KAREN BROWN: Good afternoon, everyone, I'm Karen Brown. I am the director of marketing and communications for campus life. And I'm here representing the university administration today. I welcome you to this event sponsored by Cornell. This ad hoc advisory committee meeting is recognized as an official university event.
On behalf of the university, I wish to remind all participants that the university campus code of conduct includes provisions for responsible speech and expression and for the maintenance of public order. The code states, "Freedom to express oneself and to be heard and freedom to assemble and lawfully protest peacefully are essential to academic freedom." These campus code rules apply to all persons on the campus or using its buildings, and it is a violation of these rules to prevent an invited speaker from presenting his or her ideas, beliefs, and information or to obstruct others from hearing them. Quite simply, the speaker has a right to speak without intimidation, and the audience has a right to hear what the speaker has to say. This right pertains without regard to any individual's or groups' assessment of the legitimacy, intelligence, morality, or offensiveness of the speaker's positions.
The code further states, "Those who dislike what an invited speaker is saying also have rights. They include distributing leaflets outside the meeting room, picketing peacefully, boycotting the speech, walking out, asking pointed questions, and within the limits set by the moderator, expressing displeasure with evasive answers. Those who oppose a speaker may thus make their views known, so long as they do not thereby interfere with the speaker's ability to be heard or the right of others to listen." Thank you for giving me this opportunity to review this important information. It's in all of our best interest to be on the same page before we get started. And I welcome you in the spirit of open inquiry and learning to hear what these people have to say and to hear what each other has to say. And now I turn it over to Susan Riha.
SUSAN RIHA: Thank you Karen. Welcome on behalf of the ad hoc advisory committee that was formed earlier this year by the provost. I welcome you to today's forum on developing guidelines for the leasing of Cornell land, for the purpose of drilling for natural gas in the Marcellus Shale.
My name is Susan Riha. I'm a professor in the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences. And I'm director of the New York State Water Resources Institute. I co-chair this committee along with Yves Parlange, who's a professor in biological and environmental engineering, and unfortunately he couldn't be here today.
I'd like to start by taking a moment to introduce you to other members of the committee. And I'm going to start from one end and work my way down. The first, on my very far right is Rick Allmendinger. And he is a professor in earth and atmospheric sciences.
Next to him is Tony Ingraffea, who is a professor in civil and environmental engineering. And then we have Linda Nicholson, who's a professor in molecular biology and genetics; Drew Lewis, who's the director of operations for the Cornell Ag Experiment Station; Pat McNally, who is environmental program manager in the office of environmental compliance and sustainability. There we have Gail Steinhart, who is a senior assistant librarian at Mann Library. Jeffrey Jacquet is a PhD candidate in natural resources. And Alex Gore is an undergraduate, majoring in civil and environmental engineering.
Last but not least, people who were here is Steve Johnson-- where did you go, Steve, there you are-- who is a vice president for government and community relations. And I'm going to apologize for Steve in advance. He has to be leaving shortly to catch a flight for DC. So he's not going to be able to stay for the whole forum.
And also we have one other committee member who couldn't make it. He's down in New York City, Max Pfeffer. He is a professor in development sociology and recently appointed associate dean in the College of Ag and Life Sciences.
So that's our committee. The charge of our committee is to propose guidelines for the Cornell administration to consider in any future decisions regarding leasing of Cornell lands for drilling for shale gas. Cornell currently is not leasing and has no plans to lease its land for drilling for gas in the Marcellus.
The purpose of today's forum is for our committee to gather input from Cornell students, faculty, and staff, regarding the proposed guidelines. I think we can all agree that this is an extremely important issue for our region, and that any decision that Cornell makes regarding leasing of its lands will impact not only Cornell but those beyond Cornell. Our committee takes its task very seriously. And I would like to take this opportunity to thank them for the time and effort they've contributed.
Most of you are probably interested in what happens next. Our committee will consider all of your suggestions, as well as those that have been submitted by people who could not attend or who did not wish to speak. And Cornell students, faculty, and staff can still continue to submit suggestions to the email address, email@example.com. We just ask that you keep these reasonably brief.
Our committee plans to develop a set of guidelines that we will submit to the provost by the end of the semester and that will be shared with the Cornell community. I view the guidelines as an important first step. But we hope there will be opportunities for the larger Cornell community and the public to comment on these guidelines, and that the administration will continue to engage with and respond to the concerns of both Cornellians and the surrounding communities.
Before we get started, I'd like to describe the protocols we will follow during the forum. First, a video of the forum is being recorded today and will be posted on the CornellCast website by tomorrow. A link to CornellCast can be found on the Cornell home page.
Second, I need to explain the committee's role in this forum. We are here solely to gather information and learn. We will not be taking or answering questions or really responding to comments.
Finally, as you know, we've asked people to submit summaries of their comments in advance. We have 20 people who wish to speak. We'd ask that you stand when your name is called, and a microphone will be brought to you. And we ask that people focus on contributing their own suggestions, rather than responding to statements of previous speakers.
To ensure that all 20 people get the opportunity to speak, we are in limiting comments to four minutes. Gary Stewart-- way on my right there-- from the office of community relations, has graciously agreed to serve as our time keeper. He will hold up his hand when you have a minute left, and he'll ring the bell when you're-- ding-- when your four minutes are up. So we ask that you please stop speaking when your time is up, so everyone will have a chance to speak. We have to be out of the room by 6:30, as another event is scheduled behind this one.
So with that said, I'd like to start this forum. We've lined up mainly the students to speak first. And I think Colleen Lamar from law school is first on our list. Thank you. I guess just come up to the speaker, we don't have roving microphones.
AUDIENCE: Hi, my name is Colleen Lamarre. I'm here representing the Cornell Law School Land Use Clinic, led by professors Keith Porter, Eduardo Penalver and Cynthia Bowman.
This semester, the clinic has done quite a bit of research regarding hydrofracking in the area. And we have found that there are some concerns that have not been yet addressed by the state legislature and that the law isn't quite developed enough for an institution like Cornell to be able to rely upon. My research has specifically been related to subsurface trespass related in the area.
And just to get everyone from the nonlegal world kind of an idea of what the legal world defines trespass as-- the ideal of what trespass is usually defined as is "Trespass occurs when there is an intentional and unprivileged use or invasion of another person's real property." So the way that hydrofracking is done with the horizontal drilling and the imprecision which exists right now presents a very high possibility that when a land owner or lessor fracks on one plot of land, horizontally it actually affects the second part of land lying nearby within a mile or two miles, even.
And although Texas has dealt a lot with this issue and hydraulic fracturing, New York has not. So there is very little New York precedent. And as such, a lot of what we have to look at is Texas law, which deals with a very different political and environmental landscape than what New York deals with.
As such, it appears that the New York legislature along with the New York courts-- because this is common law jurisdiction-- will look upon this type of drilling as being a subsurface trespass. And as such, either an injunction or punitive damages is a very typical remedy. And if it does lead to punitive damages, that will cause great financial hardship for all parties involved.
So it's the clinic's recommendation that the school at least wait to enter into leases or drilling itself, until both the law and science has advanced. Thank you.
