News of Otsego County

Serving Otsego County, NY, through the combined reporting of Cooperstown's Freeman's Journal and the Hometown Oneonta newspapers.


dick downey

DOWNEY: No Natural Gas Upstate? Politics Is The Reason

No Natural Gas Upstate?

Politics Is The Reason

To the Editor:

Tom Morgan’s column, “Frack Bust? Or frack Boom?” (10/10/19) cited multiple studies showing the safety and economic benefits of the shale revolution. Naturally, it drew the usual flurry of nay-sayers.

Jay Fleisher, Ph.D., worried about shallow Marcellus formations in the Catskills and Northeast Pennsylvania. As a geologist, he should know most Catskill shale is “cooked” and therefore out of play. The well depths of Northeast Pennsylvania’s Susquehanna and Bradford counties average about 7,000 feet. They’re doing just fine.

Chip Northrup’s letter credits his “Ain’t No Gas Here, Guv!” tour in the late fall of 2014 as influential in Cuomo’s decision to ban gas in New York. Maybe … but probably not. More likely was Zephyr Teachout’s 37 percent showing in the Democrat primary, the consideration that Upstate New York was not his constituency, and Cuomo’s need to move left to satisfy his NYC base. However, the anti-gas tour’s theme –  New York gas has little value so why drill? – deserves scrutiny.

Tour member Jerry Acton forecast gas productivity in New York using depth and thickness of formation data coupled with initial production numbers from 1,700 Marcellus wells along the PA/NY border.

From this, he deduced New York’s Broome and Chenango counties would be productive but little gas of value elsewhere. Unfortunately, Mr. Acton had to use limited NYS data.

More important, there was very little data on production from Pennsylvania’s Utica shale because there was virtually no drilling in that formation prior to 2014. (See EIA Monthly Dry Shale Gas Production, Oct.17, 2019.)

The Utica, a deep shale formation, now accounts for about a quarter of the Appalachian Region’s output. It was the primary formation targeted by drillers in Otsego /County. So, while Mr. Acton’s data confirms Marcellus productivity in Broome and Chenango counties, it is silent on the true total potential of gas in New York.

Tour member Lou Allstadt used the industry’s flight from New York as an indicator that the state’s gas drilling was deemed unprofitable. Unprofitable? Yes, but not from a lack of natural gas.

Politics killed gas development in New York. Rex Tillison, then Mobil Exxon’s CEO, requested a meeting with Governor Cuomo to discuss moratorium issues. Cuomo refused. Weeks later Exxon Mobil cancelled all its New York leases.

A good move for Exxon Mobil. It had nothing to do with gas in the ground; New York was NOT “open for business.”

Likewise the small operators. Some went to court; some stuck it out until their bank accounts ran dry. Mr. Allstadt characterized the completion of Gastem’s Ross #1 on Crumhorn Mountain in the Town of Maryland as unprofitable. That’s why they left , he said.

Wrong. In their conversations, discussions with landowner lawyers, annual reports and targeted sites, Gastem (and Lenape O&G) intentions were crystal clear; they wanted local gas for local use. Gastem’s limited vertical frack at Ross #1 proved there was a local supply to meet the company’s goal. Politics killed opportunity. That’s why they left.

Mr. Northrup’s role in the tour was to turn a rogue’s eye view on the financial machinations of the big oil and gas companies. This didn’t have much to do with the lack of gas in New York, but Mr. Northrup has a long history of low-balling natural gas reserves, particularly in the Marcellus. Should we heed his “expert” advice?

In November 2014, the gas output of the Appalachian Region (Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia and MIA New York) was 14 billion cubic feet per day (Bcfd). As of the Energy Information Agency’s Oct. 17 graphs, it has now more than doubled. This gain happened in spite of a politically limited pipeline capacity, the denial of normal markets on the East Coast and New England, and an oversupply of discounted natural gas now piped to the South and the Southeast.

The “Ain’t No Gas Here, Guv!” tour had little to do with convincing Cuomo to ban gas and little to do with reality. The reality is that Upstate New York without natural gas is left swinging in the wind of expensive renewables.

NYSEG rate case, anyone? Just the first of many rate hikes.



