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A start, but not enough

August 23, 2012

I commend Supervisor Edward Sykes and the two board members who joined him for their decision to establish a commission to study the impact of gas drilling in the Town of Delaware. There are many specifically local questions to be answered. In particular, we need to examine economic impact more carefully than has so far been done. We hear about potential benefits, but the cost side of the equation has not been properly studied. I grew up in areas where extractive industries were dominant and I have examined their economics in my academic career. The pattern I have observed in almost all instances is a boom period whereby some locals, usually a very small group, benefit, while most of the wealth flows out. After the resource is exhausted, the local environment is left devastated and the population impoverished.

Though the decision to set up a commission could be an important step forward, that depends on the board rescinding or at least suspending its notorious profracking resolution of June 20. A commission makes no sense at all if the board’s mind is already made up; no one, on either side of the issue, would be willing to invest time producing a report that would make no difference. If the board’s mind is already made up, then setting up a commission is simply a diversionary tactic. I am sure that this is not Mr. Sykes’ intention, and that his statement that he wants “facts, not fiction” is sincere. But the importance of gathering facts is to allow an open-minded board to make a well-considered decision. The board has to signal that it is open-minded by returning to a position of neutrality pending the commission’s report. Without that, we have stepped backwards, not forward.

Thomas Kappner

Town of Delaware, NY