Also questioning some of the projections in Fink’s research was dairy farmer Jennifer Huntington of Middlefield, who is waging a court battle aimed at upending her town’s ban on gas drilling. The town prevailed in the initial round of the litigation, and her company, Cooperstown Holstein Inc., backed by the gas industry, is appealing that ruling in a case that legal experts have said will settle the question of whether towns have the authority to
For instance, Huntington said, she is skeptical about information cited by Fink that indicated 25 percent of farmers who had leased land to gas drillers gave up farming after collecting royalties. She said there may be other explanations for why they retired from farming, including growing too old to continue the activity.
Fink was invited to appear before tha panel by Otsego County Rep. Beth Rosenthal, D-Roseboom, who said planning for the possible arrival of the gas industry and understanding its effects “is the smart thing to do.”
“My overriding question is: Why are those so in favor of drilling not wanting to plan for it?” asked Rosenthal, an opponent of fracking. She said the data presented by Fink was sound and was mostly drawn from industry, academic and state sources.
County Rep. James Powers, R-Butternuts, the committee’s chairman and a farmer who supports gas drilling, said he was concerned that landowners who want to allow drilling on their property will be “outnumbered” by local residents in favor of restricting gas development.
Fink said that “zoning is not immutable,” and that local laws could always be redrawn or repealed to keep pace with any technological upgrades made by the industry, such as reducing its reliance on trucking to transport water and other materials to and from drilling sites.
Powers later told The Daily Star that the county planning department has been on top of preparing for possible drilling, and that there is no need to hire a consultant to advise the cash-strapped county.
“We’ve done our due diligence in Otsego County,” he said.