Friday, June 24, 2011

My Take on Gas Drilling

In conjunction with the “strategic release” of some of our oil reserves this week, as well as the propaganda filled viral YouTube video (I Love My NY Water) that is being bandied about Facebook. I have decided to weigh in for a minute or two on the gas drilling debate that has been raging here in Sullivan County for over three years. (Actually for over two decades on and off.)

I am fairly certain that anyone reading this is pretty familiar with the debate. But for those who aren’t, I will give you the cliff notes. About two miles below us, there is a bunch (although how much is debated) of natural gas among the Marcellus Shale.

Well halfway through the 2000’s, gas companies like Chesapeake, and Exco Petroleum began quietly approaching landowners of large chunks here in Sulllivan County, and offering them leases, which would give these companies the right to drill down to retrieve the fossil fuel, via a process called fracking. Fracking is a procedure where they force pressurized water and other ingredients down the well, forcing open fissures which will release the gas. Thanks to our fearless leader at that point (George Walker) the environmental laws were relaxed enough so these companies expected to come in and set up shop with little trouble.

Well I think they under estimated the land owners here a little bit. The residents formed a coalition, and held out for better terms on the leases. Some of the higher numbers I have heard are $3,000 an acre. However, this coalition brought attention, and with that attention people began to do some research, and some of the things that they found were troubling. Gas drilling has potential negative side effects on the environment. The gas companies are somewhat vague as to the “other ingredients” in the fracking process, and stories began to emerge from other areas. Suddenly Sullivan County was slated to be the next Chernobyl.

There was a series of town hall type meeting put on by the gas companies, which attempted to assuage all fears, but over the last few years there is a growing movement of anti-drillers, and they have pretty successfully halted the process while environmental impact studies are performed.

Let me first say that I get why the anti-drillers are doing what they are doing. No-one wants to see Sullivan County turned into a wasteland dotted with discarded pools of fracking fluid. These gas companies cannot be allowed to operate with impunity. There needs to be accountability.

However what I don’t get is the across the board attitude that drilling is evil, and must be stopped at all costs. This growing number of anti-drillers, led by their celebrity Lorax Mark Ruffalo, has continued to amass, until it almost seems like that is the general sentiment here in Sullivan County.

I can tell you that it is not the general sentiment. There are an equally large number of people who are, if not welcoming, at least understanding that gas drilling may be a way for Sullivan to emerge from a two decade long decline. Natural gas drilling could pump more money into our local economy than it has ever seen. Our ridiculous property taxes would be lowered, and jobs would be created. Many argue that the gas companies would be all take and no give, however there are ways to assure that that won’t happen.

I suppose the “not in my backyard” attitude has always bothered me, and in this instance it takes it a step further. Many of these anti gas drillers are second homeowners, so it is more like “not in my play yard.” Mark Ruffalo’s presence in Sullivan County does little to boost its economy. And I doubt if Ethan Hawke has ever even been here. We all drive cars, use electricity, drink from plastic and ride on rubber tires. That fossil fuel was harvested from somebody's backyard.

I suppose some need a cause, and self righteous indignation feels good. I just think it is all a bit much. Other areas have been drilled for natural gas, and the community has survived and even thrived. There is not a Dr. Evil out there intent on poisoning the children of Sullivan County. Let’s all just relax for a minute, and see what is best for our county.

There were twelve properties reported sold on the Sullivan County MLS this week. Click Here for Listings
My pick of the week is new lakefront listing on Tennanah. I think it is priced pretty middle of the road. There was a much bigger house that went for less on that lake just last month, but I really like Tennanah Lake. And I think this is one of the better lakefront listings for under a million. Its funny, it seems like there has to be one house for sale on Crowley Road. And this is the new one. Click Here

Friday, June 17, 2011

Emerald Ash Borer

Perhaps in your travels around Sullivan County you have seen these purple triangle contraptions hanging from various trees. Every time I would see one, I would tell myself that I had to do some research and find out what they were, but then life got in the way, and I kept forgetting. Well when I finally remembered I was surprised that I had not read something on it sooner, because it was covered quite extensively by the local media. (There was an article in the Democrat, Record and River Reporter. In Sullivan County that is as extensive as it gets.)

So some may know about our latest infestation threat, but for those of you who don’t, I will tell you. The Emerald Ash Borer, indigenous to Central Asia, at some point hitched a ride over the Pacific, and showed up in Michigan in ’02. Apparently these little insects have a fondness for our Ash trees. The adults nibble on the leaves, with little damage, but the larvae love to bore holes in them until they are dead. Tens of millions of trees have been lost in Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and recently New York.

Surrounding counties have confirmed reports of these little buggers, but as of yet, none in Sullivan County. However it is only a matter of time before they show up. Quarantine procedures have been set up by the D.E.C to limit firewood and nursery tree transportation, but most experts agree that it is a losing battle.

Well these purple boxes have a bunch of sweet smelling sap inside that the bugs find irresistible. (Apparently they are also fond of purple.) They work along the same lines as a lobster trap. Once inside the insects are not smart enough to find their way out.

How effective will this be in stopping the beetles? I am going to guess not very. But I suppose every little bit helps.

This is just another example of how our world is getting smaller, and the repercussions it has on our environment. Last year we had an outbreak of “Rock Snot” (Didymosphenia geminata) an algae that was originally from Africa. Earliest reporting of this plant was in the ‘80’s. Although not a significant threat, it is a slimy weed that covered the bottom of the Delaware River for the month of July. Environmentalists report that it is a health risk for the local fish population. Also the bamboo that is prevalent along the banks of the Delaware is not indigenous to this region. Sometime in the mid 1980’s it began appearing, and now it is everywhere, and has choked out a lot of the natural growth along the river banks.

Nature is an opportunist I suppose, and if these species can hitch a ride on our carelessness, they will. Makes you wonder what was on Darwin’s shoe when he first stepped onto the Galapagos.

There were ten properties sold in Sullivan County this week as reported by the Sullivan County MLS.

Click Here for Listings

Friday, June 3, 2011

Phish and Memorial Day

Phish played three sold out shows at Bethel Woods this weekend, and it really went off without a hitch. I think no one was really sure what to expect. There were whispers that it would be the second coming of Woodstock and our roads would be choked with traffic, and all our fields would be crammed with music (and chemically) induced revelers. My weekend bookings took me right by Bethel Woods on Fri. and Sat. and both times I made it through with little difficulty. Feedback from people that I know that went to the concert was all very positive. I'm not a fan of Phish, and I don't really understand the draw, but seeing all the places along 17B open and busy was great to see. It is good for our county, and I think on this one they got it done right. Bethel Woods is a great draw, and has been a bright spot in a community that has had its share of disappointments

Memorial Day has always been one of my favorite holidays. It just feels like summer now, and the way the phone has been ringing means that buyers are out there looking for that place to escape to for the summer. Once again I have a full weekend docket.

Sold listings:

There were 6 listings sold in Sullivan County this week. Actually one is in Delaware County, however it is significant enough (829K) that I included it.

Sullivan County Sold
Greater Hudson Valley Sold

My "pick" of the week is a 130 acre piece in Lumberland on Kalin Webber Road. It is vacant land. It has been on the market for over three years. Original price? 995K. They have dropped it too 430K, and who knows where it will end up, and when it will sell. Is it now priced where someone might jump? Hard to tell, but half a million off your original asking price is pretty hefty. Just another example of the champagne wishes and caviar dreams that fueled the bubble, and are now starting to fizzle away.

Lumberland vacant land