Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Otselic Statement: Some Upstate Towns Not (Yet) Heard From on Home Rule

I'm calling this "The Otselic Statement" — not the authors.

It is a resolution in the form of a letter to state officials, passed unanimously by the Willet Town Board, representing a community on the banks of one of my favorite rivers, the Mighty Otselic, in Cortland County, NY.

If you've done any poking around on these pages, you can probably tell I have been keeping fairly close tabs on New York's Ongoing Debate Over Shale Gas for going on two years now — including the ruckus over the seemingly unassailable, bedrock-solid "Home Rule" concept.

I've heard about lots of upstate towns, villages, and cities — many of them with little geological prospect of ever even seeing any drilling — confronted with opposition-organized flash mobs, demanding that they zone out drilling, heavy industry, and any associated infrastructure.  Some of these local officials have been pretty easily swayed, and others have been split. 

But I hadn't heard about this.  This is a statement in the opposite direction, from people who tend to speak forcefully, clearly, quietly — and then mind their own business.  I'm told several nearby towns in Cortland County also approved the same text, or something very similar, and I'll update this later on, when I get firmer details.

There's no reason, in my mind, why similarly minded communities on the upper reaches of the Susquehanna watershed, or the Delaware, couldn't or shouldn't do likewise.

That would be nice.  We can always rename the statement later, if you like.

Meanwhile, check it out...
January 4, 2012

Senator James Seward
430 Capitol
Albany, NY 12247

41 S. Main Street
Oneonta, NY 13820

Dear Senator Seward,

We, the Town Board of the Town of Willet, are writing to state that we oppose efforts to overturn the current New York State prohibition for local municipalities to regulate oil and gas drilling through “home rule” laws.

We, unanimously, feel that it would be better to ensure a more uniform rule by continuing to let the State rule in these matters. New York State has spent almost three years of time, effort and money to study the issues surrounding gas drilling. We feel the Towns do not have the time, expertise or money to do their own studies to come to a proper ruling. Nor do we, as a Town, have the resources to defend against any lawsuits from either gas companies or property owners whose rights are violated through such bans, moratoriums or zoning decisions. To give local governments veto power over natural gas drilling through zoning authority will only create more division between government and its townspeople.

We support the DEC’s efforts to study all the different aspects of this issue and welcome their final approval based on unbiased science. We feel the DEC is better equipped to enforce the necessary regulations than each individual Town.

While New York State does allow municipalities to zone mining activities that have significant surface impacts, we feel that the gas industry does not fall into this category. From the sites we have visited, gas wells are not as obtrusive as open mining when completed and surfaces are restored within a short time of surface disturbance.

Rather than opposing the whole industry based on the hysteria of a few, we prefer to move forward towards energy independence, clean energy, economic prosperity for the entire region, while taking a responsible view towards safe extraction of natural gas. Through properly executed road agreements we feel we can protect the Town’s infrastructure without placing an undue burden on the taxpayers.  We also support the property rights of our taxpayers to enter into leases, to allow the extraction of their resources, and to profit by them.

Shale drilling could also mean more money for municipalities in the form of increased revenues from taxes, relieving the tax burden felt by residents. The entire State of New York economy will benefit.

Governor Cuomo promised that the decision to do HVHF will rest on science. Not hysteria, not misrepresentations of facts and data.

We remain hopeful that the SGEIS approval process will be complete so that development of our significant shale resources can commence in 2012.


Alvin Doty, Jr., Supervisor
Willet Town Board


The Honorable Andrew M. Cuomo
Governor of New York State
NYS State Capitol Building
Albany, New York 12224

Commissioner Joe Martens
Department of Environmental Conservation
625 Broadway, 14th Floor
Albany, New York 12233

Assemblyman Gary Finch
Rm 448 Legislative Office Bldg.
Albany, New York 12248

Honorable David Fuller
Cortland County Legislature, District 17
Cortland County Office Building
60 Central Ave.
Cortland, NY 13045

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