SUSAN RIHA: Thanks Colleen. Clayton Munnings, is he here?
AUDIENCE: Hi, my name's Clay Munnings. I'm a [? Snell ?] senior. I have no idea how long this is going to take, so excuse me if I read from a paper. First off, I just want to say thanks for letting an undergrad on the committee. I think that was an important step that the committee took.
Allowing hydrofracking will continue to threaten the viability of climate legislation passing through Congress. Last month, British Petroleum and ConocoPhillips quit the United States Climate Action Partnership, which is an organization that is composed of large businesses and nonprofits that came to an agreement as to what climate legislation in the US should look like. Their suggestions, compiled in a report called, "A Blueprint for Action," became the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009, which passed the House by a narrow margin. The bill is now struggling in the Senate.
These prominent corporations quit USCAP to explore hydrofracking. I infer that this is because under a cap and trade scheme, local natural gas distribution companies are capped, meaning they can't emit over a certain amount of carbon. It is possible that businesses extracting new sources of natural gas would exceed this cap and have to purchase pollution permits equal to the total amount of pollution that the extraction required. So this would obviously incur a prohibitive cost on distributing gas locally.
This is important to note, since under cap and trade scheme, selling gas internationally would become more attractive for these companies because there is no international cap on carbon. This would be a negative effect of cap and trade, if we bought the false notion of a transition fuel. However, as James Hansen and other scientists tell us, we don't have time for transition energies.
The solution is to price carbon and eliminate fossil fuels. As states award illegal impetus and loose oversight, we can expect more allies for a price on carbon to become enemies. Again, if New York participates at all in extraction, we are legitimizing the false notion of a transition fuel.
We don't need cheap natural gas. We need energy efficiency, expensive fossil fuels, and opportunities to help rural farmers. All of these opportunities are included in the cap and trade bill in the Senate and the associated offsets market, which is now at increasing peril.
So I just wanted to say as we try to solve climate change, we should use solutions that put further environmental risk-- we should use those last. The cap and trade bill offers a solution that does not put our environment at risk. So I'm basically calling for a ban on drilling in New York. And if we want to help rural farmers in low income communities, let's help position them for the offsets market, and let's push for a cap and trade bill. Thank you.
SUSAN RIHA: Thank you, Clay. Is [? Ilana ?] [? Malkin ?] here? OK, we'll come back to [? Ilana ?] if she gets here later. Is Alyssa here, Tsuchiya?
AUDIENCE: Hi, my name is Alyssa. I am a sophomore in [? SNES, ?] environmental science, concentrating in environmental economics. And I'm also the co-president of KyotoNOW, which worked very hard to lobby to get this committee together. But the statements are my own, drafted from what we've been talking about in meetings, but definitely not to be held accountable to my club.
I hope this committee understands the importance of its task. As a leading institution, the actions taken by Cornell on this issue will have an influence on Ithaca, Tompkins County, New York state, and the rest of the country. This ad hoc group must balance social, economic, and environmental issues, upstate versus downstate concerns, the wants of the wealthy and the needs of the poor, and the hard energy choices that we will draw the line of intertemporal equity.
The guidelines this committee drafts should be foremost based on the concept of sustainability, meeting the needs of the present without compromising the needs of the future. Will the economic development anticipated with the Marcellus Shale drilling consist of short term boom and bust profits or real long term prosperity? How will an increased supply of fossil natural gas affect the nascent renewable industry in our state? How can local governments, financially uncompensated, be expected to deal with the ruined country roads, housing inflation, and increased need for emergency services?
What tensions will an influx of out of state workers, drilling workers, have on our tight knit communities? And finally, do we have time to transition from dirty fossil fuels to slightly cleaner ones? Any set of guidelines the university comes up with should answer these questions.
SUSAN RIHA: Thank you. Chuck Mohler.
AUDIENCE: I'm Chuck Mohler. I'm a senior research associate in the Department of Crop and Soil Sciences. Before that I was 20 years in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. I'm a field ecologist. I've been on probably most of the tracts of land in the southern tier that Cornell owns.
I think that when I first saw this about Cornell drilling on some of its land, first thing that came to my mind was, well, what land? You know, which tracks are going to actually get drilled on? I cannot imagine that we want, as a university, to drill on any of the natural areas that have been set aside.
There are several thousand acres of Cornell natural areas. That doesn't make any sense. You can't put a drilling pad in the middle of a natural area and have it a natural area anymore.
The experiment station farms, equally, you'd have enormous disruptions of research. I have long term research plots on the Musgrave farm and at the Thompson farm. I know there are other scientists who have long term experiments on various other farms, at Hartford and so forth.
You can't put pipelines, roadways, drilling pads on those farms and have any kind of effective research program conducted there. No scientist in his right mind or her right mind would undertake an experiment on land that was leased, knowing that at some point an gas drilling company could come in and completely disrupt the research.
There are also large tracts of land that aren't in either of those categories. For example, large extensive areas out along Hanshaw Road, north of the airport, and so forth. But those are also used for research.
I'm collaborating on a study on a field that just looks like an abandoned field out on Hanshaw Road. I just had a student who I served on her committee, who finished an experiment out north of Route 13 on land that looks like it's not be used. But it is. Research projects are going on.
And I think the university needs to realize that if they do lease that land, it essentially forecloses options for various ecological, environmental research on that land. Because as I say, you can't put an experiment there, knowing that in a year somebody could come in with bulldozers and completely disrupt it. Thank you.
SUSAN RIHA: Thanks, Chuck. OK, Bob Howarth.
AUDIENCE: Thank you, Susan, and thank you to the committee for taking on your work and for this opportunity to give input. I want to briefly address two types of considerations that I think Cornell should make when weighing whether and how to lease lands. The first is if we proceed, how should we take steps to minimize whatever environmental damage might be done. The second is how would leasing on our lands tie in to the university's pledge to become carbon neutral.
I'll go through this briefly. I've given you a statement already. I can augment those later.
With regard to the environmental impact of leasing on Cornell's land, I believe Cornell should lease, if and only if six conditions are met. First the university should specify control over all siting operations. We should make sure that sensitive areas, such as wetland streams, et cetera are protected.
Secondly, the university should require full disclosure of all substances used in drilling operations and should have a veto power over what substances are used. Third, the university should monitor the use of substances used, in addition to specifying what's used. Let me give a little bit of detail on that.
I served as an expert witness in a federal court trial, an oil and gas development in Alaska, in the early 1990s. We were able to prove in court that the oil industry was conducting operations in Norton Sound were falsifying their records, as to what they were using for drilling additives. They were using additives which were illegal under the Clean Water Act at that time and falsifying the reports to the Environmental Protection Agency. So if Cornell allows this, in addition to specifying what sort of substances should be used, we should monitor with real chemistry on the ground and make sure that's what's done.
Fourth, the university should ensure that all wastes that are generated during the development are adequately treated. And again, I believe that should be monitored. This is an area that has some history of abuse. Fifth, all materials, all waste materials, all toxic substances should be kept contained at all times. And sixth, the university should ensure that any water used for hydraulic fracturing comes from an acceptable source and is not causing environmental damage or harm to others.
