Thursday, May 15, 2014


A friend of mine made some interesting points about my concerns over Frontier Stone's proposed stone quarry in the Alabama Swamps.

JARED SCHICKLING: although i agree that the quarry would be a disaster for inwr, there are some things worth mentioning in response to the rationale you lay out here for opposing the quarry. it's not clear what you mean by “the state dec has never turned down a mining permit"--that seems hard to believe in light of all the declined applications to frack in recent years. perhaps it's a technicality, where permit apps never get approved but aren't rejected outright, as a brief online perusal of permits issued by the dec suggests. and this gets to a main artery of your piece, that we should expect frontier to try and extract the natural gas present in the water under inwr, once it's flowing into the quarry, and that the deis' silence on the presence of this suggests frontier's intent here--except that right now the trend in the state is definitely not toward developing natural gas extraction, with drillers selling their land and trying to get out of the state. nys is hotile turf for natural gas development. regarding why the company would need so much legal help, and particularly from persons close to life in Shelby, well, that's s.o.p. with complicated bureaucratic processes like this.


Jared, thank-you for playing devil's advocate and starting the conversation. My thoughts on a couple of your points:

1.    the state dec has never turned down a mining permit.

This one's certainly my fault and a point of sloppy "journalism." Good catch. However, I'm not making the claim. It's in the list summary of published reports on the issue, which are all linked to at the end. The summary's also placed within the article in as distant a place as possible from natural gas. And you're correct, none have ever been disapproved because of delays. Having been an activist, I know this is a long haul and nothing is ever what it seems in the moment. There's always confusion and intrigue. It was good of you to check this fact and point it out this way. Indeed, there's been much success in stopping these projects, which means there's no reason for defeatism or cynicism.

2.  in light of all the declined applications to frack in recent years.

I was hoping no one would confuse the uproar over fracking with other forms of natural gas extraction. I should have anticipated this while writing and made clear that fracking is not an issue, nor is any other form of natural gas extraction in "this project," at least I've seen no evidence to suggest it is, other than Helert's reported public comments, in which he mentioned the presence of "salt brine, dissolved natural gas and hydrogen sulfide…" Why were they testing for it? And if it was part of standard tests, why weren't the results published? Why did they have to be asked about it? I guess if I weren't feeling so rushed because of the impending state deadlines I would have pointed that out. And yes, bigger corporations have sold property and left New York state, and that will undoubtedly be something Republicans will try to exploit. Meanwhile, "local" corporations have mysteriously deep pockets to keep things alive until the floodgate opens, which it likely will. This piece's biggest weakness, I readily admit, is that I heard none of these comments myself. My sources are second-hand, with the exception of data so far gleaned from the DEIS itself. I encourage everyone to be like Jared: doubt, question and investigate. Don't believe anybody, including me. This article's by a person who's entered the game late. I'm only trying to share all the best information I've been able to gather at this point, while being completely open about where I stand on the issue. I'm subjective. Look things up for yourself.

3.    silence on the presence of this suggests frontier’s intent here – except that right now the trend in the state is definitely not towards developing natural gas extraction, with drillers selling their land and trying to get out of the state. nys is hostile turf for natural gas development.

No. The silence of its presence seems a cover up. Continental Placer tested for it and found it, or, more accurately, its CEO said, only when asked, that natural gas was found in test wells on the site. Again, why wasn't this in the DEIS? Also, they've already been working on it for a decade. They [I'd say "Frontier Stone" but I suspect things, and prefer to refer to it as "they"] hired a former local DA to smooth over the backroom dealings on the local level. Also, reported "trends" must be taken with a grain of salt. The real deal is simply private enrichment via manipulated supply and demand by way of propaganda, smoke and mirrors. What's difficult for people like us to swallow is how simple their public calculations are: 1+1=2, as opposed to something a bit more complex. They only concern themselves with that which they can quantify, as they should being purely economic entities. You know the old saying: "Know the cost of everything and the value of nothing." It's an election year and Cuomo's a snake. One big gesture he's liable to make will be a major sell-out and defeat for environmentalists: A ban on fracking while loosening restrictions on other forms of natural gas extraction. And so it goes. Activism is Sisyphean in nature, and if one's serious about an issue it's like marriage. You're in it for the long haul and lots of it won't be fun. But you get up every morning and give it your best shot. You might even end up in jail for something you feel strongly about. You might also just as well end up in bed with someone you love at the end of the day. That's how it always seems to play out in one form or another.

And if you want to know why natural gas extraction is like adding WMD to shock and awe, think pipelines, etc. A whole new infrastructure that would create the jobs and "local" economic benefit that Mahar projects [by "local," of course, I mean those who live here and secretly went about business against their neighbors' wishes; beyond these individuals, there will be no local benefits…"Frontier Stone" will likely get huge tax breaks while its profits go elsewhere].
So, the nightmare scenario is that "This project," if approved, will have dissolved natural gas in the water it's pumping from the quarry. It would be Frontier's responsibility as a corporate person to profit from it. And everyone will approve, as the mine will already be in place. But people will then have a fit that natural gas is being dumped into Oak Orchard Creek [among other things]. People will be outraged that NYS doesn't regulate such waste. Frontier Stone will swoop in and solve the problem…it will be a PR coup with the payoff the owners planned all along. It's the only way "this" project makes sense. I mean, why the hell is the ex-DA on board?
One other thing just occurred to me. The uproar over a lack of regulations about dissolved natural gas might create enough political pressure on the state, again manipulated by private interests, for the state to actually require natural gas extraction from such projects. Cuomo's Wall Street's boy, after all.

I'm not paranoid. That's how these things work. I think the key is to if not shift this evolutionary process from natural to artificial selection, at least introduce humane selection into the mix. Rather than letting Nature work on her own, allowing whatever to evolve, we might try getting involved by selecting our own preferences. And it's not a selection without taking action. We can evolve dogs for a livable planet, or let nature take her course. She will anyway, just like we're all going to die. But this is about this life. We're up against those who've surrendered to Hobbes' Leviathan [and worse].

To me, what matters most is loving life enough to accept its struggle and never surrender, especially because of the horror I've personally experienced.

Well, I guess that's it. I need to take a few days off to work on other things. By June 1 I'll post my letter to the DEC and a review of the DEIS re: the effects of blasting on wildlife habitat.

But Jared's fundamental point is right: The first step is to stop the quarry as it's now proposed. It's a horror as it is. What I'm providing, I hope, is a larger, long-term perspective, as I'm just starting and I'm in it until the end.

Please check out the links below and do your own research. Don't trust me. Correct me where I'm wrong. And please share your findings and opinions by June 9 with the Regional Permit Administrator Scott Sheeley at the DEC’s Region 8 Office, 6274 East Avon-Lima Road, Avon, NY 14414.

Also, please send opinions via e-mail to

View the Draft Environmental Impact Statement and permit application materials at

Sources & Further Reading: 321-page report on Frontier Stone's proposal.

Fontier Stone's environmental impact study:

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