New York High stakes in fight over Vestal, N.Y. fracking ban

VestalNY

The town of Vestal, N.Y., near Binghamton, is well-placed for natural gas development.

Just across the border in Pennsylvania the industry is in full swing. Vestal is situated in one of the three counties in New York considered to be in the sweet spot of Marcellus Shale development.

But not everyone is ready to welcome the industry.

In 2011, a group of local citizens opposed to drilling founded Vestal Residents for Safe Energy (VeRSE). The group’s founder, Sue Rapp, started by researching local road-use laws. She lobbied the town board to enact a law that would require the drilling industry to pay for road repairs.

“It was non-threatening because everyone wanted it, there was no real down side,” says Rapp. “It was really saying to the town board, ‘Come on guys, do something.’ ”

The road-use law went nowhere.

So she moved on to collecting signatures for a moratorium on drilling, convinced that the town board wouldn’t do anything to prepare for the industry’s arrival.

The Gas Coalition

The opponents of fracking face an uphill battle.

VeRSE is up against the Vestal Gas Coalition, a group of landowners who control 12,000 acres - more than a third of the town.

The coalition recently organized an informational meeting where speakers talked about the community-wide benefits of gas drilling. One speaker explained the mechanics of a local tax on wells. Another talked about the benefits of leasing school land for drilling.

Besides tax revenue and extra money for schools, it was clear that landowners expected windfalls of their own.

A wealth management company was handing out fliers with tips on handling sudden wealth. Anyone with land could join the coalition for just $30 $15 an acre - payable to a local lawyer, at a minimum of $300 per household.

Coalition chairman Bob Poloncic says his group started small, four years ago, and now represents about 600 families - as well as all the land still available for leasing.

“[The group] was formed because we saw a need,” says Poloncic. “The industry was coming in and picking off people for ridiculously low prices and convincing them to sign leases that were all about them and not about the landowner.”

He says fracking opponents don’t have the right to take control of the issue because they don’t own the land.

“We don’t want to make enemies of them, but on the other hand, you know, we own the land,” says Poloncic. “The areas where they are coming from, there’s not going to be any developing going on.”

As for the risks of fracking, he acknowledges they do exist. Still, he says he’s confident that by the time the industry arrives in New York, the mistakes that led to problems in Pennsylvania will be corrected.

For now, Poloncic’s group is waiting for an offer from a drilling company that wants to come to Vestal.

Poloncic figures any lease the group signs will give landowners a $6,000 an acre upfront payment and around a 20 percent royalty on produced gas.

Collectively, the coalition hopes to make at least $72 million.

Underdogs

But not everybody is thrilled by those numbers. In fact, they alarm VeRSE’s Rapp.

“The risks that the gas companies, that the coalition members, are willing to take for themselves are one thing, but the risk they’re willing to put everyone else in, without their consent, is something entirely different,” says Rapp.

A year after she began pushing for a road-use law, the town still hasn’t passed one. So far, she has submitted more than 2,000 signatures in support of a temporary ban on drilling.

“It is a bit of a long shot - and I always back a long shot,” says Rapp. “I mean, what else is worth working for?”

Across the state there are about 100 temporary or permanent local drilling bans, according to environmental group Food & Water Watch. But, besides a ban in the city of Binghamton, none are near the Pennsylvania border.

The existing bans are mostly clustered at the northern edge of the gas-rich Marcellus Shale.

Rapp acknowledges that getting a moratorium in Vestal would be a blow to the industry.

“So that’s why our moratorium will be so significant and so important and so effective,” says Rapp. “That’s why they’re fighting us so hard.”

Staying neutral

The Vestal town board has refused to put a moratorium up for a vote.

Recently, Rapp has begun focusing on an informational meeting, put on by the town, that would include both sides. The town has refused that too.

At an April town board meeting, the idea of holding one of these meetings was put up for an informal poll. According to the meeting minutes, the board seemed in favor.

During the public comment period that followed, landowners’ coalition chairman Bob Poloncic stood up and said his members wouldn’t attend a meeting with the other side.

Town board member Fran Majewski says his fellow members were troubled by a meeting held the next weekend at Binghamton University. The meeting turned into a heated debate, which included an outburst by a fracking opponent.

