Catskill Citizens Asks Westchester Allies to Save Upstate by Axing It

Catskill Citizens - Tom Shepstone reportsTom Shepstone
Natural Gas NOW   


Catskill Citizens for Safe Energy is a phony group of Hudson Valley types who want to deny Upstate New York natural gas opportunities – save it by axing it.

The extent fractivists will go to distort the truth, obfuscate and spread falsehoods to push their ideology is forever stunning. Josh Fox was on Canadian radio the other day, for example, making the astounding claim there were thousands of cases of hydraulic fracturing contamination. Ezra Lavant did a beautiful job of exposing that lie in this video (starting at 2:36), but that’s the kind of thing these folks do–with regularity. They get gobs of money from special interest groups to do it, too.

Catskill Citizens and Their 60 Minutes of Infamy

Catskill Citizens for Safe Energy, led by the retired 60 Minutes producer Bruce Ferguson, has put out a lot of trash on the subject of fracking using money from well-funded radical groups. He’s a big fan of tri-fold mailers with tabloid-like content.

The organization is engaged in such a mail campaign right now, in fact. They’re mailing out some 410,000 copies of their latest attack piece to Westchester County households, where Andy Cuomo hangs out when he isn’t governing, Debra Winger has resided and no one has to worry about making a living (median home value of $506,200 and mean household income of $124,503 in 2012). They hope to convince the Hudson Valley crowd and the governor to keep sticking it to the Southern Tier for the sake of being politically correct on fracking, while heating over 151,000 of their homes with natural gas.

Such are the tactics of the fractivist but Catskill Citizens goes after the highbrow using distinctly lowbrow tactics. Take, for instance, this excerpt from the mailer:

Screen Shot 2014-05-20 at 10.24.45 PM

This is followed by a copyrighted ugly stream picture we’re told, in the fine print, was taken by Louanne McConnell Fatora, a West Virginia fractivist. We learn, in the “evidence page” document that’s supposed to demonstrate why “Catskill Citizens stands behind every statement in this brochure,” the photo is “Buckeye Creek, contaminated by fracking, Doddridge County, West Virginia.” That’s all we learn and the reader, of course, is led to the conclusion this is an example of contamination from hydraulic fracturing. It’s not.

The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection Office of Oil and Gas  (O&G) final report on the Buckeye Creek incident may be found here. It revolved around the Powell well (API #47-017-05814).  Page 9 of the report describes it as follows (emphasis added):

The well is a conventional well, with no horizontal legs.

The well details are found in this report. It was a conventional vertical well just like thousands of others that have been drilled throughout the Finger Lakes and other parts of New York over the last century; wells that exist next to vineyards and no one even thinks about. It was a well that could be drilled today under existing New York regulations. Moreover, while there was some sort of spill that occurred while the well site was being reclaimed, not during drilling or competion, here’s what O&G concluded:

To date, there is no definite explanation for the discharge into Buckeye Creek. This does not mean that there is not an explanation, or a person or entity responsible; however, it does mean that all available evidence at this time only allows for theories and conjecture.

…OOG believes the creek has been restored substantially to pre-spill conditions, as the NOV required. The October and November water samples showed marked improvement over the September water samples; and, when the October and November samples are compared against the historical data for this watershed, the creek is currently in an analogous condition not only to what is known about the creek prior to the discharge, but also to the rest of the watershed. Additionally, the benthic survey concluded that the creek was not impaired and that the spill did not appear to cause a substantial negative impact.

Throughout the O&G report one also finds “the tests performed indicate the creek meets all applicable water quality standards.” The suggestion fracking contaminated Buckeye is, therefore, wrong on two accounts; ultimately there was no contamination and whatever happened had nothing to do with the hydraulic fracturing process. Catskill Citizens constructed a mirage with its words and picture to suggest the hydraulic fracturing, which they describe as “injecting millions of gallons of toxic, chemically laced fluid deep into the ground,” had contaminated a stream when the reality is far different. It’s a case of artful deceit and nothing more.

Catskill Citizens Math Is Really New Math

The bottom of that very same brochure panel and a graphic from the next includes more of the same:

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Like fractivists in Pennsylvania who love talking about Pennsylvania’s lack of severance tax while largely ignoring its impact fees and high corporate taxes, Catskill Citizens, on its “evidence page,” pretends New York’s ad valorem and corporate taxes are irrelevant by quoting this report indicating existing oil and gas wells only generated $3.11 million of ad valorem taxes for local governments.

While that’s true, it actually makes the point that New York is missing out–big time. The same paragraph of the report Catskill Citizens quoted noted the tax figure is based on a mere $103.61 million of oil and gas revenue, meaning New York State was essentially collecting a 3% tax, which is very comparable to what Texas actually imposes on average. Moreover, almost none of the New York wells paying that tax would have to do so under Texas exemptions for smaller producing wells.

That New York is losing big is evident from something else the report notes: “New York State natural gas production in 2012 was 26.4 billion cubic feet (Bcf), down 15% from the previous year.” Putting things in perspective, natural gas production for just Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania (on the border with New York) for the second half of 2013 was 389,500,000 Mcf or 389.5 Bcf.  Just one county in Pennsylvania, in other words, produces more than twice the volume of natural gas New York produces for an entire year, every single month.

