In the June 14-20 issue of The River Reporter, Tom Shepstone questioned whether the Park Foundation’s 501(c)(3) status disallowed it from having a say in the fracking debate. I can’t speak to that legal point. But the intent of his op-ed piece was clear: “I have no particular sympathy for others who make or have made their living elsewhere and profess to be the conscience of our area.” He goes on to say that his family goes back to the 1700s and he doesn’t need outside organizations “to tell us how to either develop or protect our natural resources… Ultimately, that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? Who decides?”
I think he’s on to something in that conclusion. But first, I’m troubled by his use of the word “conscience.” After all, the motivation of the pro-frackers is money. All their other arguments are self-justification. It’s about the money the gas companies are offering, or it’s not about anything. So getting to the high moral ground for Mr. Shepstone is a steep climb. As to who has been here longest: it’s the Mohicans.
So who decides? In a 2011 survey by Pulse Opinion Research of 500 Sullivan County adults who say they know enough about fracking to form an opinion, 69% said they do not support “Natural Gas Extraction by Fracking,” 27% said they do support it and 4% were not sure.
In another 2011 survey, this one conducted by the Survey Research Institute at Cornell University (https://sri.cornell.edu/sri/esp.reports.cfm), respondents were asked to choose between risks and revenue. Of “Upstate New Yorkers:” 20% said they didn’t know enough to choose, 30% chose “revenues outweigh risks,” and 50% chose “Risks outweigh revenues.”
Who decides? According to Mr. Shepstone it’s the minority.