Majewski says that led the board to change their minds about holding a meeting, especially if Poloncic’s coalition refused to attend.

“The board doesn’t want to get in a situation where we’re going to be taking sides on an issue,” says Majewski. “It’s going to be highly emotional, highly volatile - at the drop of a hat somebody can just get upset at a decision we’re going to make.”

Majewski says the board is working on a road-use law, moving slowly to make sure they get it right. As for the fracking moratorium, he doesn’t expect to take up the issue any time soon.

“I can’t tell you how many hours we’ve spent on this whole issue, just listening to the people and reading their material and watching videos they send us on e-mail,” Majewski says. “Hours and hours and hours and hours.”

That probably won’t stop Rapp and other fracking opponents from continuing to lobby the board.

“If they really do nothing, they’re saying they’re for gas,” says Rapp. “So we are trying to make that point more public - to let them know that doing nothing is not a neutral stance, it is a very active stance.”

Link to original article from Innovation Trail


blog comments powered by Disqus

States - New York

New York News

Prev Next Page:

Bill de Blasio wins mayor’s race in New York, ushering in new era of liberal governance

Bill de Blasio wins mayor’s race in New York, ushering in new era of liberal governance

Bill de Blasio overwhelmingly was elected mayor here Tuesday, becoming the first Democrat to lead New York in 20 years and ushering in a new era of activist liberal governance in the nation’s largest city. Shortly after polls closed at 9 p.m., several networks projected that de Blasio soundly defeated Republican Joe Lhota, a protégé of former mayor Rudy Giuliani. De Blasio campaigned on a mantle of progressive change following Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s 12 years in office, highlighting what he saw as “a tale of two cities.” The moneyed Manhattan elite have...

Phillip Rucker | The Washington Post 05 Nov 2013 Hits:436 New York

Read more

Appeals court blocks ruling against NYC stop-and-frisk policy

Appeals court blocks ruling against NYC stop-and-frisk policy

A US federal appeals court has blocked a previous ruling against New York City’s stop-and-frisk policy. In addition, the judge who made the ruling was removed from the case, the AP reported. The appeals court alleges Judge Scheindlin “improperly urged plaintiffs’ counsel to file suit as ‘related’ to a 1999 case previously assigned to her and because of certain media interviews,” S.D.N.Y. Blog reported Thursday. Judge Shira Scheindlin ruled in August the New York Police Department’s policing method was unconstitutional under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments.  Scheindlin found the NYPD’s 4.4 million stops...

RT 31 Oct 2013 Hits:287 New York

Read more

Will de Blasio Disappoint the Left?

Will de Blasio Disappoint the Left?

In writing about last night’s raucous NYC mayoral debate between Bill de Blasio and Joe Lhota, Michael Powell of the New York Times nailed de Blasio as a Nation sort of guy, but suggested that he might not be so forever. “The man likely to be the next mayor, Mr. de Blasio now sometimes seems less suggestive of a Nation magazine star than a savvy, even cool-eyed pol. (It’s worth noting that he barred reporters from his fund-raiser and declined to make public a list of the guests),” writes Powell. He’s...

Leslie Savan | The Nation 24 Oct 2013 Hits:314 New York

Read more

Shutdown protest targets Gibson

Shutdown protest targets Gibson

Prepared to remember next November, nearly 40 protesters demonstrated Tuesday outside Rep. Chris Gibson’s, R-19, Kinderhook office for him to “stop the madness” and act before tomorrow when the federal government may no longer be able to pay its bills. Protesters later marched on Gibson’s office to shred a $174,000 check made out to him by American taxpayers “for doing nothing,” Susan Weber, a MoveOn.org regional organizer, added. “This is Chris Gibson’s congressional salary that he’s not earning because he’s voted to shut our government down,” she said. Protest leaders from MoveOn.org assembled...

