said Randy Sargent Neppl, wildlife counsel at the National Wildlife Federation. “Our federal government should be working to find solutions that protect our natural heritage and promote a clean energy future so that our children and grandchildren will have healthy communities, clean air and abundant wildlife and wild places to enjoy.”

“The Department of Energy has failed to do even the basic due diligence and analyze responsible and cost effective alternative ways of meeting the region’s energy needs,” said Christopher Miller, president of the Piedmont Environmental Council.

“Efficiency and conservation should be the first order of business. Reducing both peak and base load demand through energy efficiency, conservation and expanding demand response programs should be a priority,” he said. “The mid-Atlantic corridor designation puts an enormous area of the region at risk while sending our energy policy a major step backwards towards continued reliance on coal-fired generation.”

High voltage transmission lines near Rochester, New York (Photo credit unknown)
The groups plan to file suit on Monday, January 14 in the U.S. District Court in the Middle District of Pennsylvania.

The Center for Biological Diversity today is filing a similar lawsuit in the Central District of California challenging the Energy Department’s designation of the Southwest National Interest Electric Transmission Corridor, which includes counties in California and Arizona.

Joining the lawsuit are Sierra Club, National Parks Conservation Association, Environmental Advocates of New York, Clean Air Council, Pennsylvania Land Trust Association, Civil War Preservation Trust, Catskill Mountainkeeper, Brandywine Conservancy and Natural Lands Trust.

In 2005, Congress passed the Energy Policy Act, which directed the U.S. Department of Energy, DOE, to designate large geographic areas as National Interest Electric Transmission Corridors.

This designation gives power companies blanket approval to build new high-voltage interstate transmission lines within the corridor, even on environmentally sensitive and protected lands. The designation also allows power companies to bypass local, state and federal environmental laws.

The groups’ lawsuit claims that the Energy Department has overstepped what Congress called for in the Energy Policy Act and designated lands that lie outside of the identified congestion area.

The groups are asking the U.S. District Court in the Middle District of Pennsylvania to compel the Energy Department to perform an environmental impact statement on the corridor and consult with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over impacts to endangered species as required by law.

Because the current designation would rely on some of the country’s oldest and dirtiest coal-fired power plants to service the region’s power demands, the groups are asking that the Energy Department consider more environmentally friendly alternatives.

“Unfortunately, rather than take this opportunity to promote renewable energy sources and encourage energy efficient solutions, the Department of Energy has put forth a plan that favors dirty coal and undermines regional efforts to combat global warming,” said Glen Besa, regional field director of the Sierra Club.

“The lack of environmental scrutiny given to proposed high-voltage transmission lines under this plan is alarming,” he said. “The DOE has not even a made a token effort to study the region-wide impact of this corridor on wildlife, forests or water.”

The ambiguous definition of “corridor” has allowed the Energy Department to designate more than 116,000 square miles in the mid-Atlantic, including parts of New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Maryland, West Virginia and Virginia. The Mid-Atlantic corridor designation affects over 49 million Americans.

Gettysburgh National Military Park (Photo courtesy National Park Service)
Within the area are dozens of state and national parks, refuges and recreation areas, including the Gettysburg National Military Park, the Shenandoah National Park and the Upper Delaware Scenic and National Recreation River.

“The National Park Service is mandated to ‘conserve the scenery’ of our national parks. Adding new power lines near or through national park sites could severely compromise our national heritage,” said Bryan Faehner of the National Parks Conservation Association. “It is simply inappropriate for energy corridors to be built within the geographic boundaries of, or even within view of national parks such as Gettysburg.”

In November, the states of New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia petitioned the federal government to reconsider designating dozens of their counties for the siting of the high-speed electricity transmission corridor.

Also filing a petition with the department for a rehearing on the designation of the transmission corridors in the Southwest and mid-Atlantic were 20 environmental and conservation groups.

