Appalachian Basin

Let’s Table the Natural Gas Moratorium

There was another village board meeting in Oxford this week.  The board has been contemplating enacting a moratorium on natural gas development, which would be the only one in Chenango County.

This past week there was yet another village meeting in Oxford, New York, Chenango County to continue discussion of a possible moratorium.  Readers will recall Oxford is the only community in Chenango County considering one of those Slottje cookie cutter moratoriums on natural gas development.  There was a nine month moratorium proposed and the board was scheduled to vote on it this past week.  The meeting was, in fact, moved to the school because so many people were expected to show up, which they did, but many were not even from Oxford as activists turned up from places such as Plymouth, Coventry and other areas.

The village board protocol for the meeting allowed one person supporting natural gas to give a five minute presentation and another person against natural gas development to speak for the same amount of time.

Irving Hall gave the presentation on the reasons why the board should enact a moratorium.  This moratorium, like Binghamton’s, is completely irrelevant.  Oxford already has a strict zoning ordinance actually prohibiting much of what might be classified as natural gas development, of course.  Moreover, because the state isn’t even issuing permits yet, there is no legal basis for a moratorium, as the judge in Binghamton’s case clearly stated.  Moratorium advocates like Hall are simply trying to make a political statement and jump on the bandwagon of natural gas opposition with this.  This is more than evident from his presentation, offered below.

Bryant LaTourette represented not only landowners in support of natural gas but also business owners against the moratorium.  He talked about all the reasons a moratorium is a bad idea.  Nearing the end of his five minutes the crowd was getting rowdy, but LaTourette told the board he had one last thing to mention. He told the board a decision on their part to pass the moratorium would yield an immediate legal challenge by local businesses and landowners.

LaTourette simultaneously suggested, as an alternative, a 45-day cooling off period to meet with affected parties, Norse Energy and others to craft a way to both accommodate natural gas development and address the board’s concerns.  The board decided to go into executive session to discuss the implications and their options.   You can watch the whole thing unfold below.

Here is what the board said before going into executive session, which suggests the wisdom of compromise was beginning to dawn.

Irving Hall, however, decided it would be a good opportunity to get his group riled up by offering to answer any questions they had in relation to natural gas development.  Hall, of course, has no background in the oil and gas industry, nor is he a scientist.  His responses were purely opinion – a collection of assertions unsupported by any facts or figures.

At one point someone asked Hall about the Middlefield and Dryden  lawsuits.  Somehow, he failed to mention the Binghamton loss in his response and clearly didn’t understand the  appeal process.  He also appeared to think the Supreme Court was the highest court in New York and made the ultimate decision, which is not case.   He also diverted several questions to the audience, because he did not know how to answer them.  Those in support of natural gas quickly determined it was useless to partake in the conversation and stayed out of it for the most part.

The board came back after executive session, which took about 20-30 minutes, and told the crowd they still hadn’t made a decision.  They noted there were only three options; pass the moratorium, table the moratorium or vote not to adopt the moratorium.  The board wisely indicated they were going to take a step back and table the moratorium, because there was still too many gray areas to accept it as is.

Where will it all end?  It’s anybody’s guess, but it’s also looking as if Bryant LaTourette’s common sense alternative of backing off, studying the issue in cooperation with businesses and landowners and forging a new approach that makes Oxford a model for natural gas development done correctly, might be getting a fair hearing. If so, this could be the turning away from the Slottje and Park Foundation special interest agenda toward one that is uniquely Oxford.  One hopes so.

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