Now with regard to Cornell's pledge to become carbon neutral, I think we need to think very carefully about how drilling on our lands would affect that. In my written statement, I've raised a couple of points. Let me just highlight one.
If you watch television, or if you read Department of Energy reports, you cannot help but hear that natural gas is an environmental clean transition fuel. It's a step towards the future. It's somehow acceptable in terms of global warming.
My analysis would suggest that Marcellus gas, natural gas in general, but particularly from hydrofracturing is unacceptable as a transitional fuel because of its consequences on global warming. If you compare the net greenhouse gas consequences of using natural gas with our society's traditional use of oil during the 20th century, natural gas will cause at least 50% greater global warming than has the oil. If we continue to use energy at our same rate and simply make that transition, we will greatly aggravate global change.
That's largely because of really small trace leakages of methane during operations and during transport. Methane is an incredibly potent greenhouse gas. Very hard to control it, that makes it unacceptable as a transitional fuel. So again, thank you for your efforts, and thanks for the opportunity to talk to you.
SUSAN RIHA: Thanks, Bob. Peter Davies.
AUDIENCE: Thank you to the committee for this time. I would like to start off with a thought for everybody. And that is water is our most valuable resource.
And I would just like mainly, probably for some of the audience, to do a little summary of the effects of fracking, before I go into short recommendations. Hydrofracking involves millions of gallons of water, containing a toxic brew of chemicals. Many of the known ingredients are poisonous, cancer-causing or hormone disruptors. And many, we don't know what they are, because they are not revealed.
About half of this fracking fluid comes back up the well shaft. And the returning fluid also contains compounds that were previously entrapped in the shale, such as salt-- to approximately six times seawater-- arsenic, and radioactivity, notably radium and radon. Some of the wells have tested at 1,000 times the level considered unsafe. I've done an analysis of the radioactivity and would be pleased to provide anybody with a copy of the analysis.
There is no way to completely decontaminate this fluid, even in designated treatment plants. 1% to 2% of all wells, it's estimated, in any area have leaked toxins into the groundwater, leading to contaminated water supplies, dying trees, and fish kills in creeks. What is also important is once an aquifer is contaminated, it is impossible to clean it up.
The rest of the fracking fluid remains underground, with a potential to leak back to the surface over tens or even hundreds of years. And the result is a potential long term pollution of drinking water from wells to the whole region that relies on streams and lakes. Some of the rock fracturing has led to methane in the natural gas leaking out of the surface and into water supplies.
Benzene, sometimes at 100 times the supposedly safe level, for short term exposure has been emitted from numerous locations in the Barnett Shale counties in Texas. The visual noise and environmental effects of massive multiple drill rigs in the surrounding area will do severe damage to the quality of life-- wildlife, ecology, agriculture, particularly wineries that are developing in this area, and also the tourist industry. What is unbelievable-- and I'm sure well-known across the committee-- but what is unbelievable is that the gas industry is exempt from all water and air pollution laws, thanks to their effective lobbying about five years ago.
So what I suggest should be done here at Cornell. There should be no hydrofracking, especially on land of an environmental leader, such as Cornell, that should be permitted under the present technology. Let's wait until the Environmental Protection Agency has established best practices, and the gas industry is required to abide by all regulations that protect our water and our air.
The gas under Cornell's land will still be there. It's not going anywhere. Let's wait until this can be done safely and then maybe re-examine whether we should be allowing any drilling on Cornell land. Thank you.
SUSAN RIHA: Thanks, Peter. Robert Oswald?
AUDIENCE: Hello, thank you. I'd like to recommend that we don't lease any Cornell land for natural gas exploration drilling. I think it would be unwise at this time.
I think this applies both to lands that are subject to compulsory integration because of leasing in the area and also those that are not. Overall, the advantages of leasing land are greatly outweighed by the major disadvantages. For those lands subject to compulsory integration, the incremental financial advantage of leasing is really outweighed by the increase in liability associated with leasing, as well as a degradation of Cornell's image in the community and among alumni and perspective faculty, students, and staff.
For Cornell lands not subjected to compulsory integration, signing a lease opens new lands for drilling. And our neighbors are then subjected to compulsory integration. This can have dire effects for some people, for example, organic farmers. In consultation with the organic certification agencies, it seems that those people will immediately lose their livelihood upon the onset of drilling, because they will no longer be certified.
Even in the absence of drilling accidents that cause surface water and aquifer contamination, there are significant environmental impacts. And these impacts will be blamed on Cornell. And if we lease our land, we open ourselves to the liability associated with that. And I assure you, there will be lawsuits.
We can anticipate damage to our roads. The article 23 of the New York State Environmental Conservation Law does not provide adequate protection to our local communities for this. And at this point, the local communities have not really dealt with the problem of road use. In effect, Cornell will be put in a position of profiting from gas extraction, while making our neighbors pay increased property taxes and town taxes, to pay for the roads.
And finally, drinking water removal or water removal is not effectively regulated in most areas of Tompkins County. So we can be in a position of removing our neighbors' drinking water for hydrofracking, effectively taking their water away from them. The DEC has a great solution to this. That is, people should not rely on well water. Well, I can tell you there are a lot of people in Tompkins County, including me, that rely on well water and have no other alternative.
And finally, I just want to say that I recently visited Dimock, Pennsylvania, just to get an idea of what it's like to be in an area that's affected by drilling. And for those of you that haven't been there, it's a beautiful area of Pennsylvania, with rolling hills and a lot of small lakes. Now I didn't observe any of the accidents that have been so publicized in that area. I just was struck by a few things. The one thing I was struck by the most was the air pollution, just the smell in the area but also the degradation of the land, the scarring of the landscape.
Now Cornell has a competitive advantage-- or one of our competitive advantages in attracting world class faculty and students is the beauty of our landscape and the quality of life. If we turn Tompkins County into another Dimock, Pennsylvania, we will lose that. And it's not worth it for the few coins that we will obtain from the royalties of gas drilling. Thank you.
SUSAN RIHA: Thanks, Robert. Is Carolyn Eberhard here?
AUDIENCE: I'm not as tall as Peter. I'm Carolyn Eberhard. First of all, thank you for allowing us this opportunity. I'm Carolyn Eberhard, from town of Caroline, no relation. And I'm strongly opposed to leasing by Cornell for gas drilling.
Instead, I would suggest exploring leasing to wind. Because the difference between Maple Ridge Wind Farm-- which I visited recently up by Lowville-- and the disaster in Pennsylvania is huge. Drillers in other states have not been required to adhere to the precautionary principle. As a result, Pennsylvania is in a panic, and a lot of damage has been done, specifically Dish, Dimock, Hickory, Clearfield, many others.
Here are four reasons that I think speak against leasing. First, there are federal guidelines and legislation which is not yet in place. We need to reverse the exemptions and regulate at the federal level.
At the state level, the local control has not been returned to the local authorities, which is vital, so that we can get some local legislation done. We have bills from Lipton, Brennan, and Sweeney that are pending. And also the revised SGEIS is not yet available.
Methane is still a fossil fuel. It's still contributing to global warming. And as Bob said, it may in fact be less "clean" than alternatives.