The states and groups say the Department of Energy disregarded key energy issues, failed to consult with the states and failed to adequately assess environmental impacts of the transmission corridors.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Catskill Mountainkeeper joins fight against NYRI

Link is here:

SundayDecember 2, 2007

Copyright © 2007 Mid-Hudson News Network, a division of Statewide News Network, Inc.This story may not be reproduced in any form without express written consent.
Catskill Mountainkeeper joins fight against NYRI

Press Release

Youngsville — Catskill Mountainkeeper has joined several other environmental advocacy organizations and state officials by filing a rehearing petition contesting the Department of Energy’s designation of two National Interest Electric Transmission Corridors. The preservation group’s action is on response to New York Regional Interconnection’s proposed plan to build a power line from Oneida County to Orange County.
One main argument stressed in the rehearing is that the “DOE did not effectively communicate with states in determining the corridors.” Along with that argument the Department of Energy has not yet completed an Environmental Impact Statement on the corridor designations, the Catskills group said.”The Department of Energy, in its ruling regarding NYRI, has not complied with the National Environmental Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act, the National Historic Preservation Act, or the Federal Power Act by designating these NIETCs,” Catskill Mountainkeeper Executive Director Ramsay Adams said. “Catskill Mountainkeeper is committed to fighting on behalf of the communities in the regions affected by this proposal.” The group said the NYRI power line would run some 190 miles and “undermine our region’s fragile economic development (and) permanently devastate and displace local wildlife, including endangered and threatened species.”

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Mountainkeeper Speaking at Farm Discussion

Discussion to look at Catskill farming
Link is here:

The Catskill Center for Conservation and Development in Arkville will host a discussion of Catskills farming culture from 1 to 3 p.m. with guest speakers Sally Fairbairn and Wes Gillingham.
The two sessions will compliment the current Erpf Gallery exhibit, “Farming Culture,” featuring paintings by Stu Eichel and Laura Hussey.
In her discussion “The Making of a Natural Farmer,” Fairbairn will center on her own development as a farmer and environmentalist, including some discussion of why her farm is not organic. She will talk about the farm she is operating now and how it differs from what she used to do. The presentation will be punctuated with a few of Fairbairn’s original poems, and she will talk about her recent piece in The Place You Call Home, the Northern Woodland magazine. Copies of this publication will be available free of charge.
Fairbairn was born and raised in the Margaretville area. Her parents, Morton and Emmeline Scudder, owned Riverby Farm on Route 30. She attended New York University and majored in English, intending to be a high school English teacher, but left after one year. She returned to her farming roots, marrying local veterinarian Dr. John Fairbairn and running their Halcott Center dairy farm with him for many years. After they retired from dairy farming, she raised sheep for a few years, moving to the Fairbairn family’s land in Rider Hollow outside of Arkville during the late 1980s. Her farming life came full circle when her older son decided to become a dairy farmer.
Fairbairn said she has tried to combine farming and writing without much success, and is a past president of the M-ARK Project and Writers in the Mountains. She is a member of the Watershed Agricultural Council and a trustee of the Catskill Water Discovery Center.
Gillingham will present “A Half-Mile from the Road,” a brief history of Wild Roots Farm and how it went from a cabin in the woods to a 150-member community-supported agriculture program. Gillingham will discuss how the CSA model builds community, as well as the philosophical, political and practical choices his family dealt with to build a business, contend with major flooding, have two children and build an ecologically appropriate log home in seven years. In addition, the group will discuss animals as part of the farmstead, creating a CSA, looking toward the future crops for tomorrow and more.
Gillingham grew up on the ridge above Livingston Manor. He started working on a dairy farm next door as a “waste management specialist” for 90 cents an hour when he was 12, and worked there until going to college. After college he started working for the National Audubon Society Expedition Institute and became an acting director in the field program. Gillingham taught at AEI with the belief that the best way to learn about the environment is to experience it directly. He led full-semester programs in Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, Newfoundland, Florida, southern Appalachia, the desert Southwest, the Pacific Northwest and Gulf Coast. During this time, Gillingham said he gained a passion for and recognized the need for healthy local food. He and his wife, Amy, have been growing organic vegetables and herbs commercially since 1997.
Gillingham served on the board of the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York and the Sullivan County Farm Bureau. Over the last year, he and a coalition of partners launched the Catskill Mountain Keeper, a nonprofit advocacy organization whose mission is to protect the ecological integrity of the Catskill Mountain range and the quality of life of all those who live there.
The Catskill Center is a nonprofit, membership organization working to foster healthy ecosystems and vibrant communities in the Catskills.
For more information, visit or call (845) 586-2611.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Billboard shows casinos’ bad side




Billboard shows casinos’ bad side

Catskill Mountainkeeper, a newly formed anti-casino organization based in Youngsville, put up this billboard on westbound Route 17, just east of Exit 116 in Bloomingburg.Times Herald-Record/MICHELE HASKELL

By Victor Whitman

Times Herald-Record
August 29, 2007

Wurtsboro — The newest casino billboard on Route 17 doesn’t say “Casinos Mean Jobs!” “Jobs Now!” or any of the other slogans that pop up on glossy billboards on the way to Sullivan County.