Joe Gentile Columbia-Greene Media 16 Oct 2013 Hits:418 New York

Read more

Stop-and-Frisk Practice Violated Rights, Judge Rules

Stop-and-Frisk Practice Violated Rights, Judge Rules

  Leroy Downes, a plaintiff in the stop-and-frisk trial, spoke at a news conference after a federal judge ruled that the practice violated the rights of minorities. (Ruth Fremson/The New York Times   In a repudiation of a major element in the Bloomberg administration’s crime-fighting legacy, a federal judge has found that the stop-and-frisk tactics of the New York Police Department violated the constitutional rights of minorities in New York, and called for a federal monitor to oversee broad reforms.         In a blistering decision issued on Monday, the judge, Shira A....

Joseph Goldstein | The New York Times 12 Aug 2013 Hits:423 New York

Read more

Advocates Gain Majority Sponsorship for New York Health

Advocates Gain Majority Sponsorship for New York Health

Our friends in New York at PNHP NY Metro, IATSE Local 1, Single Payer New York, and Metro New York Health Care for All Campaign were organizing a model of collaboration that will advance the cause of Health Care for All in every district. In Albany that day they forged agreements for the majority of the Assembly to sign as co-sponsors toNEW YORK HEALTH! New York Health is legislation introduced byAssemblyman Gottfried and Senator Perkins (A. 5389-A / S. 2078-A), that if passed, would establish a universal, single payer health program...

Healthcare for All Issue Team 25 Jun 2013 Hits:491 New York

Read more

Malcolm Smith and the alleged plot to rig the New York City mayoral race, explained

Malcolm Smith and the alleged plot to rig the New York City mayoral race, explained

Early Tuesday morning, the New York Times broke the news of the arrest of a state senator and a city councilman in a major federal corruption probe. They are accused of attempted to rig the city’s upcoming mayoral election. Four other New York political figures from both sides of the aisle were arrested as part of the alleged scheme. Intrigued? Confused? Us too. Here’s everything you need to know about the case. What happened? The probe involves both the New York City mayoral race and a development project in Spring Valley, New...

Rachel Weiner | The Washington Post 03 Apr 2013 Hits:615 New York

Read more

NY Rallies for Gun Control Legislation: 'History Cannot Reflect That We Allowed Sandy Hook…

NY Rallies for Gun Control Legislation: 'History Cannot Reflect That We Allowed Sandy Hook to Happen and Did Nothing'

Tony Bennett and Al Sharpton joined a rally in Harlem to demand nationwide gun control legislation. Each time Milagros Ortega saw a city council member pass by her on Thursday at a rally against gun violence, she stopped them and held up the picture she was wearing around her neck. “This is my son Francisco. He was shot and killed two months ago at the Queensbridge Houses. Please make other politicians pass gun control around the country,” she told politician after politician at a Harlem gathering to encourage other states to pass...

Alyssa Figueroa | AlterNet 24 Mar 2013 Hits:413 New York

Read more

NYS Assembly votes to ban fracking for at least two years

NYS Assembly votes to ban fracking for at least two years

The New York State Assembly has approved, by a 95 to 40 vote, a two-year moratorium on hydraulic fracturing in New York. While it's unlikely to be passed in the Senate, the action reflects state lawmaker's growing worries about potential health impacts from the natural gas drilling process. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has led the way in recent days to ban hydrofracking for at least another two years in New York. The Speaker says right now, there are too many unanswered questions....

Karen DeWitt | North Country Public Radio 08 Mar 2013 Hits:575 New York

Read more

Woodstock Town Board First in State To Adopt Resolution in Support of Criminalizing Hydrau…

Woodstock Town Board First in State To Adopt Resolution in Support of Criminalizing Hydraulic Fracturing

The Town Board of Woodstock, New York at its meeting on January 15 reviewed and adopted a resolution in support of a NY State law to criminalize hydraulic fracturing and related activities. The Town will submit its resolution supporting NY Public Law #1 to the New York State Legislature for implementation. Some 40 citizens in attendance resoundingly supported the decision. This resolution (attached) is in support of NY Public Law #1, which makes hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas and all related activities crimes under the state penal code. NY Public...