The full cost benefit to Cornell and to New York State has not been calculated to balance the income against actual costs to Cornell, such as increased P-I-L-O-T. I don't think that they're going to pay for everything, that Cornell will be asked to help pay for the problems with roads, the decreased property values. There's liability for damages to abutters, Cornell's reputation as a leader in green technology, and a negative affect on student and faculty recruiting.
Safety has been extensively covered in the press, and I'm sure for the committee. Also there will be some new jobs, not as many as advertised. But most of the new jobs may be limited to workers with experience in the industry, because the work is very dangerous. You have to be on call 24/7, and a lot of people are just not willing to undertake that kind of work. Local resources will be stressed. And Cornell can expect that their pilot costs will increase.
Finally, the necessary infrastructure-- the pipelines and so forth-- for expanding drilling in our area are not yet in place, as industry admits. Roads will be destroyed. Road permits down in Pennsylvania have recently been revoked. [INAUDIBLE] roads and pipelines will be maintained with herbicides, over which Cornell-- if they're not careful-- may have no control. Private wells and waterways will be contaminated, resulting in ruined farms and greatly diminished property values.
The specific cases are all over the web, if you just look. Emergencies will be frequent and different from what rescue workers are prepared for. And those of us who live out and depend on volunteer firefighters and EMTs think that this is really unfair and putting them in extreme danger.
Gas leasing has already pitted neighbor against neighbor. Land owners next to Cornell leases, as Bob said, might be subjected to compulsory integration. There will be serious noise and air pollution. And no one is talking much about gas storage, a whole separate issue that Cornell and other lands may be taken by eminent domain to store gas against a rise in prices that may come later.
So if Cornell does eventually decide to lease, unlike individual land owners, Cornell has the legal staff and clout to create a restrictive lease, requiring the best available technology. They might consider consulting Devon Energy in Texas, as recommended by the dish experience, and to incorporate provisions of Brennan bill New York state A8748, which spells out a lot of restrictions that we would hope would be in place before there's any consideration of leasing. Specific requirements are too numerous to mention.
And finally, I leave you with a quote from DEC. "We don't anticipate any significant emergencies. These things are rare." Thanks for your interest, and if anyone wants further information, my email is ce11.
SUSAN RIHA: Thanks, Carolyn. Cyrus Umrigar.
AUDIENCE: I oppose gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale at the present time and with the current state of the technology for the following reasons. One, I understand that gas is a valuable resource. But clean air, clean water, and the beautiful natural environment that we enjoy in the Finger Lakes are far more valuable. At the present time, it is unfortunately not possible to extract the shale gas without having a large negative impact on these other more valuable resources.
Each rail requires a few million gallons of fracking fluid, 0.5% to 1% of that is very toxic chemicals, as we've already heard about. The fracking fluid that comes out is even more toxic. It has heavy metals and radioactive radium that are brought up from deep underground. The waste treatment plants do not have the capability to deal with this waste.
The gas companies would have us believe that their technology is safe. If so, why did they successfully lobby to exempt themselves from virtually all clean air and clean water laws? It's clear to me that they do not believe in their own claims.
The volume of truck traffic that is needed is enormous, about 1,000 truck trips per well. And we're talking about thousands of wells per county. This will really lead to additional accidents, road damage, and air pollution. Regions of the country that have already seen this density of drilling have already seen large increases in ozone levels and lung disease.
Gas drilling is a heavy industry. Most heavy industries are subject to zoning laws that are designed to keep heavy industry away from agriculture and residential areas. Gas drillers are not subjected to such laws.
The social consequences of drilling our considerable. Drilling will pit neighbor against neighbor and destroy our sense of community. There will be numerous lawsuits, directed not only at the energy companies but at government, at the university-- if the university engages in it. And it will unfortunately pit neighbors against their neighbors.
Some claim that gas drilling will give a boost to the local economy. Such claims ignore the negative impacts on other industries, such as tourism, winemaking, and organic agriculture. Just in today's news, the commissioners of Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania, where there has been drilling since 2006, designated the county a recovery area and are asking for federal funds because they have become a depressed area. This is an area which has had drilling for the last five years.
Some point out that gas is cleaner to burn than coal. That may be true. However, studies of the full cycle by people such as Professor Howard have shown that gas is less clean than oil and comparable emissions to coal. Moreover, both coal and gas use must be reduced, if we as a planet are to avoid climatic catastrophe.
Cornell University presently enjoys a competitive advantage over other top-rated universities because of the high quality of life that it offers. Personally, I know of faculty who have turned down offers at Harvard, Princeton, MIT, and Berkeley to join our faculty. And part of the reason why they did that was our unique, picturesque setting and the quality of life that is offered over here. It would be a real pity if Cornell were to lose this competitive advantage.
The gas will only get more valuable with time. Cornell should view the gas as part of its endowment, a part that is likely to appreciate more quickly than its other investments, a part that can be tapped on at a later time, at a reasonable pace, if the technology evolves to the point where it's safe to use. Thank you.
SUSAN RIHA: Thank you, Cyrus. Aaron Sachs?
AUDIENCE: Thank you very much to the committee for making this possible. Thank you all for being here. Happy Earth Day.
I teach environmental history here at Cornell. And as much as I would like to claim it as a fun, happy course, it's actually pretty gloomy and full of doom quite often. So when I teach environmental history and I make it up into the 1970s, what I often do to try to lighten it up a little bit is a dramatic reading of this book, The Lorax. And if I had more time, I would serenade you today. But given that I don't, I'll just mention a couple of things that I think might be interesting to think about from this book.
Certainly, it comes from a historical context. It was published in 1971. It came directly out of the first Earth Day. It came out of concerns over Lake Erie's eutrophication.
But there are also some things about it that make it, one might even say, timeless. It's a parable, obviously. And one thing about it that I think has resonance over time is the commodity that is made out of these truffula trees, which is called a thneed.
And obviously, Dr. Seuss there is playing with the idea of need, which has changed drastically over time. I would suggest that we think of ourselves as needing much more today than human beings needed in the past. Which raises the question, to what extent are we so desperate that we actually need this gas in the Marcellus Shale?
The other thing that happens obviously in this book is that there are environmental consequences to the chopping of these truffula trees. We get habitat loss, we get air pollution. We get water pollution, or in Dr. Seuss' words, gluppity glup, also schloppity schlop.
And the basic point there I think is that extractive industry is dirty. Like I said, I study environmental history. I also worked for an environmental organization in Washington for some years, called the World Watch Institute.
I've had a chance to look at extractive industry in many parts of the world, in many different time periods. And when you're a historian, you get used to seeing a lot of variation through time. And what's strange here is the chilling sameness of extractive industry.
There are patterns that you can clearly see. In many ways, this is the quintessential capitalist activity. And as you might expect, it almost always means that the people who have invested already in the technologies are the ones who benefit. The local people are the ones who pay the costs most often.
The jobs are generally temporary. The best jobs go to outside experts. The economic gains are always temporary. Boom is always followed by bust. That's part of the definition of extractive industry, because the veins run out.
Given this, I guess all I would suggest at the end is that if hydrofracking happens here or anywhere, we're going to have to expect gluppity glup and schloppity schlop. Thanks.
