Last week an old farmer stopped in, and he was looking for a fight. He had received a pamphlet and a survey from a group called "Protect Laurens." The survey was titled, "Informal Independent Survey of the Town of Laurens Residents and Property Owners."
The "independent survey" (you are supposed to think that "independent" means "non-partisan") is accompanied by a pamphlet showing a photo of Gilbert Lake, looking pristine, and a picture of a gas well head that resembles a major military fuel dump. On the cover it says, "BEFORE & AFTER in Laurens?" INDEPENDENT, my buttocks!
The pamphlet asks the question, "How will it (drilling) affect my health?" It then lists drinking water contamination, radioactive materials, increased asthma cases, sleep disruption, more crime and drug use, school bus safety issues, endocrine disruption, birth defects, cancer and noise. Whew!
It also asks, "How will it (drilling) affect me economically?" The doom, gloom, fire and brimstone continue with increased taxes to repair roads from excessive-weight trucks, more taxes to clean up contamination, property value collapse, higher rent payments and greater food prices.
Before we all go running and screaming into the hills, there is even more! Drilling and the riffraff that it attracts will strain local emergency services, damage fish and wildlife, cause explosions and spills, increase traffic, and decrease demand for area farm products because of possible contamination. It wasn't mentioned, but I'm sure the drillers have bad breath, too.
Now first of all, if Almighty God came down and assured us that this technology is safe, these birds would still be against it. It is not about safety and "the children"; it is about control, anti-capitalism and fear of one's shadow, regardless of the huge economic benefit.
Secondly, "Protect Laurens" is no more interested in an independent survey and the truth, than I'm interested in the next opera at Glimmerglass. Sadly, when the facts are against its position, the group exaggerates and fear-mongers. Members should be ashamed. It's like the recent TV ad showing Grandma, in her wheelchair, being pushed off a cliff by the evil Republicans who want to take away her Medicare.
Speaking of shame, I know a good man who made a terrible decision. State Sen. James Seward, R-Milford, has decided to support the home-rule bill, thereby giving town boards, in all likelihood, the power to allow or ban gas drilling.
Although is sounds just ducky, it is a cop-out. It puts too much power in the hands of too few. The drilling issue is a "hot potato" that no politician wants to handle, but it comes with the job description. The correct stand would be to let the state and the Department of Environmental Conservation do their studies, enact reasonable regulations, and then proceed. Town boards and their political leanings should not have veto power.
This "passing the buck" has many unseen ramifications. Take, for example, the town of Worcester. It covers about 30,000 acres and has a population of 2,000. The board is composed of about seven individuals. Can you imagine the power they will wield? Seven will decide for 2,000! Just picture the scenario in larger areas such as Oneonta, Cooperstown, Sidney and Norwich.
Not only would a town board decide the economic fate of its landowners, but if a town is strategically located, it can stymie the drilling and delivery of natural gas from neighboring towns or even counties. It could impact many thousands of people and billions of dollars.
We find it interesting that so many are blindly opposed to drilling for gas and oil, windmills, power plants of any kind, and even outdoor wood stoves. Yet, don't these folks heat their homes with gas, oil or wood? Don't these folks drive to work or play, burning gasoline or diesel fuel? Don't these folks use electricity produced by the burning of coal? I bet they do!
Could this be simply a case of "not in my backyard"? Is there some hypocrisy here?
On a separate note, this weekend, June 11 and 12, we are honored to host the American Artillery Association's Ponderosa Challenge. It is a 500-yard Civil War full-size cannon competition and begins at noon on both days. The physical address is 699 County Highway 39, Worcester, N.Y. 12197. For information, call 432-8180 or 435-3358. Visit its website, www.americanartillery.org or email email@example.com. If you like big guns, lots of noise, the smell of black powder and the company of good people, don't miss this event!
Chuck Pinkey is the owner of River Valley New Holland Inc. in Otego. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.