Nicole Dillingham, president of the environmental group Otsego 2000, urged the board to hold off action, saying it has undertaken no study of the environmental impacts. “We will appear incredibly ignorant if we purport to adopt a resolution now when our federal government is about to review all of this data over the course of many months, maybe a year,” Dillingham said. “This is not a good message for Otsego County. We are smarter than that.”
Downey, noting his group represents the owners of 30,000 acres of land, said local school districts near the pipeline would see an infusion of new revenue and could potentially avail themselves of natural gas from the transmission system. A school board member in Otego, Downey said a local source of natural gas could save school districts hundreds of thousands of dollars and spare teachers from layoffs.
Also favoring the resolution was Jennifer Huntington of Cooperstown, who is waging a court battle to overturn the fracking ban enacted by the town of Middlefield last year. That ban has been upheld by a lower court, and since then six additional towns in the county zoned out gas drilling.
When the board members took up the resolution, Stuligross noted she had not made up her mind until she heard from both sides of the pipeline divide. “If a pipeline goes through,” she said, “we might as well benefit.”
County Rep. Beth Rosenthal, D-Roseboom, observed that those who favor drilling often say they are on the side of landowner rights. However, she noted, they show no empathy for those landowners whose property could be accessed for the pipeline through eminent domain proceedings.
“Why do their landowner rights not count?” she asked before voting against the resolution.
Rep. Keith McCarty, R-Springfield, said the longtime presence of the Tennessee Gas pipeline in his district has help bring retail shops to Richfield Springs. He said he has never experienced any problems with that pipeline near his home.