SUSAN RIHA: Thanks, Aaron. Martin Hatch?
AUDIENCE: Thanks to the committee for these efforts. And I'm Martin Hatch, professor of music and a mini farmer, been living in this area for 38 years and happy to continue to do so, chair of the university assembly sustainability committee, which worked through the UA to see the committee happen. But what I am expressing is not their opinion but my own.
It's about Cornell land that we are here. But it's also about Cornell as an exemplary institution in the region, in the state, and in the nation. And I've always been puzzled by two areas of this for the past couple of years that it's been debated.
The first is why if this procedure of drilling is 100% safe-- and companies maintain it is to be so-- they don't just advocate that there be a resumption of all of the restrictions and protections that all the different federal acts have provided over the years? And so when I wrote the committee, just with my preliminary remarks, I'll read them, as being the conditions under which Cornell could potentially lease. And these are sort of a list of conditions which will never be satisfied. So you get the opinion behind it, which is that we shouldn't drill.
The university should refrain from signing any contracts to lease its lands for drilling, until all companies in the gas drilling industry agree to subject themselves to all the appropriate conditions-- the Federal Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, Safe Drinking Water Act, Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act, Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, and federal requirements which prohibit hazardous wastes from being buried or pumped underground. And until those companies advocate for the repeal of current exemption from those acts and requirements, the university should hold any company or companies with which it contracts to drill on its lands responsible by contract for complete remediation of any contamination and pollution of land, water, air, including noise that occurs as a consequence of drilling on that land.
This includes university land itself and any land, airspace, or water body or water source outside of the university land that is contaminated or polluted as a consequence of drilling on university land. The university should only sign a contract that has sufficient funds allocated in bonding for 50 years beyond the life of the project-- perhaps even more-- by the company, to pay for this remediation and separate funding for a strict regimen of private-- independent of the company, but paid for by the company-- regulating and monitoring of all conditions of water, land, air including noise, on its land and all lands impacted by drilling on its land, for the full extent of the operations on university land.
Those are the conditions that I set for university land. But more than this, I wanted to talk about the university as a example. It's clear from what's been said-- and I ditto most of what's been said concerning the absence of hard scientific research data to show that this is a prudent course of action, not just to provide profits for some people, but a prudent course of action for the environment and so forth.
There's a debate about whether or not Marcellus gas processes, mining and results are really better for see the CO2 emissions. We heard some discussion of that now. At least we could say that the results of scientific research are not yet in. And in accord with Cornell standing as a premier research institution and its goals to reduce carbon emissions and set a good example for the nation in that regard, I think the university should adopt a stand that says no drilling before all conclusive evidence is-- that is, hard, honest scientific evidence is in-- that in fact, it is a viable and useful source for providing remission of carbon emissions. And--
OK, thanks. I think that's enough. I second what everybody says.
SUSAN RIHA: Thank you. Sandy Podulka.
AUDIENCE: Hi, and thanks for letting me speak today. I also agree with everything I've heard so far today. Because Cornell owns 4% of the land in Tompkins County, whether or not it leases is going to have a huge effect on whether shale gas extraction actually comes here at all.
Shale gas drilling is kind of an all or nothing thing. They won't drill just a few wells. Evidence from other areas makes it clear that because of the high infrastructure demands, this type of drilling, if it proceeds will only proceed intensely. And it will convert our area into what's called a sacrificial industrial zone. Thus, Cornell's decision is critical to the fate of Tompkins County and its residents.
As others have said, to attract and keep top notch faculty and students-- which also helps to bring in grant money-- Cornell should strive to keep the Ithaca area appealing and vibrant. The few actual economic studies that have been done-- and I can give references, a review by Freudenberg and Wilson in a series by Headwaters Economics-- show that drilling harms the long term economy of regions and renders the average resident worse off. Often cited reports, such as the Broome County and Penn State ones did not even consider the economic costs or externalities, only the hoped for benefits.
Looking at other communities gives us so much evidence that shale gas extraction causes water pollution, air pollution, traffic, and health problems that the gas industry's well-funded mantra of "no documented cases of hydrofracking contaminating drinking water" has become something of a bad joke. Whether or not the actual fracking process itself-- the breaking the rock and injecting chemicals-- is a cause of damage is really irrelevant, if all the processes that are intricately associated with hydrofracking cause tremendous amounts of environmental damage that others have talked about.
I personally believe that the industrialization, the widespread industrialization and the loss of all the rural beauty of our area, is good enough reason for Cornell not to lease their land at all. For those who disagree, I suggest the following minimum criteria for leasing.
One, a full economic study accounting for the externalized and opportunity costs must show that the average local resident will be no worse off. Otherwise, Cornell would be knowingly exploiting the economic well-being of local residents for its own short term monetary gain. Second, a science-based, long term, non-industry funded study of the health of people who have lived near intensive drilling must look for and prove the lack of any increased risk of cancer or other illnesses.
And I suggest stringent guidelines, maybe a P-value of 0.01 or 0.001 to determine significance, as is often used in medical research. Otherwise, Cornell would be knowingly inflicting disease on its own employees and local residents. A similar study must show that local aquifers, reservoirs, and surface water are not at risk of contamination from drilling. If any of these data cannot be obtained, leasing should not occur. The unknowns are simply too risky.
And to those who think having a strong lease will prevent environmental damage, I have not seen one scrap of evidence to support that this works. And I remind everyone that no lease can prevent accidents and spills and explosions, no matter how tight the lease is.
I guess it's clear that I believe Cornell should not lease at all and should not contribute to the economic and aesthetic destruction of this area for short term monetary gain. I'd like to think that the collective Cornell intelligence is more farsighted and kind than that.
And one final note. On Monday, James Hansen spoke right in this room. And he made clear his grave concerns over the imminent threat of global warming. In his book, he says, quote, "policymakers need to understand that unconventional fossil fuels must be left in the ground, if we wish future generations to have a livable planet."
I truly believe that in their heart of hearts, each person in this room knows that it's unconscionable for our society to continue using fossil fuels and that developing shale gas will vastly add to the problem, by delaying our inevitable weaning. My question is, does Cornell possess the ethics to do the right thing? Will Cornell choose corporate greed or the path to a sustainable future?
SUSAN RIHA: Thanks, Sandy. Larry Cathles?
AUDIENCE: Well, I may be taking the sole recommendation stand here, that Cornell be constructively involved in this. I think the important thing to understand is the size of the resource we're talking about and its potential importance to the economy of this area and also to the economy of a lot of other countries as well. The Marcellus resource alone is equivalent, more or less, to the-- almost exactly, in fact-- to the resource of the North Sea oil. Marcellus resource, in barrels of oil equivalent, is about 83 billion barrels. And the North Sea resource is about 98, about 10% bigger.
I don't think anybody would argue that tapping the North Sea oil resource damaged the environment of Norway or the environment of England. Norway went from being one of the poorest countries in Europe to one of the richest, in fact the richest. The environment in Norway is spectacular. There's just not much damage that was done with that resource, anyway.