If Broome County, New York, were allowed to develop its natural gas like Susquehanna County has, it could generate more than $6 million of ad valorem revenue per month or $72 million per year and that’s based on the average taxes for all wells. New wells are likely to be assessed at much higher values and generate much more revenue, meaning the Catskill Citizens numbers are an absolute distortion–another falsehood.

A Challenge for Catskill Citizens

Their brochure interjects many more falsehoods into their arguments by quoting bogus research from public employee union funded research that deliberately ignores the multiplier effects of oil and gas development. You can read about that nonsense here.

What really grates, though, is the pretty picture of Tioga County, New York (also copyrighted) on which are superimposed this rationalization intended to erase any pricks on conscience its Westchester friends might have at axing upstate economic opportunities:


Not even Catskill Citizens can deny the Upstate New York economy is struggling, but their answer is to deny the one thing we know will work, from the experience of adjoining Bradford and Susquehanna Counties, and that is shale gas development. The evidence is non-controvertible as this recent post observed.

Their solution is to for all of us to shift to renewables as fast as possible, rip out our heating systems and infrastructure and replace it all with new, which would, of course, create jobs–just as paying someone to fix a broken window creates work. Except the broken window theory of economics (let’s break them all and create jobs everywhere) has been thoroughly discredited, many times.

Only political court jesters eager to spend someone else’s money on uneconomical projects make those kind of arguments. And, call me skeptical but I’ll bet Bruce Ferguson and Catskill Citizens will be right there at the front of the room protesting, when I’m standing there before the Town of Callicoon Planning Board (where he resides and has failed in his bid to get elected to local office) proposing to put a series of windmills along Shandalee Road near his home. I’ve faced angry Hudson Valley types railing about windmills in their backyards before. They’re only in favor of wind now because it’s not knocking on their door at the moment. When it does, they find reasons to oppose that, too–every time.

We won’t know until I show up, of course, but we do know Catskill Citizens hates natural gas today and has interjected a lot of hyperbole into their brochure regarding the supposed danger of pipelines. This presents an interesting thought and potential challenge for Catskill Citizens. Based on their brochure, we know they favor building new windmills over gas wells and they think pipelines are inherently dangerous.

Therefore, let’s do this; we’ll build some windmills along Shandalee Road and shut off the pipelines delivering natural gas to Westchester County. Those 151,000 gas-heated homes use about 10.6 Bcf of natural gas per year, which is the equivalent of roughly 8,600 industrial wind turbines (assuming 3.0 megawatts per windmill and a 33% capacity factor). It will only take 430,000 acres or about two-thirds of Sullivan County. I’m sure there still be room for Bruce’s house, though. At least I think so…

Catskill Citizens

Map from county study illustrating feasibility of wind farms near Bruce Ferguson’s home. He was on a committee that sponsored the study, but nothing’s happening, but it could.

Anyway, it does seem like the right to do, so let’s do the deal. I’m sure it’s ok by you, Bruce, right? How about we also send out a follow-up brochure to those Westchester households telling them about all about it and why it makes so much sense? It couldn’t be any more farcical than this one, after all.

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5 thoughts on “Catskill Citizens Asks Westchester Allies to Save Upstate by Axing It

  1. Pingback: Shale Markets, LLC / Catskill Citizens Asks Westchester Allies to Save Upstate by Axing It

  2. Bruce is such a phony. He thinks he’s still doing “60 Minutes” as if we live in the 1980s and no one can easily fact-check his wild unethical claims. It would be funny if it wasn’t so sad though he’s not even embarrassed. Watch out everyone! Bruce might issue a press release!

  3. Dear Tom, Don’t get so hot under the collar! The gas industry is paying you the big bucks to persuade the public that fracking isn’t a threat, not to foam at the mouth.

    You’re wrong about the gas well that contaminated Buckeye Creek. It’s a vertical Marcellus well and it was fracked just like scores of vertical Marcellus wells in New York State. (See FOILed Documents on New York’s Marcellus Wells posted at

    You did a good job of cherry-pickeing the WV DEP report—you chose to ignore that fact that the length of the spill was “approximately three miles” long, and that after the spill the creek contained elevated levels of semi-volitile range organics, calcium and sodium, and that the levels of total dissolved solids, and manganese exceeded federal drinking water standards.

    • Bruce, I’m not the one foaming or getting hot under the collar. Rather, that’s a perfect description of your mailer. Secondly, I never said the well wasn’t fracked. Here’s the relevant paragraph, which uses precisely the language from the report:

      The well details are found in this report. It was a conventional vertical well just like thousands of others that have been drilled throughout the Finger Lakes and other parts of New York over the last century; wells that exist next to vineyards and no one even thinks about. It was a well that could be drilled today under existing New York regulations.

      I did say whatever happened had nothing to do with the hydraulic fracturing, which is very clear. The report speaks for itself as to what happened and, of course, streams are not held to drinking water standards.

      Bottom line: I stand by the story exactly as written.

      And, one other thing: No one has to pay me to say fracking isn’t a threat. I know that to be a fact and am happy to do so. Moreover, I’d rather work for oil and gas companies than the wealthy elites who are trying to steal the upper Delaware River basin for themselves.

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