Monday, May 12, 2014


Is there natural gas in the Alabama Swamps?

Yes. Dissolved natural gas was found in test wells at the site of a proposed quarry on Fletcher Chapel Road in Shelby, according to a reported remark by John Helert of Continental Placer, a consultant hired by the proposed quarry's operator, Frontier Stone, to conduct the study.

In Japan, natural gas is extracted from a similar environment.[i]

Interestingly, a computer search of Frontier's 7-volume Draft Environmental Impact Statement, reveals no mention of natural gas, methane or CH4, the main component of natural gas, despite Helert's admitting natural gas was found.

The study also never considers the effects of climate change or global warming on future water tables. So even if the studies were rock solid, they're moot considering the present situation. Fact is, no one has any idea how much water will or will not fall in the years ahead. Supposing it will be the same as the historical record suggests is stupid and/or corrupt. The best chance many local farmers, including those producing corn for ethanol, will have to survive climate upheaval is to maintain the refuge's ability to help control flooding and manipulate water levels in a fair way between farmers and wildlife. The quarry will be all about the quarry. Reading the tone of the report proves it.

The company—Frontier Stone—says it wants to mine dolomite and lime from the property, which lies just north of the Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge, abutting The Iroquois Job Corps, whose mission is to provide a peaceful living environment for disadvantaged youth and teach them "the skills they need to become employable and independent and placing them in meaningful jobs or further education."

I can tell you from personal experience, having bumped into some of them occasionally on the trails, that these kids are good people. They deserve a chance.

They now live in a peaceful, bucolic environment. They're being given a chance to breathe and have a life, but should the mine go in they will face frequent blasting, constant heavy machinery and dust, to say the least. The machine will put these kids at risk to make its money.

A search of the DEIS finds no mention of the Iroquois Job Corps, which has nothing to do with its money. There's nothing Frontier can do to "mitigate" the damage its operation will have on these kids.

I live about three miles east of LaFarge in Lockport, and when they perform their monthly blasting the windows in my house rattle. The neighbors of the Hinman Road quarry, once called Frontier Stone in the 1970s, are up in arms about the operation's expansion to no avail. Their battles are consistently lost. The legal and expert consultants used by LaFarge are also employed by the new, not the old, Frontier Stone, though some of the alleged investors in the new also invested in the old. Kind of like coming out of retirement, using the same name, then claiming not to be the same person. Now that's a sweet corporate person truth if I ever heard one.

Everyone seems in cahoots, according to the finished DEIS submitted to the DEC and public.

Frontier's hired at least eight consultants and law firms, including former Orleans County district attorney Conrad Cropsey. For the most part, according to their self-descriptions on their firms' web sites, these folks generally protect polluters who break the law and seek loopholes in regulation, defending against class action lawsuits and such by the sick and dying.

If it's just dolomite and lime they're after for the local market throughout the quarry's alleged 75-year life expectancy, why do they need so much assistance? Or maybe the assisters also have fingers in the pie, which we'll never know thanks to strict privacy laws for corporate persons. If we knew who and what they actually were it would be bad for their corporate health…so the privacy laws are kind of like HIPPA. Obviously they know the site's a very tough sell for too many valid reasons to list here. They also smell a hell of a lot of money.

The property in question is now farmland owned by Chet Zelazny, according to William Albert, Media and Community Relations Manager for Harris Beach, a law firm that helps corporate people out with stuff like energy and dealing with sentient biological persons—us—and the local governments who, in the best case scenarios, really try to represent our interests.

Furthermore, Citizens for Shelby Preservation [CSP] checked local demand by surveying Orleans County's many quarries, and reported a lime surplus on the local market, which contradicts Mahar's statements about the quarry's meeting an increased demand for lime due to the increasing acreage of local cornfields destined for ethanol production [which is as close as the study comes to mentioning global warming].

Why would Frontier Stone think a reasonable profit could be made on the local market, as Mahar's stated, from such an operation…especially considering its potential costs?

