Appalachian Basin

Afton Landowners Help Spike Onerous Road Law

Town of Afton (Chenango County, NY) landowners showed up and spoke up Thursday evening to support the Town Board in its decision to repeal an over-the-top “Road Preservation Law” the Town hastily adopted last year and came to the regret.

The Town of Afton Road Preservation Law was adopted in December after urging by Town Board member, Mary Jo Long, who happens to also be an attorney and gas opponent. Long, in fact, has linked up with the Community Environmental Defense Council to promote “legal protection from the threats posed by industrial style natural gas extraction.” CEDC, for its part, is based up in Ithaca, N.Y. — right down the street from the Park Foundation, which continues to invest millions in both directly supporting anti-shale activist groups (NRDC, Riverkeeper, etc.) and funding an anti-shale research program at Cornell. That’s also up in Ithaca, btw.

Anyway, specific to Ms. Long, you can see her in action for yourself, speaking at a seminar posted on the “Essential Dissent” website, which brags about her work in getting the Town of Afton to pass “their new ‘concentrated heavy traffic’ road preservation law.” Ms. Long is also Chair of the Chenango County Green Party and has spoken out frequently against natural gas development.

Shortly after the new law was adopted on a 3-2 vote, some alert citizen landowners noticed it had been enacted improperly and got the Town Board to reconsider. They also pointed out how onerous and unusual the new law was, leading to a change in the position of the Town Board — with the exception of Counselor Long, of course. They noted the law was improperly targeted at only certain industries and, therefore, likely to become the subject of expensive lawsuits.

Board Meeting

Afton Town Board Meeting

The law is indeed flawed. It runs completely counter to the recommendations of most professionals that road use agreements are the best way to go. Such agreements are a tool proven workable in community after community with gas drilling. Roads have consistently been improved to conditions higher than before drilling started. The law also prohibits the transportation of hazardous or toxic materials within 1,000 feet of a residential neighborhood of five or more houses, never defining how close those houses must be to constitute a neighborhood or what hazardous or toxic materials might include. Given that gasoline is normally classified as a hazardous material, one must assume this would prohibit the delivery of fuel almost anywhere within the Town.

There are many other flaws with the law, but that is now history, thanks to the efforts of landowners who showed up Thursday evening and at previous meetings to oppose this ludicrous new law. They know the purpose was to stop natural gas development. They convinced the Town Board to repeal the law, which it did, and start over. The Town Supervisor has appointed a committee to research the matter further and come up with new recommendations.

While there is much more to the story (including the unfair berating of the Town Supervisor by anti-shale activists for having a conflict of interest because he once sold gas rights to a property he no longer owns) — it is clear this is a major victory. Aroused citizens willing to stand up to anti-gas bullies can ensure sanity prevails. Energy In Depth’s Northeast Marcellus Initiative intends to capitalize on this Afton demonstration of sensibility to create some educational opportunities for local elected officials that will counter the nonsense being spread by special interest groups such as the Community Environmental Defense Council. Stay tuned!

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