Will gas drilling turn any elections?
The situation is similar in the Town of Callicoon, with supervisor Tom Bose, running on the Republican, Independence and Conservative lines, questioning whether gas drilling will ever come to the town, but also saying that if the DEC does allow it, the town will protect “not only private property rights, but the health, safety, well-being and quality of life of all of our residents.” His challenger Bruce Ferguson, running on the Democratic and Rural Heritage lines, who has been highly visible as an anti-hydraulic fracturing activist, says that fracking represents one of the “biggest threats to our local economy” and there are better ways to get the gas out of the ground.
In some towns, such as Bethel, gas drilling has become almost a non-issue because every candidate running for the office of supervisor or a seat on the town council has come out against drilling and fracking. Bethel, like the towns of Lumberland, Highland and Tusten, is actively working on a zoning amendment that would limit or ban gas drilling.
Will it make a difference?
With no polls available to track political races at the town level, it’s hard to tell if the gas-drilling issue will spark a discernable reaction among the electorate, but there is at least some indication that the residents of Sullivan County have a position on the issue.
A poll commissioned by Catskill Citizens for Safe Energy, of which Ferguson is a prominent member, found that 69% of Sullivan County respondents oppose fracking in their town, while 27% support it, and 69% support zoning rules that would restrict fracking while 24% oppose them.
Critics have questioned the reliability of the poll, but the company that performed it, Pulse Opinion Poll, said in an open letter, “The survey was conducted using an established automated polling methodology. Calls were placed to randomly selected phone numbers through a process that insures appropriate geographic representation.”
Bose questioned the validity of a poll that was spread across the entire county as opposed to one focused in only the towns that are likely to see drilling, which he said are Fremont, Delaware, Callicoon and Cochecton.
Ferguson countered that the county sits above both the Marcellus and Utica shale formations and if shale gas extraction comes, “it will probably proceed eastward across the entire county within a just a few years.” There are signed gas leases in eight of the 15 towns.