The issue of-- we need energy for our standard of living. When we turn on our lights, we want our computers to work, we want to have our university function, we want to get money from the state, et cetera. If we reject all of the energy sources, we're going to be in pretty dire straits.
To give you an idea of if the Marcellus Shale resource was produced over 50 years, which is about what it could be, that would be the equivalent energy production of 324 one-gigawatt nuclear power plants. And this is producible energy. This is the energy we can get out of the Marcellus. US currently has 104 nuclear power plants. If we hadn't stopped 30 years ago, we'd be in a much better position for environmental considerations-- CO2, et cetera-- than we are now.
The Marcellus resource is big. It's important to the state. Another thing is that the Marcellus type resource is not just limited to this area of course but also is extensively existing in Europe. Europe has a big problem now, in that Russia is holding them hostage on the supply of natural gas, which they use for heating. So a cold winter without natural gas is not a fun thing in Europe.
Marcellus type resources could remove a lot of that constraint. It would spread the ability to produce power around more broadly. And that would be beneficial.
I think-- so our dilemma is that this is a big resource. It's an important resource. It's something which I don't think Cornell as an institution-- I mean, many local faculty members can be involved or not involved, depending upon their personal beliefs-- but I don't think Cornell as an institution can afford to not be constructively involved in this. And I think what Cornell should do is to take the middle road of leasing some of its land and hosting a demonstration project, which, as Bob Howarth suggested, be completely open, use their legal talent to get the best leases-- prototype leases-- that others could use, and be engaged to solve any problems that are there or try to solve them. If you can't solve them, obviously you can't do this sort of resource.
But to take the stance that we're simply not going to be involved, we're not going to be constructively engaged in trying to tap a resources of this size I think would very badly damage Cornell's reputation as an academic learning institution that is designed to benefit and solve problems and not just react against them. Thank you.
SUSAN RIHA: Thank you, Larry. Linda Adams?
AUDIENCE: I travel in a little bit of a different circle than some of the folks that have spoken. I live in the town of Caroline. I've had folks from the farm community that make frequent trips through Pennsylvania-- not necessarily Dimock, but Pennsylvania-- just sort of independent of one another come back with the impression that the farms down there have been revitalized in a way that the farms here in the Tompkins County area sure would like to emulate, as far as investments that they have been able to make. There is a local effort with some of the dairy farmers to actually put together their own processing plant, so that they don't have to have a corporation, if you will, between them and their end user, and they can capture more of that market.
So the idea that this economic impact would just be sort of a quick spend and then it's gone, I think, there's investment that people are thinking about beyond that. Obviously, the Cornell resources here would be very, very important to the local community. 40% of the county, I think, is under some sort of lease term. And in two year's time, there's going to be quite a few families that have an opportunity to decide whether to lease or not.
So I would urge the committee that that two-year window is a good portion of time to kind of-- we have some breathing room here. The people that are committed already are committed. So try and keep that two-year window in mind.
If it comes down to the fact that there are probably multiple formations with gas underneath certain portions of this part of upstate New York. Some of the comments that I've heard that are applying to the Marcellus Shale could easily nix the other formations as well. People are really, really looking for direction on this.
I think they realize, some of the families, that they've kind of gotten themselves in a jam, and they didn't know what they were signing. And it really, really would be nice to have Cornell on board, in the sense that some of the outreach resources that we're getting from Cornell on this issue and related issues have just been fabulous. And everybody's time is-- it's very, very appreciated.
We've been looking at this issue since the end of 2006, when the landmen first came around. For lay people like myself, Cornell has been a great resource. The only criticism I have is that some of the information is rather homogenized, and there seems to be a hesitancy to really give people real options.
And I think we're going to lose some of the objectivity, if Cornell really puts their toes in the fire too and takes a serious look at what formations might we consider developing and have a debate coalesce around that. And it doesn't necessarily have to involve the Utica Shale, the Marcellus Shale. But the idea that the resource is here and Cornell is a user of it, it would be nice to have that information come from Cornell and help the rest of the community. So thank you very much.
SUSAN RIHA: Thank you. Rich, I think is next.
AUDIENCE: Thanks, Susan, and thanks to the committee for putting this together. I'm actually here mostly representing the remarks of Al George, who couldn't be here today. And so forgive me, if you will, I'm actually going to read verbatim what he said, lest I wander astray. And then I'll speak a little bit about what I'd like to say at the end, if there's still time.
I'd like to thank the Cornell Center for Sustainable Future, in basically helping to sponsor a couple of research projects looking at a systems approach to energy and sustainability. And basically what we believe, the group believes that the issues surrounding the development of Marcellus Shale gas really need to be looked at as part of an overall system that include energy availability, environment, demand, jobs, economic development, and also including a full suite of comparisons to alternatives. And so the decisions that we need to make on energy sources and the utilization need to take the system approach and account for the full range of trade-offs between the advantages and disadvantages for the various alternatives.
And so there are two projects that are happening. The one that Al is heading up, we're in the middle of putting together seminars and a two-day work session to prepare a paper and initiate proposals that will take this broad systems approach. And this group is being led by Al George, Karen Donahey, Rod Howe, and Terry Jordan and also includes Susan Kristoffersson of City and Regional Planning, Jeff Tester, Deb Grantham, David Kay, Gregory Poe, Susan Riha, myself, and Jeff Jaquet.
And so we're emphasizing the need to take a science-based approach to the issue. What I want to say as well is based on another CCSF sponsored project that I'm headed up. And what we're doing in this project is actually taking a bit of a step back from solely looking at the shale itself and recognizing that whatever impacts accrue based on the development of Marcellus Shale need to be considered as well in the context of everything else that's happening in the landscape, with respect to energy development. It's not simply Marcellus Shale exploration that's happening. Simultaneously, we do have pushes for wind, we do have pushes for biofuels. We have carbon sequestration and some of the offset language that's being developed there.
And so if we are looking at landscape-level effects in a cumulative way, I guess what I would like to say is that the range of discourse that we have had around the issue has tended to be too narrow. It's tended to focus on very sort of simple calculus of environmental harm versus economic benefit. And I'd say for a number of reasons that as I said, that calculus is far too simple. Because when you look at cumulative effect models, there are effects that are only going to be emergent in the interaction between these multiple forms of development and the secondary forms of behavior that are generated.
So I guess the comment that I'd like to make is fundamentally I'm here neither to champion nor to vilify but to emphasize that we see this as a science-based question. We see this as there has been research that has been done in other places that's applicable. There's work that's happening now that we want to make sure gets engaged in the discussion. And so we'd like to encourage and hope for good continued dialogue between the research that's happening here at Cornell and any decisions that do get made.
SUSAN RIHA: Great, thanks Rich. Michelle Brown.
AUDIENCE: Like I think most people, I feel like everything I have to say has been said already and better. But I'm Michelle Brown. I'm the book conservator at Olin Library. And part of my job is planning for disasters, usually water disasters, but other disasters as well.
I believe Cornell should wait to lease any property until gas drilling corporations, especially those using hydrofracking, can show a record of safe extraction without damage to water supplies. They need to show a track record of more than adequate disposal of waste. And they need to show that they can do prompt reclamation of disturbed land.
