Marcellus Shale

Butternuts Bumbles Along, Down the Banning Trail

The Butternuts, New York, saga continued earlier this week with a public hearing on the revised draft of the town’s proposed moratorium. This hearing was scheduled ten days after the Town Board received feedback from the Otsego County Planning Department.  Readers will remember, from my report on the last meeting, the county denied Butternuts moratorium because it would cause problems from county to county in regards to gathering lines.  Well, not to be deterred, the Town Board just keeps bumbling along, driven by the special interest agenda of three members.

The main problem the county identified in its review was with gathering lines, but that isn’t the only place Butternuts will see conflicts with other towns and counties.

The landscape in the Town of Butternuts

A moratorium will indirectly affect all natural gas development in the towns surrounding Butternuts that do not have moratoriums.

Geology does not respect municipal borders and a ban in Butternuts will deprive landowners in adjoining towns of economic development opportunities and property rights.

Many individuals spoke at the public hearing, several of whom were against the moratorium. Some asked why the board felt it was a good idea to pass a moratorium when the town could be litigated against for its enactment.  After all, Butternuts does not have a large legal fund and several audience members noted the insurance the town has most likely will not cover a lawsuit of this scope.

One attendee observed that three members of the board are on a mission to ban natural gas development in Butternuts. He told the board there are many people in  the town who support natural gas development.

Another woman suggested flowback water was being sent to Ohio. This is not the case, of course as New York is not allowing the development of natural gas wells in the state’s shale resources.  In addition, companies in Pennsylvania, where shale wells are being developed, are now recycling a large amount of water from their operations, which decreases the amount of fresh water being used, reduces truck traffic in many instances and requires less out-of-state disposal.

Following discussions, the board closed the public hearing and discussed the moratorium. Board members who didn’t support the moratorium were appalled as the supervisor pushed the matter to a vote. There was no consideration of the public comments offered which was proven by their vote five minutes after they closed the public hearing.  As such, the moratorium passed with a 3-2 vote that ignored the public input and the law’s inter-municipal impacts.  You can get a sense of the Town Board attitude from this video.

Have you ever heard a town supervisor call a member of an audience at a public hearing a liar?  You’ll also note the supervisor stated he didn’t withhold any information from a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request. However, you’ll recall, from my last post on Butternuts, he clearly stated he withheld emails from the public because he felt they were attorney-client privilege even though David Slottje is not retained as their town attorney therefore negating any potential attorney-client privilege.

Those opposed to the moratorium took offense when the supervisor stated he would wait to see if he got sued before he figured out what his next steps would be.

Many of the points brought up by people supporting the moratorium had nothing to do with the changes proposed to the effort. The Town Supervisor, nonetheless, let them speak.  However,when a letter was submitted by opponents of the moratorium the supervisor refused to take it. The letter pertained to the moratorium and the FOIL request previously submitted, which should have been filled before the vote.

Toward the end of the meeting a natural gas opponent rudely stood in front of my camera.  She was upset my “grandfather” and I attended the meetings.  She then incorrectly stated 80% of the town signed a petition against natural gas development.  I have a copy of the petition, it referenced “heavy industry” rather than natural gas and only about 30% of the town actually signed it, if that.

Butternuts has passed their moratorium and it is on the books for now but concerned citizens are working hard to save their property rights  and take this battle to the next level. Until next time, stay tuned!

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