MIDDLEFIELD — Worcester Town Board member David Parker on Friday upbraided a prominent zoning consultant who advises local governments about the potential effects of shale gas drilling operations and the need to update zoning laws to deal with the possible arrival of the industry in New York.
The consultant, Ted Fink, was explaining his report for Tompkins County on various projected effects from shale gas extraction operations when Parker — an ardent proponent of drilling and member of a landowners group — accused him of “instilling fear” with information that was “way outdated.”
Fink’s presentation to the Otsego County Natural Gas Advisory Committee thus became the latest backdrop for the contentious debate about hydraulic fracturing for shale gas. During the past year, dozens of New York towns have passed local laws banning fracking or imposing a moratorium on the activity, despite the gas industry’s insistence that they have usurped the authority of the state Department of Environmental Conservation.
Gas drilling advocates claimed Fink’s work for Tompkins County was tainted because it was paid for, in part, by the Park Foundation, established by the late Roy Park, a media baron for whom the Park School of Communications at Ithaca College was named.
Fink told The Daily Star he was hired to do the work by Tompkins County, and his research was “totally independent” of the Park Foundation. He emphasized that it was the county that arranged the funding. His firm was paid $10,000 for the report.
“This is a planning exercise, and people often get bogged down in the assumptions and the facts and the figures, and that is not the actual purpose of the build-out analysis,” Fink said. “It’s to understand better what to be better prepared for in the future. So the takeaway from doing a community-impact assessment is to identify what the potential could be and then to plan for what may or may not happen — because if you fail to plan, that’s really planning to fail.”