Linda Leeds | Sovereign People's Action Network 17 Jan 2013 Hits:2814 New York

Read more

NYC Fast Food Workers Strike for $15/hr Pay, Independent Union

NYC Fast Food Workers Strike for $15/hr Pay, Independent Union

Two hundred workers from dozens of fast food outlets in New York City—including McDonald's, Burger King, Wendy's, Domino's, and Taco Bell—walked off their jobs Thursday morning to demand $15 an hour in pay and the right to form their own independent union, according to the organizers of Fast Food Forward. It is the largest strike ever in the United States against the $200-billion-a-year fast food industry and represents the latest in a wave of collective actions by low-wage workers to change conditions in their...

David Moberg | In These Million 30 Nov 2012 Hits:710 New York

Read more

Occupy Sandy: A Movement Moves to Relief

Occupy Sandy: A Movement Moves to Relief

On Wednesday night, as a fierce northeaster bore down on the weather-beaten Rockaways, the relief groups with a noticeable presence on the battered Queens peninsula were these: the National Guard, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Police and Sanitation Departments — and Occupy Sandy, a do-it-yourself outfit recently established by Occupy Wall Street. This stretch of the coast remained apocalyptic, with buildings burned like Dresden and ragged figures shuffling past the trash heaps. There was still no power, and parking lots were awash with...

Alan Feur | New York Times 12 Nov 2012 Hits:894 New York

Read more

DOMA Ruled Unconstitutional By Federal Appeals Court In New York

DOMA Ruled Unconstitutional By Federal Appeals Court In New York

NEW YORK -- A federal appeals court in Manhattan has become the second in the nation to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act as unconstitutional. The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued its ruling Thursday. The decision upholds a lower court judge who ruled that the 1996 law that defines marriage as involving a man and a woman was unconstitutional. The three-judge panel says the law violates equal protection. A federal appeals court in Boston earlier this year also found it unconstitutional. The issue is expected to be decided by the...

Huffington Post / AP 18 Oct 2012 Hits:804 New York

Read more

Attack Ads, by Outside Groups With Murky Ties, Shape 3 New York Senate Races

Attack Ads, by Outside Groups With Murky Ties, Shape 3 New York Senate Races

In Westchester County, a television advertisement accused a Democrat running for the State Senate of using campaign money to treat himself to fancy dinners. In Rochester, a commercial branded a Republican candidate as anti-women. And in Queens, a mailer attacked a Democratic incumbent for providing taxpayer money to a nonprofit organization that facilitates parrot adoptions. The searing advertisements have one thing in common: they were financed by independent groups, not political campaigns. As both parties battle for control of the State Senate, the most forceful attack advertisements have...

Thomas Kaplan | The New York Times 17 Oct 2012 Hits:668 New York

Read more

Restaurant Union Workers Win Historic Victory in New York City

Restaurant Union Workers Win Historic Victory in New York City

Fired by a union-busting boss, the workers occupied their restuarant and then opened their own sidewalk cafe--forcing their owner to cede to their demands. The restaurant workers who were fired and locked out of their store for organizing a union have won after a week of escalating protests outside the Manhattan cafe. Saturday afternoon, the owner declared that he had bowed to the workers demands to reopen the store, rehire all the workers and recognize their newly formed union, an inspiring labor victory at a time when many are...

Laura Gottesdiener | AlterNet 10 Sep 2012 Hits:869 New York

Read more

PDA In Your State

PDA 10th Anniversary - Join us in Northampton on May 10th

10thAnnSpeakers

Join Jim Hightower, Tom Hayden, Ben Day, Mimi Kennedy,
Thom Hartmann, Cole Stangler, Medea Benjamin, Andrea Miller
Rep. Jim McGovern, Tim Carpenter, Mark Dudzic and
John Nichols

 Buttons-PurchaseTickets

Leadership

PDA is looking for leadership in your state. Please contact us if you are interested in organzing at the state or chapter level.

State Leadership

Email us at: field@pdamerica.org

Chapters

Want to bring progressive change to your state? Start a PDA chapter; send us an email and we'll get you started.

Email us at: field@pdamerica.org

 

 

PDA Issues

PDA is organized around several core issues. These issues include:

Each team hosts a monthly conference call. Calls feature legislators, staffers and other policy experts. On these calls we determine PDA legislation to support as well as actions and future events.

PR Rank