It seems the American energy "boom" is feeding this insane idea [if it is indeed what they're thinking]. The profit plus other benefits must be very high to destroy the swamps. I don't think the state DEC or any level of government should allow this process to continue.

I asked Albert in a May 7 e-mail:

"Can you, Frontier Stone/Dave Mahar and/or any entity Frontier Stone may later sell to, should it be permitted to operate a quarry on the Shelby site, promise to never extract natural gas from it? I'm concerned the quarry may evolve into something else, a project the public hadn't planned on."

Albert's response: "This project involves the development of the property into a limestone mining operation and does not propose to extract natural gas."

That's about as close to an admission a PR guy will ever make at this stage of a project.

The nightmare scenario for me 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's already 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?

I'm not paranoid. That's how these things work. It's a "gitter done" attitude without the tattoos and sleeveless shirts.

I'm totally against "this" project as it is, but the possibility of natural gas extraction is terrifying. A limestone and dolomite quarry in the swamps would be the equivalent to shock and awe on the wildlife and its protected habitat. The sound studies they did were on structures and human beings. They omitted the effects on the acute sight, sound, smell, taste and touch of wildlife.  Nature doesn't really equate with corporate people as they're currently operating. Natural gas extraction ups that atrocity by introducing WMD to the shock and awe.

"This project" would be a grave assault on not only the regional, but also the Great Lakes and continental ecosystems should it be allowed to happen.

What kind of human beings destroy nature preserves for the chump change of dolomite and lime? How many of the corporate ilk can resist the lure of gas money during a boom? Are they even allowed to?

A second Frontier Stone consultant, Continental Placer, was "Originally formed with the mining industry as its primary focus," with its "original objective [being] greatly expanded to offer a full range of services and specialties," its web site says. This is what scares me about the Fletcher Chapel quarry.

Helert, Continental Placer's CEO, reportedly told those attending a May 2007 hearing at Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge headquarters that "Water produced from the test wells…contained salt brine, dissolved natural gas and hydrogen sulfide…"

So where is it in the DEIS? It might be there written in a different way, but I visually scanned all seven volumes and then ran the Acrobat search on the document for the terms and found zilch. Of course, if I were an "expert," I'd use language that someone like me would miss.

According to the "Biographies and Expertise" page on Continental's web site, Helert has, "explored for…black sands and feldspars," which are associated with gas exploration and extraction.

A brief summary gleaned from local media, CSP, "Frontier Stone," et al:

*An average of 1.44 million gallons of aquifer water will be pumped from the quarry every day!
*The state DEC has never turned down a mining permit.
*The potential area of influence for water drawdown is 9,000 feet from the quarry, and would include Ringneck Marsh on Sour Springs Road and the creek itself, which seams together the refuge's wetlands.
*Frontier Stone did not consider the effects of blasting on the nesting bald eagles and other wildlife. A brief scan of the entire document reveals profound disinterest in nature and INWR. They're at best ignorant of what's happening right next door. It really doesn't interest them.
*The DEC said Frontier Stone "failed to address many key issues regarding the refuge."

Can we let private interests destroy the 20,000-acre INWR-state conservation area complex?

Just look at Niagara Falls…Is this, our last best piece of "wilderness" in these parts, to be surrendered to corporate people whose inhuman values and priorities are alien to anything even remotely good?

The news, however, isn't all bad. On Thursday, May 8, the DEC extended the public comment period from May 12 to June 9 due to the amount of interest. It refused, however, to hold a second public hearing for more comment where questions could be asked of and answered by "paid experts." The last one was overflowing and many were turned away without having had their say. The vast majority of speakers were against "this project."

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

Over the next couple weeks I'll be closely reading the DEIS, focusing particularly on the effects of wildlife habitat. I'll let you know what I find.

And please do read the DEIS for yourself, focusing on what affects you most, and share your results. It's actually quite readable...and it's so easy to look things up that you don't know just by googling, or beginning at Wikipedia, etc.

Maybe we can even start a FB page to efficiently share information and help spread the word.

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

Fontier Stone's environmental impact study:

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