Keuka Lake Residents Seek Other Side of The Story
Natural gas has been produced in New York’s Finger Lake region for decades. Yet, in the irrational discussion surrounding hydraulic fracturing, a new political dynamic has taken shape; lake front land owners are suddenly trying to dictate others’ rights. Happily, other residents are seeking the facts ignored by this very vocal minority.
A recent trip to the Finger Lake Region of New York taught me some things about natural gas and oil operations and how they co-exist with the wine industry (in which I worked before coming on board with EID Marcellus). Spending the majority of my time on the west side of Keuka Lake, I was able to visit a few wineries and a brewery including: Bully Hill, Heron Hill, Dr. Frank Wine Cellars, Hunt Country Vineyards, Keuka Lake Overlook Cellars, Rooster Hill Winery and Keuka Lake Brewery.
My interactions at the wineries changed from place to place, and unsurprisingly given the loud noises coming from some Finger Lakes activists, I found many of these business owners are opposed to development, even though it already exists there, while others feel they are not educated enough on the topic and are seeking out more information. These individuals know there are always two sides to a story and they have been fed but one side for far too long. It was refreshing to discover there are, in fact, numerous people in the business simply looking for the truth.
It was apparent, as I drove down Route 54A on the west side of Keuka Lake, that significant numbers of people were opposed to development in the area. But, when I hopped off Route 54A and moved away from the lake to where development might actually take place, I began to see Friends of Natural Gas signs. This was really interesting considering most of those lakefront properties are used as Summer vacation homes or vacation rentals, meaning a majority of the opposition to gas development is led by seasonal residents who own lake front property, and don’t live there year-round.
Observing this dynamic at play on the west side of Keuka Lake, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for the landowners who, unlike their second home neighbors, don’t own lake front property to rent out for supplemental income. They, too, could certainly benefit from some extra income from natural gas development, but they’re being denied it largely through the efforts of those seasonal residents.
Their communities would also benefit. Money from the ad-valorem tax will flow to their school districts, municipalities and counties, and would help fund capital projects that would normally have to financed from the pockets of residents (and, ironically, seasonal residents seldom benefitting from them).
New York is also one of the largest users of natural gas, yet it produces only 4% of it and imports the rest. Natural gas development coming to New York will help revitalize a poor economy and make a perfect match between natural gas and one of its biggest end users. The Finger Lakes region will be no exception to this, if those who live part-time around the lakes for enjoyment don’t stifle the opportunities of those who must earn a living in the area.
Town of Pulteney, New York
The small Town of Pulteney sits on the west side of Keuka Lake and it’s one of those places where everyone seems to know each other. Pulteney is home to Jeff and Jodi Andrysick, farmers turned “filmmakers” – as their business card states – as well as natural gas wells, one of which one is visible from the town hall, in fact.
Once again, some very interesting dynamics are at play here as two people living in an area of natural gas development which has experienced no problems have taken on the role of “documentarian” in effort to show how the industry would somehow destroy the area. Upon my visit, I called Jeff and Jodi to see if they would be willing to sit down and talk, as I am always looking to hear the other side of a story and debate, but unfortunately they never returned my call. They were probably out giving a civil disobedience class or studying the French Revolution, which they are prone to do.
I did, nonetheless, have the opportunity to sit down with one of the Pulteney Councilmen, Richard Musso. Musso stated he was not necessarily for natural gas development, but was in favor of business and understands the need to harvest this resource. He spoke briefly on the moratorium that was voted down in Pulteney, stating there was no point to the moratorium with the existing one already on New York.
Heading north along Keuka Lake, I began to pass Friends of Natural Gas signs and decided to stop and see if anyone would speak to me regarding natural gas development.
One person I had the opportunity to speak to was Vince Bedient, a resident of the Town of Branchport located next to Pulteney. Bedient, a grape farmer living the road across from Stever Hill Vineyards, with a natural gas well on his property and a hydraulically fractured well on an adjoining property, had this to say about natural gas development.
I also had the chance to sit down with other landowners in the area, and while some were not comfortable going on camera, they did say that more education on the topic of natural gas development was needed in the area. Many felt as though they were only hearing one side of the story, and welcomed the opportunity to learn more about the development process. After speaking with so many individuals, I too saw a need for more educational outreach in the Finger Lakes area and hope to help them bring in experts on the topic to answer questions in the new year.
If you have never visited this beautiful portion of New York, it’s worth it to schedule a trip up sometime, and while you’re there be sure to see if you can spot all of the existing examples of the wine and natural gas industry co-existing. Educate yourself about the reality of natural gas development in the Finger Lakes!