Citizens who value this area for its natural beauty must be protected from the effects of industrial activity. So before even considering any lease negotiations, Cornell should, one, agree to compensate adjoining or nearby property owners for devaluation of their property. Most of us live here because it's a beautiful area.
They should agree to plant vegetative screens around the drill site. They have to agree to restrict gas drilling activity, including running of all machinery, to normal working hours and not at all on weekends. I'm just not convinced it's possible to muffle these sounds completely, and some of us have very acute hearing.
They have to identify acceptable processes and vendors with proven records for storage and disposal of waste before they start the whole thing. And they have to present a detailed timetable for land reclamation. They can't just say yes, we're going to do it.
And they have to have an emergency plan in place that identifies all the vendors and the processes that they will use to quickly remediate anybody's loss of water. And these provisions should be subject to public comment and approval. And Cornell should not depend on the state to mandate these provisions.
So there are those that believe that hydrofracking can be done safely. But I don't believe we've seen any models where these mandates have all been followed. So I'm just asking that you don't make us or Tompkins County the guinea pig in this.
And please wait until you are able to review so-called successful drilling models, to make sure they have been truly successful. Allow scientists time to do more studies on the effects of burning and extracting this fuel. Waiting will not diminish any opportunity for profit making.
I also want to conclude that like many people have said, every day we're inundated with advertising that tries to convince us that natural gas is clean energy and it's going to solve the climate crisis. I think we're being told that if only we dip into the Marcellus Shale, we will save the world. But there have been recent articles by Cornell professors-- and I'm thinking of one recently by Chuck Greene-- that asserts we're way past that point now.
Perhaps replacing coal and natural gas 25 years ago would have helped us avoid where we are now. But we didn't do it. So any inexpensive fossil fuel will just extend our dependence on these fuels and postpone the solution of our current crisis. And this week's address by James Hansen reinforced his argument.
Therefore, if Cornell does lease and explores gas drilling, I think it's abandoning its leadership in the whole sustainability arena in favor of revenue. Let's be honest. So if Cornell decides that revenue is more important than prestige and leadership, it at least has a responsibility to protect the surrounding community.
SUSAN RIHA: Thank you, Michelle. Ellen.
AUDIENCE: We're very fortunate that Cornell, which owns nearly 4% of our county land, is aware of the enormous implications that leasing its land would have and that this task force is working to assess and address the relevant issues. This is a daunting task, since shale gas exploitation-- using slick water, high volume, hydraulic fracturing-- is still a new technology, and we're learning more each day. I really appreciate the hard work of the committee.
I wanted the committee to be aware that while 40% of the land in the county has been leased, a number of us-- including my husband and I, who signed a subsurface lease-- have come to regret the signing of those leases. So you should not take it for granted that that 40% is gung ho, drill baby drill.
My overwhelming concern about this gas exploitation has a lot to do with the number of wells that are anticipated. A reasonable estimate is that somewhere between 2,000 and 4,000 wells could be drilled in Tompkins County. This brackets the 3,300 wells projected, if 70% of the county were developed, with spacing units of one square mile, each with 10 wells. As you know, each well is associated with the large volume of cuttings, high volume of fracking fluids and added chemicals, produced water, roads, pipelines, truck traffic et cetera.
Industrial activities are generally segregated from residential areas through local land use controls. And we do this for a good reason. We know that industrial activities have impacts on air, water, noise, wildlife, and in general, our quality of life. This drilling will have the same impacts. But it will be located throughout the countryside-- where we live, where we work, where we grow food, and where we play.
The wonderful natural environment of Ithaca is an important part of what draws many of the faculty, staff, and students to Cornell and what makes alumni so loyal. That asset would be severely jeopardized by leasing mineral rights. Once gone, it cannot be reclaimed.
Many local towns in the county have expressed great concern about the impact of mining here. Cornell has worked hard to improve town-gown relations in recent years. And the implications of leasing lands would impact our whole community and these municipalities.
My background of nearly 40 years as an environmental professional-- I was part of the very first Earth Day. That experience leads me to conclude that a proportion of drilling sites will be future brownfields, requiring expensive cleanup. It seems naive or perhaps arrogant to imagine the large quantity of toxic chemicals required for each well can be managed without causing pollution.
We know that errors occur-- spills, leaks, faulty construction. Experience in Pennsylvania suggests that perhaps one out of 100 wells will be a source of contamination. With 2,000 to 4,000 wells in the county, that means 20 to 40 contaminated sites. And these will be spread around the countryside, not restricted to industrial zones. As we struggle to remediate the several contaminated sites in Tompkins County now, we know that cleanup is costly, lengthy, and were never fully able to remediate.
The precautionary principle should govern as the question of leasing is addressed. As Cornell said when the task force was established, no land should be leased until we are assured that any activity would be compatible with the high environmental standards set by Cornell. I was very heartened by that statement.
Thus, it's my view that Cornell should not consider leasing, not until the EPA study that's just getting underway is complete, not until methods are developed that are much less likely to lead to contamination of water and air, not until methods are developed that will not result in the fragmentation of habitats and the industrialization of the landscape, and not until mining is subject to the local land use controls and to federal environmental laws. Thank you.
SUSAN RIHA: Thanks, Ellen. Todd.
AUDIENCE: Thank you to the committee for the opportunity to talk today and for your service to the university. I'm the natural areas director for Cornell plantations. The natural areas of Cornell provide formal and informal research and educational value for the university, in support of its land grant mission. These natural areas also provide essential ecosystem services towards multiple sustainability goals, serve as essential open space, provide compatible recreational opportunities, offer peaceful settings for personal contemplation, and are a signature piece of Cornell's iconic and defining landscapes.
Plantations protects and manages nearly 4,000 acres of Cornell's natural areas, spanning 44 nature preserves located both on and off campus. Over the past two years, we have assessed the short and long term implications of gas drilling and its intended activities on these natural areas and have concluded that gas drilling is incompatible with the protection of these significant sites, the wishes of our donors who bequeathed them to us and our educational mission. Therefore, Plantations has decided not to lease gas development rights within our natural areas preserve system.
It is important to emphasize, however, that numerous, significant natural areas are managed by many other academic and administrative units within the university. These natural areas, many of which are adjacent to our preserves, hold an equal value for the environment and the university. Accordingly, drilling activities and associated infrastructure development pose an unacceptable amount of disturbance and an unacceptably high degree of risk from pollution and spill damage to these invaluable habitats, outdoor classrooms, and recreational areas.
But unlike Plantations' nature preserve system, these other university natural areas-- which span numerous colleges, schools, and departments-- are not maintained or identified through any type of comprehensive list. Lacking this type of basic land use knowledge, one cannot readily determine their location and size, the significant natural resources they contain, or the educational or research value they provide, in order to properly move forward in land use planning and assessments about the compatibility of gas drilling.
Therefore, in order to ensure the long term protection and educational value of all Cornell's natural areas, we recommend that the university undertake a comprehensive effort to identify all significant natural features and field research sites, in order to properly exclude and buffer them from future gas development, if the university decides to pursue that course. We must first know what we have before we can work to ensure its protection.
