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A gas commission in Delaware

November 8, 2012

At the first meeting of the new Town of Delaware gas commission, supervisor Ed Sykes charged the five commissioners with the ominous task of separating “fact from fiction” regarding fracking and described their mission as a “search for the truth.” To his credit, the supervisor stressed the need for open-mindedness and objectivity.

Within minutes of stating these lofty goals, Sykes declared that “obviously, the anti-folks would like us to ban it [fracking], but to take away somebody’s property rights on that basis is felonious. It would be absolutely the wrong thing to do.” The fact is, when Sykes and the other members of the town board took their oath of office, they swore to uphold the town’s zoning laws which, by regulating land use, have an impact on property rights which sometimes includes an outright ban on specific uses in certain locations; this impact is not considered “felonious,” but rather “good planning.”

Not much later, Sykes gave the commission members additional opportunities to separate fact from fiction when he claimed that “… there’s a certain feeling out there that the town board doesn’t know what they’re doing, doesn’t understand. I gotta tell you something: I don’t want to say I know this but I don’t believe that most folks out there have done more research on this than I have—it’s just that I come up with different conclusions… and I want to know the truth.”

Moments later he appeared to abandon open-mindedness and objectivity altogether when he said, “I just personally think if somebody… says that there’s no [economic] benefit [from fracking], personally I don’t want to waste my time. There’s gonna be a definite economic advantage—how can there not be?” Isn’t this exactly the kind of question that the commission, not supervisor Sykes, was supposed to answer?

The supervisor made several suggestions to the commissioners with regard to the conduct of meetings, including “… This is a public meeting, but it’s not an open meeting… If you decide that you want to listen to the public and to make this a public debate, I think it would be a mistake; you would tend to lose your objectivity… so I would urge you again not to allow public debate—I believe that it’s destined to failure. That doesn’t mean you can’t accept an idea from somebody in the audience, that’s a different story.”