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Anti-fracking petitions delivered, details missing on Pa. well blowout

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Stacks of petitions against fracking were delivered to the governor yesterday.

The New York Public Interest Research Group delivered what it says are 10,000 signatures opposing fracking to the governor yesterday.  The Innovation Trail's Daniel Robison reports that petitioners used the campaign not just to collect signatures, but to spread their message:

Collecting the signatures was also an opportunity for NYPIRG to spread its message, Piscitelli says. "The majority of people had no idea what hydraulic fracturing was," she says. "Or they knew something about drilling, but they didn't know specifics about it. And we explained the specifics and they were very angry."

Cara Matthews at Gannett reports meanwhile that gas companies are critical of the petition drive:

James Smith, speaking on behalf of the Independent Oil and Gas Association of New York, said after the news conference that the group wants to ensure that drilling for natural gas is safe. He criticized NYPIRG for assuming what happened in Pennsylvania can and will happen in this state. New York’s regulatory structure is more stringent than in Pennsylvania, he said.

Pa. well blow out

ProPublica's Nicholas Kusnetz is questioning why it took 13 hours for a response team to get to Pennsylvania after a well blew out last week - and why the team had to come in from Texas:

According to a plan that Pennsylvania's Department of Environmental Protection announced in August 2010, a Pennsylvania-based emergency response crew should have been available to handle the blowout. The plan was created after Texas crews had to be called in to deal with two serious gas drilling accidents last summer. The first was a blowout at an EOG Resources well in Clearfield County on June 3 -- it took the Texans 16 hours to arrive at that site. The other was a fire at a Huntley & Huntley well in Allegheny County that killed two workers on July 23 -- the emergency responders showed up 11 hours later that time. John Hanger, the DEP's former secretary, said at the time that the delay was unacceptable. "When an accident occurs, we cannot wait 10 or more hours for a crew to fly in from halfway across the country," he said in a news release.

The Philadelphia Inquirer's Andrew Maykuth reports that it's still not clear why the well went.  Regulators are calling for a "complete accounting" of operations at the site:

Anti-drilling activists, who have criticized [Pennsylvania Governor Tom] Corbett's ties to the gas industry, said they welcomed the EPA's growing assertiveness. The EPA first intervened with the DEP in March when it directed the state to improve water testing to monitor radioactivity and potentially toxic substances in wastewater. "We're concerned that decisions are not being made in the public interest at the state level and feel better with the EPA looking over their shoulder," said Jeff Schmidt, director of the Sierra Club Pennsylvania Chapter. Underscoring the mistrust of the DEP, Citizens for Pennsylvania's Future on Tuesday filed three formal requests under the state's Right to Know law asking for documentation "of exactly how and by whom environmental laws and regulations are being enforced" by the DEP.

Fracking economics

Maykuth's Inquirer colleague in the capital, Angela Couloumbis, reports that gas drillers in Pennsylvania paid only $38.8 million in state business taxes in 2008, despite claims by the industry that it has a $1 billion tax revenue impact.  The data comes from the early days of the gas boom in Pa., but activists argue that companies are exaggerating their impact.

Jeff Murray reports at the Elmira Star-Gazette that a Pennsylvania firm wants to reservice waste water from Painted Post at an old foundry, for use in hydrofracking operations in the Southern Tier:

The Myles Group has been approved by the Susquehanna River Basin Commission to remove up to 500,000 gallons a day from the village system if Painted Post officials concur, said Marcia Weber, Planning Board chairwoman. Another undisclosed company has received permission from the commission to withdraw another 500,000 gallons a day, Weber said. "It's village land, so we are checking on whether that requires normal site plan review or whether it is waived because it's village property," she said. "We are recommending that in either case, the full review is undertaken by the village and by the Planning Board.

Power authority power shift?

The head of New York's Power Authority - the agency that's tasked with siting offshore wind turbines, among other projects - might be stepping down, reports the Innovation Trail's Zack Seward.  Richard Kessel could be on the way out, with power potentially shifting to the authority's board.

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