A planned stage production at the State University College at Oneonta, involving a well-known filmmaker involved in the anti-fracking movement, drew a howl of protest Friday from pro-drilling Otsego County Rep. James Powers, R-Butternuts.
"How is it that this guy has all the answers?" Powers asked rhetorically in reference to Josh Fox, who won an Emmy Award in 2011 for his direction of Gasland, a film that criticized the natural gas industry.
"I'd like to see someone be given a chance to respond to Josh Fox," said Powers, a dairy farmer who is Otsego County government's staunchest supporter of opening New York to fracking. "Where is the balance in the program?"
The verbal torpedo fired by Powers was aimed at Fox's Solutions Grassroots Project, a theatrical production that will be staged at the Hunt Union Ballroom at the Oneonta campus at 7 p.m. Tuesday..
New Lisbon Town Councilman Bob Eklund has been urging local residents supportive of the anti-fracking movement to attend the event. He dismissed Powers' criticism of the event as groundless.
"If he wants to talk about someone being unbalanced," Eklund said, "it's him."
"He doesn't want to even listen to a presentation that could bring jobs and renewable energy to this state," said Eklund. He said he has already viewed the stage production and sees it as a potential catalyst for building support for increased reliance on renewable forms of energy.
A spokesman for the Oneonta campus did not return an email request for information about the arrangements the sponsors of the event have with the college for the performance.
Eklund said the college is not paying Fox or anyone associated with the Solutions Grassroots Project and, in fact, is renting the hall to the sponsors, which include Sustainable Otsego, Brewery Ommegang and Otsego 2000, among others. He said he did not immediately know how much money was being charged for the rental of the space.
A press release from the theatrical company describes the production as "an interactive music, theater, and film event that motivates towns to adopt renewable energy solutions for individual, community, and commercial settings, as well as campaign for pro-renewable energy legislation."
It also notes that "the storyline revolves around a town that is facing the possibility of becoming an extraction zone for extreme fossil fuel development. At crucial moments in the plot, members of the audience will have an opportunity to participate in the acting and telling of the story."
Powers said it is ironic that the event is being held at a college that is heated in part by natural gas. iHe said he would be willing to debate Fox on what he called the economic promise of expanded natural gas development.
Fox, who could not be reached for comment, said in the release that the play is about "doing something that is positive for our towns and our neighbors."