As the late Nature Conservancy President John Sawhill so eloquently stated, "In the end, our society will be defined not by what we create but what we refuse to destroy." Let us be remembered as having chosen not to destroy Cornell's magnificent natural areas. Thank you.
SUSAN RIHA: Thanks, Todd. Carol?
AUDIENCE: I'm Carol Chock, retiree after 23 years as associate director of foundation relations at Cornell, an alum, master's in planning and undergraduate engineering and arts and sciences. I'm on the Tompkins County legislature, where I represent the district that includes the main Cornell campus and many adjoining neighborhoods.
I want to share some of what we've learned about the level of industrialization that has accompanied this activity in other areas and which has been absorbed more easily in larger cities than small ones, which Jeffrey Jaquet can tell you more about than I can.
I want to talk about how the decisions and regulatory preparation on this issue by local municipalities and the university will impact each other. We need to work together on this issue. And that's the main message I'd like to give today.
And I want to encourage you to look at the impact on university efforts to become carbon neutral. The current way of extraction may use more energy than it produces. So please look carefully at that research. Cornell, Ithaca, Tompkins County, we have an incredibly well-developed sense of place, one that we cherish, that keeps alumni coming back, attracts students and faculty to choose Cornell, in spite of the inconvenience of getting here.
Whatever else you learn, realize the extent of the industrialization of this activity. It will change the face of our landscape, the tenor of our way of life, and the nature of our economy, where higher education in Tompkins County is a $3 billion a year activity. What prospective students and new faculty see as they drive here will be industrial sites, eventually every half to quarter mile is what we're hearing. From our campus buildings, instead of the view across the hill, they'll see a network of bare, industrial patches, connected by thick, cleared pipelines. Look at the pictures.
Even if you don't lease on central campus, visitors will see sites of four to five acres. And for some perspective, four to five acres, that's the size that's bigger than the Ag quad out here. The frequency of sites could be if you had one on the Ag quad, there could be another one eventually as close as Hoy Field or Libe Slope, if you were to put them there, and similar relationship other places, with hundreds of trucks lumbering in and large derricks.
The Tompkins County Water Resources Council heard this week from Mike Lovegreen, director of the soil and water conservation district in Bradford County, Pennsylvania. I encourage you to hear from him. His statistics and photographs show the effect on terrain similar to ours-- not hypotheticals, not flat Texas terrain, but what actually occurred there.
They went from 48 well permits last year that grew to 1,400 this year. His own trip across town used to take six minutes. Now it takes 20 minutes, in the midst of large trucks. He also talked about the lawyers in that area who thought they had expertise for their clients and now realize that they don't and offered to come and talk more about that.
One measure of community character is shown by employment demographics. Currently 51% of Tompkins County jobs are in education, close to 60% when other professionals are added. That will shift dramatically to reflect the change to a more industrial, labor base. Flights and hotel rooms have been booked in other areas over a year ahead. Housing prices, already high here, rose in Bradford county from $600 a month to $1,500 a month.
So I can talk about other impacts, if we had more time. The decision by Cornell and by municipalities will impact each other more than any decision we've ever faced. Please recommend to the administration that regardless of your decision, we keep in touch. Realize that Cornell can make a decision not to lease, and the campus could still be ringed by these sites or vise versa.
Oh dear. I also was going to talk to you about how Tompkins County are in discussions and legal research on jurisdiction and urge you to think about having us lobby together in Albany and work together on where we have mutual concerns. So please think about that. Thank you.
SUSAN RIHA: Thanks, Carol. I just wanted to go back to see if [? Ilana ?] [? Malkin ?] was here? Did she come?
OK, well we've gone through are 20 speakers. You all really went through and either were under time or right on time and were quick getting up to the microphones. So that still gives us a little more time to have other people in the audience, so long as they're Cornell staff, students or faculty to address us.
But we also would hold you to four minutes. So if there are people who want to do that, I can recognize them now. And if you could state your name and your Cornell affiliation, that would be great.
AUDIENCE: Hi, my name is Jason Schrager. I am a master's student here, in the environmental water resource system engineering program. And I would like to really emphasize what this decision means. Could all the people on the committee who consider themselves scientists please raise your hand or nod your head?
So we have scientists informing policy decisions in this case. And I feel this represents an enormous opportunity. Because one thing I've learned is that anytime you make an investment or choose not to make an investment, you have real costs and an opportunity cost or benefit.
This is the opportunity for Cornell, which is respected worldwide, to say that our science should inform our policy. And our policy at this point is a moratorium. We need to continue this and really say that whatever the science dictates-- not what the lawyers, not what the gas companies, not what the people who say that drilling for fuel has no impact on natural ecosystems. Every ounce of fuel we draw out of the ground warms this planet.
And so I want to commend you guys on the job you're doing. And I would like you to continue to use hard science to back the policies. Thank you.
SUSAN RIHA: Thanks, Jason. Is there someone else? No one else at the-- oh, OK.
AUDIENCE: So my name is Natalia Demong Emlen from neurobiology and behavior on staff. My husband retired a year and a half ago, so this spring, mid-February, we finally freed our lives enough to take a two-month road trip. And so we're just back in Ithaca.
But I have to tell you that every day when I got up, almost every day I found something in my life on the road that sort of informed my feelings about hydrofracking. It was too cold to visit Dimock on our way down, but we just went through Dimock on our way back. I would invite all of you to go visit Dimock and take a look. You will see what's coming if this happens.
But what happened really, really early on-- no, I want to go back and put it this way. I've heard today air pollution, I've heard water pollution, I've heard sound pollution. The word I did not hear is vibration. And somewhere in West Texas, we met a very intelligent medical doctor, who goes to some of these very small towns and does-- I'm sorry for my nervousness, but I didn't prepared this. He goes and works in free medical clinics.
And there's a little town in West Texas where fracking has come. And they don't have water, so they'll probably pull it all out of the groundwater. But what he said is it looks like an ant farm, and you should worry about vibration.
Before that, in Florida, we were staying in a little cabin on the banks of the [? Sop Choppy ?] River. And this month they're having their earthworm grunting festival. This seems to be a way of getting earthworms to come out of the ground with a little bit of vibration. And they were going to do it as an environmental awareness trick.
But I put my earthworm grunting together with vibrations in fracking. And I just think, I don't know the implications, but we should worry about them. Thank you.
SUSAN RIHA: Thank you, Natalia. Anybody else? You sure? I think we'll just-- we'll leave it, we'll keep it at four minutes, Carol. But thanks for offering to talk again.
Well, if that's everybody, then I think we'll draw this to a close. I want to thank all of you for coming, for your excellent remarks. The committee's been taking a lot of notes. We have written statements of almost all of you. And we're going to be considering them in the next few weeks. So thanks very much for all your input.
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Most people attending an event on hydraulic fracturing April 22, 2010 in Call Auditorium opposed the process, also known as "fracking," the process used to extract natural gas from the Marcellus Shale.
The event was organized by the Ad Hoc Advisory Committee on Leasing of Land for Exploration and Drilling for Natural Gas in the Marcellus Shale, a committee of Cornell professors, staff and students charged with recommending guidelines to be used by the president in making decisions on issues related to the leasing of Cornell lands for drilling in Marcellus Shale.