Friday, November 2, 2012

Unraveling the Common Denominator to the Health/Environmental Impact Preconception

Green Plan’s Ted Fink, the author of two CommunityImpact Assessments (CIA), paid a visit to Otsego County’s Natural Gas Advisory Committee meeting on Friday October 26th. His visit which was set into motion by a County Board Member, who had hoped Fink could persuade the committee that a similar Assessment would benefit Otsego County. Fink utilizes a “build-out” analysis to depict how much land within the county or town could be impacted by gas development under current zoning regulations. According to my understanding, a build-out analysis is a tool that can be used to evaluate the demands that a future development project could have on the land. It has been used effectively for brick and mortar structures such as housing developments, and new roadways, but only recently has it been used to chart the impact of natural gas development.  A build-out analysis is normally paired with different development scenarios that can then be utilized to determine what land use patterns a community would prefer to see. If utilized properly, without bias, a CIA can be a very useful tool for localities who wish to see the overall big picture and plan accordingly.

How some people see gas development in their backyards.
 Scroll down to see a more realistic picture

However, I am very skeptical of Green Plan’s Community Impact Assessments. Not because of the funding sources but because of the land use assumptions applied. 
The above referenced assessment lies at the heart of both the Dryden and Middlefield Lawsuits and if its conclusions are wrong then the whole precept of the lawsuits is flawed. While Mr. Fink does not feel that the assumptions he made have any bearing on the conclusions - he couldn’t be further from the truth.  His assumptions on truck traffic, spacing units, and chemical usage create a picture of an industry that is set to take over 27 percent of Tompkins County’s usable land. Not only is the information outdated, it represents the absolute worst case scenario, which is logistically unrealistic. His CIA does not take into account the,
  • Temporary nature of gas development. Gas well development doesn't have a permanent impact like housing units.
  • Logistics of natural gas development. There are only a limited number of derricks hence development is not instantaneous.
  • Potential of technological advances in natural gas extraction techniques. Lateral portions of the wells can now expand to a mile creating spacing units that can drain a 2 square mile spacing unit. Lessening surface pads by half and impact by half.

Once you decrease the number of wells predicted in his build-out scenario (larger spacing units), reduce the amount of truck traffic (recycling, the use of water impoundments and temporary water pipelines), reduce the amount of chemicals and reduce the build-out rate to take into account the logistics, you are left with a smaller footprint that the CIA predicted- Smaller footprint - Smaller potential of their reported potential health impacts. 
Another big flaw- The Green Plan CIA was not validated. This could have been done easily by looking at PA where development has been occurring. This would give a realistic assessment of the real impact of gas development. It behooves Green Plan to update their analysis, and to validate it. This will paint a more realistic picture as to what the impact to a locale may be and stop misleading people.

Can you see the finished Natural Gas Well Pad?
Towanda, PA October 8, 2012

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