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Let’s get it right

By By Thomas Kappner
August 9, 2012

The ill-conceived resolution the Town of Delaware passed at its June meeting in response to a citizen’s request that the board look into the issue of gas drilling undermines the property rights of the vast majority of the citizens of our town. In the name of property rights, it upholds the rights of a small minority who will profit from hydro-fracking leases at the expense of the rest of us, who will see our property values plummet and our taxes go up to subsidize the infrastructure the industry requires and to pay for the damages resulting from its activities. I also questioned the town’s stance of neutrality as, in essence, accomplishing what the resolution seeks to do without coming out and saying so.

What I witnessed at the July meeting reinforced my apprehensions, but also raised my hopes that we may have a window of opportunity to handle this very divisive issue in the right way. I said that we need to hold back on gas drilling until we have informed ourselves on the true costs and benefits, and several others made comments along the same lines. Whether through a commission set up for this purpose, or a series of meetings sponsored by the town board, with a tight structure, the right participants and a transparent public process, we could move toward making informed decisions in the interests of the town as a whole.

Of course, the hotheads on both sides will never be convinced that they do not have all the answers, but I remain convinced that most of our residents are decent folks who are willing to see the factual evidence for all the conflicting claims made on this issue. But it has to be done the right way. Let’s invite proven professionals with experience to present hard data. Let’s make sure they base their assertions on real scientific methodology, wherein facts are subject to verification, not vague propagandistic claims on either side of the issue. We do not need more paid operatives; we need reputable professionals that fair-minded people would agree are presenting an objective, factually based analysis whose accuracy can be verified. And we need an agreed upon agenda with opportunity for the public to question the participants in a controlled and civil manner.

Among the many questions that need to be addressed, we need to examine what will be the future economic impact of hydrofracking for our town. What is gained, what is lost?