Appalachian Basin

Homer Considers a Pointless Natural Gas Moratorium

The Town of Homer had a public hearing last week to discuss enacting a moratorium for this Cortland County community, incredible as that may seem after the stunning overturn of the Binghamton version by the Broome County Supreme Court.

There was a public hearing late last week in the Town of Homer, Cortland County, New York, where the town board is considering (not necessarily supporting) a natural gas moratorium apparently being pushed by a local group of opponents, despite what happened in Binghamton. The shocking part came when the town attorney addressed the public stating the moratorium was his own and not a cookie cutter Slottje moratorium. There was a small group of people against natural gas and supporting the moratorium there, but landowners also spoke up for their rights.

Indefatigable landowner advocate Vic Furman spoke first.  He addressed the board for a few minutes, briefly touching on several different aspects of natural gas development.  He started off by effectively countering the incessant demand by all natural gas opponents that anyone who supports natural gas and owns land recuse them from a vote.  He also spoke on the ad valorem tax. He offered the board the opportunity to see what one natural gas well would do for the tax base of Homer. The board seemed interested in the information and may take him up on his offer.

Furman then talked about the lawsuit in Binghamton over enacting a natural gas moratorium. The judge in Binghamton threw their moratorium out faster than it was enacted.  Taxpayers in Binghamton incurred the costs in the time, money and resources to enact a moratorium Broome County Judge Lebous then decimated with a withering critique.  The judge exposed the false premise of that moratorium, noting there was no need when the state was even in a position to issue permits.  He also noted the statute clearly wasn’t enacted to allow Binghamton to do more research. This made it simply a political statement, similar to what a moratorium in Homer would be.

One of the leaders of the natural gas opposition in Homer tried to contradict Furman – unsuccessfully.  Watch that interaction below.

One woman in the audience suggested natural gas supporters were only after the money they will make from natural gas.  Natural gas development benefits everyone in the community, of course, a point brought out by another concerned constituent.  Watch both below.

The owner of Tallmadge Tire spoke next. He told the audience he had been on well pads several times and the audience would be surprised at the extensive safety measures the natural gas industry takes when developing natural gas wells.  He also reminded everyone there is no one in the area who wants to damage the water.  He said his employees and business have grown 30-100% from natural gas development.  He is now able afford to hire more people and pay them more money.

Another speaker urged the board to talk to board members like themselves from Pennsylvania about natural gas.

Another business owner whoworks in Towanda said there are several local companies popping up because of the natural gas industry. Business is thriving in Pennsylvania, he told the assembled Homerians. He also said the town board does not have the resources to make the decisions the Department of Environmental Conservation is already doing.

A resident said there have already been several acres leased and he is concerned more will be.  He received an interesting response from a board member who obvious recognized their is no crisis requiring a moratorium. Watch the video below.

One woman said she doesn’t trust the DEC to do this.   She said it “doesn’t feel right” as if that were a basis for public policy.  It’s a rather remarkable, but all too typical, comment from the other side, which seems to think feelings are more important than facts and their feelings should be enough to deprive others of their rights.

Paul Whitaker spoke next discussing the many benefits of education. He told the board he went out and educated himself and they should certainly do the same.  He said the DEC has the resources, money, and time needed to do the job they have been given. They are working hard to set standards for the natural gas industry, he contended.

Another woman tried to call Furman out for being from another town.  She was extremely rude to him and you can see it in the video below.  The second he turned the tables and asked her a question, however, she seemed to relent in her challenge, not having the facts to debate.

Many business owners spoke throughout the night and brought up several good points. The video below sums up their main point, that the natural gas industry is very concerned with safety and will go above and beyond to keep people and workers safe.

Watch the following videos below as well. Many people in the audience supported natural gas and New York State DEC’s regulation of development.

The audience, overall, was was split relatively evenly between people in support of natural gas and others against natural gas.  All of the business owners in the area, however, spoke in support of natural gas and against a moratorium. The businesses see the benefits of natural gas development and what it will do for the local economy. Their message: open New York State for business.  One hopes the Homer Town Board feels the same.  If I had to guess, I’d say they do, especially after that Binghamton decision wiped out any legal foundation for the moratorium being pushed on them.

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