Appalachian Basin

Oneonta Natural Gas Vote Bets the Farm

The Town of Oneonta, New York, Otsego County held a public hearing on a proposed natural gas moratorium last week. There were several people  in support of the moratorium and about a dozen people opposed. Quite a few of the proponents were familiar faces last seen attending the Sidney public hearing, clearly the anti-natural gas folks are continuing their crusade across the state in an effort to stop development through local laws. Why are these bans and moratoriums such a bad idea?  Let’s count the ways.

Twiddle Dee and Twidle Dum Natural Gas Bans

The proposed Oneonta moratorium, which is simply a temporary ban intended to be made permanent later, came in two versions, Local Law No.’s 4 and 5. Take a look at the latter, which involves a twelve month moratorium. A five month moratorium was offered as an alternate but this was hardly satisfying to the committed anti- natural gas constituency determined to bring things to a halt before they get started, and for as long as possible.

The board did not vote on either version at this hearing but, instead, went into some extraneous discussions that perfectly illustrate why the  State of New York, rather than individual towns, properly regulates natural gas.  It was “twiddle dee” versus “twiddle sum” and nothing more.

Antis Try to Force Recusal on Natural Gas Vote to Tip the Scales

Town Board member William Mirabito, who is associated with a company that provides services to the natural gas industry, was asked to recuse his vote on the moratorium by individuals who wanted the moratorium to pass. They suggested he had a vested interest and would benefit from voting “no” on the moratorium, as if the same couldn’t be said for many of them.  He refused to recuse his vote and the board has taken the issue up with the Joint Ethics Commission to ensure he is allowed to vote. The town will cast its vote after they hear back from this agency.


Locals argue there was no reason Mirabito needed to recuse himself. They suggested every person on every board would need to recuse themselves if nothing more than the mere connection with selling products to an industry was the threshold. They further observed that all town board members have personal opinions on natural gas and indirectly benefit in different ways from the positions they take.

Natural Gas Bans and Moratoriums Are Politically, Not Scientifically, Motivated

Dick Downey, of the Unatega Landowners Association, suggested the proposed natural gas bans and moratoriums were not motivated by a desire to address health and safety issues, but rather to continue a political game of numbers.  He said the Department of Environmental Conservation has been protecting New York State for decades and stated the agency was now working its way through the comments on the SGEIS. He noted it is the DEC that is designated to protect the state and towns, and a moratorium would only confuse the matters and ultimately accomplish nothing.

Watch what Dick Downey had to say about the proposed moratorium.


Why Not Wait?  Well, It’s About the Farm!

Here is another view of the moratorium.


This man suggested the natural gas has been there for years and asked why not wait? Did he not realize natural gas has successfully been extracted throughout the country for decades? It has been proven safe and the product is cleaner than all other fossil fuels.

Local residents know the answer to his question.  Why not wait?  Well, farmers who are facing losing their land, farms, and futures can’t wait. Waiting could be the difference in passing on a family farm to the grandchildren or losing it to a bank.

Other residents recommended the town simply make necessary changes to laws already have in place.  They argued that Oneonta and other towns should start adjusting their road laws.  This is clearly already allowed by Environmental Conservation Law 23-0303-2.  It would also stop wasting time pursuing a moratorium or ban on natural gas exploration that is clearly not allowed by ECL 23-0303-2.  It was strongly suggested towns are opening their doors to lawsuits from their constituents if they took the latter approach.

Also, listen to what Attorney Ed Zaengle (trial attorney, geologist, and hydrologist) had to say.


Why are moratoriums such a bad idea? Dick Downey and Attorney Zaengle hit the nail on the head. Imposing a moratorium would hurt Oneonta and the entire area economically in a severe way and could cause hard-working farmers (and others) to lose their homes.  Is it worth risking this while waiting for others to finish wasting the town board’s time on legislation clearly not permitted under Environmental Conservation Law?  The answer is obvious.  These natural gas bans, by whatever name, need to be banned.

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