DOWNEY: Affordable Power Needed: For Now, That Means Gas

Affordable Power Needed:

For Now, That Means Gas

To the Editor:

Adrian Kuzminski’s latest editorial, “Refocus $500M From Pipelines To Renewables,” plays three-card monte with reality and the truth.

Mr. Kuzminski questions NYSEG’s petition to the Public Service Commission (PSC) for a rate increase. In particular, he objects to the allocation of $203 million (not $500 million as headlined) toward upgrading and expanding capacity of the DeRuyter gas pipeline servicing Oneonta. He states, “To cover costs of the pipeline, NYSEG is asking for a combined gas and electric hikes of 27 percent.”

Better to fund renewables, he says. Their energy source, the sun, is FREE (his emphasis). He notes, “wind farms have gotten so cheap you can build and operate them for less than the expected costs of buying fuel for an equivalent natural gas plant.” Supporting gas infrastructure denies funds for renewables which, in turn, “all but guarantees our region will remain an economic backwater.”

Wrong overall and often disingenuous.

First, some background. The state grants utilities area-specific monopolies but regulates rates. That’s the deal. To the Editor

Utility companies aren’t exciting businesses like Amazon or Apple. They attract investors by paying decent dividends. The state allows for this attraction but little else. Rates must serve the public while guaranteeing a reasonable profit to the utility. Profits increase as the monopoly area prospers, drawing new ratepayers who want to work and live there. NYSEG isn’t that fortunate. It services Upstate New York. Now New York saddles NYSEG with extra burdens which brings them before the PSC.

Mr. Kuzminski neatly combines NYSEG’s gas and electric components in the rate hike of 27 percent. He neglects to tell you that natural-gas expenses account for only 2 percent of that hike. The remainder, the burdensome part of the rate hike, is the electricity costs.

This isn’t due to an uptick in tree trimming or emergency calls. The cause is Andrew Cuomo’s “Reforming the Energy Vision” (REV), an energy plan filled with a web of renewable subsidies, rebates, priorities, mandates, favored businesses and programs that that bleed traditional energy servers such as NYSEG in favor of renewable energy entities.

The beauty part for the Governor is that his thumb on the scales is never seen; his policies cause the rate hikes (in reality, a tax) but the utility does the collection and takes the abuse. Sweet!

When the REV was published two years ago, Otsego Electric warned its subscribers that rates would rise. Good call! However, this shouldn’t have been a surprise.

In Europe, where REV-like policies were already in place, rates had skyrocketed. Germans pay three times the amount paid by Upstate New Yorkers for electricity. If our current rates and policies are unable to attract industry, what happens when the rates triple?

The consulting firm McKinsey recently found that Germany is endangering its economy and energy supply through the transition to renewables. (Forbes, 9/5/19). After favoring renewables for almost 20 years, Germany gets only 27 percent of its electricity from wind, solar and hydro. To offset an energy disaster, it burns biomass, garbage, and lignite (dirty coal), is building a second gas pipeline to Russia, and is constructing an LNG hub near Hamburg.

That’s the real cost of FREE energy, Mr. Kuzminski.

Mr. Kuzminski praises a wind farm breakthrough where the cost per kilowatt hours is less than that of gas. The praise is well deserved. We need cheap energy, be it from sun, wind, water or gas, all competing in the marketplace for the best price.

Not mentioned in Kuzminski’s column is that these breakthrough wind farms are few in number, well over a thousand miles away, situated in that great geographic wind tunnel extending north from Texas to the Canadian border. This area, called the Interior, has the greatest wind resources, and therefore the greatest growth, which is why you can find some of the best electricity rates in Texas as of right now.

The Northeast has less wind, has the highest construction costs, and produces a more expensive product. However, we do have gas, under our feet and in Pennsylvania. Regionally, it’s our best road to economically attractive power.

Finally, Mr. Kuzminski predicts Upstate New York is doomed to be an eternal “economic backwater” if we don’t go all in for renewables. Really? One million people left New York in the last decade. They left for better opportunity elsewhere — lower taxes, less regulation, lower cost of living, and a lower cost of doing business. No one’s leaving town over a lack of renewable energy infrastructure.

Affordable power and heating is part of the solution to our economic woes. Here and now, natural gas fills the bill.