“What’s the point of living in the Catskills if the traffic’s as bad as in the city?” this huge billboard says, above a picture of a traffic snarl snaking through the green Catskill mountains.

“Say no to casinos in the Catskills.”

Catskill Mountainkeeper, a newly formed nonprofit based in Youngsville, put up the 12-by-48 foot billboard this week on the westbound lane near Bloomingburg at the county’s gateway. This is the first time a casino foe has anted up the needed $5,000 to $10,000 to get a billboard up on Route 17.

The group is also gathering signatures to send to Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne, asking him to reject the St. Regis Mohawks’ application for a $600 million casino at the Monticello Gaming & Raceway. The Wisconsin-based Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohicans want to build a casino in Bridgeville. That tribe was recently in Sullivan County, touting its planned casino on the Neversink River.

“Right now we think it is a critical period,” Mountainkeeper’s executive director, Ramsay Adams, said. “We also believe there are a large percentage of people who oppose another Atlantic City in Monticello.”

The Mohawks and Empire Resorts, owner of the Monticello Raceway, didn’t return telephone calls or e-mail messages yesterday.

The sign will be up for at least three months. For now, it will probably be the only anti-casino billboard among a chorus of the pro-casino type. “I don’t see a billboard war on 17,” Adams said.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Catskill Mountainkeeper group raises casino traffic issue

Youngsville – The Catskill Mountainkeeper organization Monday launched a campaign to urge Catskill residents and visitors to speak out against the casinos planned for Sullivan County.

There are two casinos proposed in Sullivan, one at Monticello Raceway and the other at Bridgeville.

The Catskill Mountainkeeper group has purchased billboard space on the Orange/Sullivan border going westbound on NY Rt. 17 with the message, “What’s the point of living in the Catskills if the traffic’s as bad as in the city.”

Its executive director Ramsay Adams said casinos will likely cause significant traffic congestion on NY Rt. 17.

“There’s no way to mitigate, in the near future, the impact of traffic,” he said. Each casino and developer has looked at the impact of their one casino. “No one has looked at the impact of multiple casinos.”

Michael Edelstein, president of Orange Environment, Inc., said Rt. 17 is the “main street of our region” and one or more casinos “will have a severe impact on our mobility.”

Say no to casinos in the Catskills:  Send a message to Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne today.

Secretary Kempthorne can decide the future of our region for the better by denying applications for a casino at the Monticello Raceway and others in the Catskills. Send him a message today!





Monday, July 30, 2007

Teens trek through Westchester on 150-mile environmental hike

Teens trek through Westchester on 150-mile environmental hike
The Journal News /, NY – Jul 27, 2007

Teens trek through Westchester on 150-mile environmental hike

(Original publication: July 28, 2007)

YONKERS – Twelve teenagers tracing the route of New York City’s drinking water got a guided walk along the Croton Aqueduct yesterday on the next to last day of a 150-mile hike.

The trip marks the 10-year anniversary of an agreement between upstate communities and New York City to protect the source of the drinking water, which travels more than 100 miles to serve 9 million people in New York City and its suburbs.

Bob Walters, former director of the Beczak Environmental Center in Yonkers, led the teens from Brooklyn and upstate Sidney on the Yonkers leg of their journey.

“It’s great to have this gang visit on their journey to the city,” Walters said.

The three-week trek, which also included about 50 miles of rowing, started July 7 in the Catskill Mountains and ends today at Central Park in Manhattan. The group camped outside Beczak on Thursday night before continuing its journey yesterday. The hikers stayed in Ossining earlier in the week.

The hike is run by Catskill Mountainkeepers, among other environmental organizations.

“Water is going to be an issue of the future,” said Wes Gillingham, 47, of Livingston Manor, N.Y., who is leading the trip to help educate the 15- to 18-year-olds on New York City’s water source. “I would like to see this happen every year.”

“It’s one of the core things that we need to do,” Rebecca Miner said of educating people about the water supply. The 17-year-old heard about the trip from her chemistry teacher at Sidney High School.

Gabe Torres, 18, of Brooklyn said he went on the hike because people are wasting water. “In the city, a lot of people abuse it or don’t use it for the right reasons. It seemed like something I should do,” he said.

Reach Marc Epstein at or 914-694-5077.