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August 23, 2014
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Let’s get it right

By Thomas Kappner

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?

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.

I would like to see what the long-term costs will be for us. Let’s examine what happens in communities where the industry has been operating for three or four decades.

We have an opportunity, if we do it the right way, to lay the basis for informed decisions that will benefit the town as whole. Let’s not rush into something we may live to regret. The gas will still be here in 20 or 30 years, and worth a lot more.

As I said at the conclusion of my remarks at July’s meeting: I hope that cooler heads prevail and that the future prospects of this beautiful town are protected so that the generations to come will have a future to enjoy. I think we should all take a cue from our highway superintendent, Bill Eschenberg, when he said we all need to listen to each other and come together for our own good.

[Thomas Kappner is a resident of the Town of Delaware, NY.]
of this beautiful town are protected so that the generations to come will have a future to enjoy. I think we should all take a cue from our highway superintendent, Bill Eschenberg, when he said we all need to listen to each other and come together for our own good.
[Thomas Kappner is a resident of the Town of Delaware, NY.]