Gas Generated Electricity Quicken Way To Achieve Decarbonization Goals
Letter from DICK DOWNEY

Gas Generated Electricity

Quicken Way To Achieve

Decarbonization Goals

To the Editor:

Adrian Kuzminski’s June 13/14 column, “If Facts Can’t Defuse Deniers, What Can?” opens with the passage from the New Testament where Pontius Pilate asks Christ, “What is Truth? (John 18:38). This is an eternal question, always relevant, especially today. The column devolves into an attack on “Climate Change Deniers,” people skeptical of the dogma and prophecies of “The Climateers.” Climateers would have us make a sharp U-turn off the fossil fuel highway to follow the Yellow Brick Road of renewables.

First, let’s be clear. Climate changes. It always changes. The fossil fuel we feud over gives testimony to eons of changing climate. Climateers say this time it’s different. Man’s use of fossil fuels is the cause of climate change and THE END IS NEAR! For argument’s sake, let’s accept this premise. What do we do about it? How do we decarbonize, keep economies running, and maintain (and upgrade) a modern standard of living for all? What is Truth (reality)? What is wishful thinking (fairy tales)?

As Otsego County Dithers, China Plans 700 Coal-Fired Power Plants

As Otsego County Dithers, China

Plans 700 Coal-Fired Power Plants

To the Editor:

Oneonta needs natural gas. The latest skirmish in local Gas Wars is over a decompressor station in the old D&H railyards. NYSEG’s gas feed to Oneonta is seasonally limited. There’s no guarantee of supply to large users during protracted cold spells. NYSEG won’t upgrade the feeder line for years to come. Businesses and our local IDA support the decompressor station; the anti-gas faction oppose it. Most agree that affordable energy is key to regional economic growth. That would be gas.

The focus on a stable year-round economy is not new. Since 2005, the County has created three economic plans. All cited our tech, tourist, educational and cultural advantages. The results: minimal growth, an aging population while the young flee for opportunity. A fourth Plan is now in the works. We transformed our IDA, Otsego Now, into a one-stop shop to facilitate financing and administrative hurdles. We’ve hired two IDA CEOs. They’ve been clear. Both said we need the availability of natural gas if want to keep and create jobs in this area.

A relatively small, organized, articulate, dedicated, close-minded group are opposed to ANY form of gas expansion. They feel the use of fossil fuels will destroy the planet. The timeline to Doomsday is elastic; some say 12 years and it’s curtains. Others offer various endpoints to be fossil fuel free. The year 2050 is popular. The Energy Information Agency (EIA) contradicts this, predicting in 2050 gas will still be 40 percent of our energy mix.

Future Requires ALL Forms Of Energy, Including Affordable, Plentiful Natural Gas

Future Requires ALL

Forms Of Energy, Including

Affordable, Plentiful Natural Gas


To the Editor:
Dan Buttermann’s letter in your editions of Feb. 21-22 headlined, “On Energy Future, State Must Pick Right Side,” has the right title but supports the wrong side – renewables only, no new gas.
Unfortunately, the state (Governor Cuomo) shares Mr. Butterman’s view. Now the consequences are beginning to show.
Con Ed announced no new gas hook-ups in Westchester County. A six-acre urban renewal project in Yonkers – kaput. All new commercial/residential development in Westchester – on hold. Incidentally, Westchester utility rates are going up; gas 11 percent and electricity 6 percent.
Let’s not pick the wrong side for Otsego County. Our energy future needs ALL forms of energy, including affordable, abundant, reliable natural gas.
Gas cuts overhead, creates jobs. It counterbalances New York’s high taxes and restrictive business climate. If permitted, pipelines could be here in about a year.

AgZeit Chosen For Otego Elementary

Unatego To Sell

School To Agzeit

Unatego Central school board member Dick Downey was one of two board members to vote tonight against AgZeit’s proposal to redevelop the Otego Elementary School building into an indoor produce-growing enterprise. The board narrowed the building’s fate from four to two proposals: one from AgZeit, which intend to create an indoor farming facility; and The Kildonan School, which hoped to open a secondary school for students with Dyslexia. The board opted for AgZeit’s proposal, voting 4-2 in favor of the Endicott-based company. (Parker Fish/

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