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August 22, 2014
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Some thoughts about fracking/gas drilling

Stephen Lundgren

Remember that the primary responsibility of local government is to protect all of its residents – not to help enrich large landowners or to bail out individuals, businesses, or industries that are struggling. Our Town Board has adopted a policy of “neutrality” in regard to hydrofracking; that’s like being “neutral” about floods, earthquakes, or tsunamis when you live in those zones. The responsible thing to do is to put into place all possible reasonable safeguards before drilling begins - if these safeguards turn out to be unnecessary, no harm has occurred. However, if safeguards are missing, we may be seriously harmed. Ask yourself: Are you more comfortable being over-insured or under-insured?

As far as gas drilling is concerned, needed safeguards include effective and enforceable road use agreements, zoning provisions that regulate, restrict, or prohibit inappropriate and undesirable uses such as “man-camps” (temporary living facilities for transient workers), compressor stations, processing facilities, hazardous wastewater treatment plants, large base yards and storage areas for trucks, heavy equipment, pipes, toxic chemicals, and other potentially hazardous materials. Ask yourself: Do you really think allowing uses like these in our town is going to benefit you?

Your wallets need protection, too, which is why we need financial safeguards such as adequate impact fees and penalties to cover the costs of permit processing, monitoring, and enforcing our ordinances. Ask yourself these questions: Will we need to hire police to enforce the road use laws relating to truck traffic and to keep the peace due to an increase in the number of transient workers living in the Town? Will volunteer firefighters, EMTs, and local hospitals need additional equipment and training in order to protect our lives and property? Who should pay for these additional costs – the taxpayer or the gas industry?