Marcellus Shale

Conflict of Interest: The Latest Natural Gas Mole

Cris PastoCris Pasto
Tioga County, NY Landowner
Inventor and Director, Engineering & Training – Res-Q-Jack, Inc.
Dealing with the anti- natural gas crowd reminds me of the game Wac-A-Mole.  They pop up to cry wolf about the latest misinformation spreading on the internet, and when the facts come out the little Josh Fox emulators drop back in the hole only to resurface with the latest battle cry or self-perceived ‘eureka’ moment.  With Dimock’s water deemed safe multiple times by the EPA, DEP, etc., the facts contradicting their other claims against natural gas, and all the great benefits realized outside New York (of course), their latest line of attack regards a ginned up conflict of interest as it relates to town board members and their status as landowners, lessors or other benefactors of natural gas development.  They say a board member who may benefit from natural gas development, or with family members who may benefit, should recuse themselves from any related voting.   The warped sense of logic among the anti-natural gas leadership has led to them convincing themselves  they have some great legal argument.  Not quite!

Board members are elected by their constituents based on commonalities and character.  They are entrusted to represent those who put them in office.  I vote for candidates who represent me.  I cast a vote for conservative, taxpaying, intelligent, and otherwise sensible people I can entrust with the responsibility of properly managing our town’s affairs.  It’s not possible to find a candidate that shares every preference; however, I conduct a mental cost-benefit analysis between the various candidates.  Board members will often be in a position of voting on something that may have either a positive or negative impact on them personally or financially – but that’s life.  I select candidates who will best represent my interests on those same issues and, fortunately, the majority in our town have done so as well.

Now, along come some activists who suggest people who disagree with their far out agenda should recuse themselves from voting, even though they were democratically elected to cast a vote by individuals knowing their background.  I guess it’s necessary going forward to educate the anti-natural gas crowd on some basics with regard to republican government.  Hint:  learn a little bit about a candidate’s background – if they own a business, if they own land, if they are successful, if they can stand on their own two feet, if they are sensible, etc. then they are likely to make decisions other sensible people of that same mold would make.  Likewise, if they don’t pay any taxes, live off retirement income or make their living elsewhere then they may be more likely to vote for anti-growth causes.

If the anti-natural gas activists rule, demanding that anyone who may financially benefit from a certain vote must recuse themselves, were to prevail, then our entire system of elected representation falls apart.  Perhaps that’s their motivation – who knows with all the ‘occupy’ folks among them.  Regardless, it is clear they have no peripheral vision when it comes to this issue of conflict of interest.

If it applied in the manner they suggest, then the implications would be far reaching.  A tenant or student who pays no property taxes would have no vote on school taxes, since they benefit financially at the taxpayer’s expense.  A resident school teacher would need to recuse themselves as well, as there could be an impact on their salary or workload.  A school neighbor would not be able to vote if the district proposed improvements that affected his property values.   In fact, any employee of the school system, any vendor supplying the school, any school design/engineering firm, any school construction firm employee would not be able to vote.

That’s just one example.  We could apply the same reasoning to a zoning law, which affects every single voter and landowner in a different way.  The person whose land is zoned commercial couldn’t vote.  The town board members whose land values are impacted (all of them) couldn’t vote.  You get the idea! Before you know it, there would be no one left to vote.

Further, if the landowners and business owners elected into office have a conflict of interest, so do those elected on an anti-natural gas agenda. They claim they are stopping development to protect the values of their land and homes. No matter how warped this perception may be, they, too, then stand to gain from development not occurring, i.e. they have a conflict of interest. Again, we run into the problem of who then do we allow to vote? There’s no one left if we follow this thought process. The implications stretch in every direction, but I think most readers will understand without further waste of time.

Now, the above implications may seem like spin, but you know darn well the anti-natural gas types will use these exact arguments when they can as long as it benefits them and their very strange agenda.  One thing you can count on is that they will somehow see it fit to count their vote.  Besides, the science and facts don’t quite fit their arguments against natural gas. The wind and solar alternatives to natural gas have nasty problems they can only fabricate with respect to natural gas development.

Let’s whack this mole and get ready to hit the next one.  The moles will continue.  They have put too much personal capital in the game; it’s now their very purpose in life.  They are each scratching and clawing to introduce an argument that actually survives a day or two and gets their name in the mix with Fox, Ingraffea, Alec Baldwin and the like.  Fortunately, truth has so far prevailed.

On the other hand, maybe we should forget about all the little moles and do an overall cost-benefit analysis, as their wizard Ingraffea actually suggests, regarding whatever magic solution they have in mind to power our nation and get us off foreign oil.  I guess before we can do that analysis, we need to know what solution they actually have in mind.  It’s not apparent they have one.  They play wac-a-mole, too, you know, except they just keep whacking those of us trying to solve the problem.

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