Dear Mr. Applebome,
How could a reporter as good as you have missed the actual story of the voter sentiment and the politics surrounding gas drilling in the region you discussed?
With respect, the real story is the overwhelming opposition to gas drilling among the voting population in the region you covered. Personal conflicts in town disputes concerning land use is not news. This story, based on the facts, is not neighbor verses neighbor, but rather a few large landowners (and the gas industry) against a huge majority of the population and the voters in the region.
Polls consistently show that between 70% and 90% of voters are opposed to gas drilling where local and regional polls have been done—across Otsego, Delaware, and Sullivan Counties. This includes polls done by towns and professional polling companies. Further west when local polls have been done, similar results have occurred.
The story is the overwhelming local opposition, and the plan of governor to ally with the gas companies to act against local voters and their governments, and attempt to eviscerate local land use regulation that is guaranteed by the NY State Constitution.
Among many recent polls showing voter opposition in Otsego County, was one done by the government of the Town of Hartwick in Otsego County which showed overwhelming opposition to gas drilling. (79% opposed, 16% in favor, 3% undecided). Hartwick is definitely not a haven for retirees and second homeowners. Hartwick recently welcomed the building of a large newly completed USDA slaughterhouse on the main street through town, hardly the type of development that your analysis would expect from local opponents to gas drilling (who you suggest are yuppie nimbys). Yet the people of Hartwick understand that meat processing capacity is critical to local farming, and that gas drilling has nothing whatsoever to do with farming. It’ s unrelated investment from which some landowners—including some farmers—would like to profit, at the expense of their neighbor who will be net losers. Hartwick’s town government, which gladly approved the new slaughterhouse, is now planning a local law to ban gas drilling. People in farming communities see through the false claim that gas drilling helps farming, and see through efforts by gas companies to put farmers up as poster children for a type of industrial development which threatens farming. Farmers know what helps farming.
In a survey this year, specifically of farmers in Meredith—where I live and farm— more farmers listed gas drilling as the largest threat to the future of their farm when given a list of threats (which also included taxes, high fuel costs, labor issues, machinery costs). The was survey run by the town government as part of a NY State grant to create a farmland protection plan.
This month, a poll by a professional polling company (Pulse Opinion Research) of 500 randomly selected residents in both Sullivan and Delaware County asked two questions.
Do you support natural gas extraction by means of hydraulic fracturing in your town?
No Yes Not sure
Delaware County 72% 27% 1%
Sullivan County 69% 26% 4%
Would you support your town enacting zoning ordinances to restrict natural gas extraction by means of hydraulic fracturing?
Yes No Not sure
Delaware County 69% 27% 4%
Sullivan County 69% 24% 7%
There are numerous other polls with similar results that can be cited.
Again, “he said, she said” misses the story. It is a story of overwhelming local opposition to hydrofracking. It is a story of gas companies attempting to use state government power to violate local land use regulations and voter sentiment, and impose their will on this region.
For the story to which Ken Jaffe responds, see NYT story: Drilling Debate in Cooperstown, NY, is Personal