News Analysis: fracking in Cochecton; divisiveness is ‘heartbreaking’
Lifelong resident Doug Johnson challenged the board. “We evolve or we die. Fracking has been happening for over 100 years. Fracking has evolved, too. You can choose to be a model and leader for other small towns who face a similar decision. If you have the power to ban fracking, you also have the power to nurture it and decide how, where and when it happens.”
The medical industry was represented at the meeting, too. Quoting from the American Medical Journal, president of the Sullivan County Medical Society, Dr. Paul Salzburg, told a story of two girls who lived near wells in New Mexico.
Suffering from facial lesions, healing began only after they stopped drinking tap water at their homes. He concluded, “The Medical Society of the state of New York asks that fracking not be permitted until a health assessment can be authorized and completed.”
Was that an isolated incident? Wayne Townsend thinks so. He is a Cochecton landowner, a graduate of the former Jeffersonville-Youngsville School District and petroleum engineer, who now lives amid 20,000 highly regulated wells in Farmington, NM. Life, he says, is good. “I come from an arid area and groundwater is a prized possession,” he says, “My children have grown up there, I have grandkids and no issues.” He believes gas can be extracted safely with stringent regulation. “I don’t think it’s the fracturing itself that creates the problem. I think there should be some concern about getting back the wastewater. And when you recover the fluids, you have to dispose of it safely.”
The Cochecton Town Board seems equally diverse. Councilperson Richard Schulman announced he is for a moratorium, Larry Richardson is going to digest more information, while Edwin Grund and Anna Story reserved comment.
Supervisor Gary Maas is vocal about his neutrality, waiting for the regulations from the DEC. The November deadline for a decision from the governor is a big day, he says. “If they miss that November 29 deadline, that will require them, when they do put the regulations out, to hold a public hearing again. That would be to our benefit to miss that November deadline.” It also gives the town time to study the regulations.
In the meantime, the drills of community fracturing will continue to rip through the area.