Appalachian Basin

Natural Gas Too Little, Too Late for Upstate?

Neil Vitale
Steuben County, NY Organic Dairy Farmer
Steuben County Land Owners Coalition

A short time ago, in 2008, there was a goose ready to come into New York that would provide significant prosperity to upstate resident’s in New York.  It was similar to another which already landed in Pennsylvania bringing prosperity to that state. Governor Patterson, unfortunately, listened to environmental activists and chased our goose, which was ready to lay golden eggs all over the Southern Tier, into Pennsylvania. Now, because the Governor chose to side with false narratives from environmental activists, we all must continue to wait for the benefits this goose will bring.

Farmers in the Southern Tier never bought what these environmentalists were selling. Through experience they realized a goose would make noise, occasionally leave a feather in the yard and some organic fertilizer, but all of this is manageable. Farmers were willing to tolerate this, but the misinformed environmentalists did not want to see this goose in our State so they made up stories and yelled as loud as they could.

To add insult to injury, every time this goose sticks her head into New York these environmental activists’ knives come out and chase the goose into another state. So here we sit, in 2012, able to see progress across the border with the knowledge that when the DEC and Governor Cuomo finally allow natural gas development here it may be too little, too late. This of course is thanks to those who claim to be better stewards of the land than the farmers who have put their blood, sweat and tears into our land for generations with little in return.

Natural Gas Golden Goose Shooed Off Painted Post

Don’t believe me? Take a look at Painted Post, a community in Steuben County nestled in the Susquehanna River Basin, which found a way to help their village prosper from Marcellus Shale development just over the border–despite New York’s refusal to issue permits. You, see Painted Post has a great commodity–water–meaning they could use that surplus, and existing rail structures, to sell the resource to companies operating in the Marcellus thus enabling them to make a substantial profit for the community.This action would be dictated by the Susquehanna River Basin Commission (SRBC), who unlike their counterpart in the Delaware River Basin, has taken a very scientific approach to water withdrawal requests; approving those that meet strict flow requirements safeguarding environmental health and deny those that don’t. As you clearly see, it should be a pretty straightforward decision for whether or not the village can move forward with the sale of their water.

Yet, individuals outside that community, those same environmental activists I referred to previously, are trying to halt this action because it will enable development of shale resources in another state. See the advertisement below for an upcoming event to discuss this issue.

Exporting Water from the Conhocton and Chemung River Acquifers:
Is it Sustainable?  Is It Legal?  What Can We Do about It?

A forum on issues raised by recent plans for local municipalities to sell water from municipal water supplies for gas drilling in Pennsylvania  will be held:

Wed., March 7, 2012 at the Bath Fire Hall
50 East Morris Street, Bath, NY
at 7:00 pm

Jean Wosinski, a geologist from Corning, will address the geology of our local water sources and whether they can sustain large water exports
Rachel Treichler, an attorney from Hammondsport will address legal issues presented by municipalities exporting water
Virginia Rasmussen, a member of the Alfred Village Board and a principal with the Program on Corporations, Law and Democracy, will speak about local laws municipalities can adopt to protect aquifers

The program will conclude with an open question and answer period.  The program is sponsored by the Bath Peace and Justice Group. Waldo Babcock from Prattsburgh, a member of BPJ, will moderate the program.

The program is free and open to the public.

What can you do about it? How about let the leaders of the communities decide what is best for the constituents that elected them? What about allowing the SRBC to do their job and decide based on data and science if the withdrawals are legal and sustainable?

But no, they won’t. That wouldn’t fit into their agenda to stop the harvesting of the natural resources we are blessed to have under our feet. They don’t care about the farmers losing their land to ever rising taxes, high prices for the necessities to maintain their livelihoods, and low prices for their products. You see, when one farmer loses a farm, it affords others the opportunity to buy it for pennies on the dollar to subdivide and turn that land into a vacation,retirement homes or additional suburban communities that reduce available open-space.

But they don’t care what happens to the community they claim to love from a distance–we farmers, and our families, are just collateral damage enabling them to preserve the land from the comfort of their cities far out of touch with our reality.

Farming Arrest

Cartoon from Recent Article in The Post & E-Mail Depicting Burden on Farmers Today

They don’t care that our children have left to find the means to sustain their families because we can’t offer them jobs here at home. They don’t care that our grandchildren will suffer greatly by not allowing shale development to happen safely and responsibly in New York.

No Schools without Natural Gas?

In addition, they break out their knives anytime natural gas gets anywhere near our schools leaving school districts like Elmira and Watkins Glen  with no choice but to cut “unnecessary programs” like gym, art, music, library, athletics, and in some cases even kindergarten and pre-k classes. That’s right, Watkins Glen school district, nestled in the Finger Lakes with the prize wineries will be cutting funding. Apparently all of those tourists that have been touted as the salvation of the region, don’t pay enough school taxes to support needed educational programs at our schools.

A good example of these cuts can be seen in this February 16th article from PressConnects about the dire situation in the Elmira school district:

Elmira school chief: Programs at risk
Board addresses options to close $10M budget gap

What does a skeleton school look like?
Superintendent Joseph Hochreiter asked the question Thursday, much as he did Wednesday night at an Elmira school board meeting.
The answer, he said, is that an elementary school, for example, might look like this: no art, music, physical education or library — or at least no teachers specifically teaching those subjects.
A skeleton high school, he said, might have no sports teams — or at least fewer of them.
And a skeleton district might have fewer buildings.
All of which are possibilities raised by Hochreiter in his budget update at the board meeting.
“That’s what we’re getting pushed toward,” Hochreiter said Thursday. “For the second year in a row, we’re starting our budget with a $10 million gap. That’s why we’re looking at some of those sacred cows, and those sacred cows include facilities.”
The board will have a budget workshop at 7 p.m. Wednesday during its regular meeting at the Elmira Free Academy Community Room.
At 7 p.m. March 1, at a site to be determined, the board will get a cost comparison on proposals for school buildings being studied by Hunt Engineers, Architects and Land Surveyors. The final plan could include closing one or more schools.
At Wednesday’s meeting, the superintendent told the board that 44 percent of the budget for any of the district’s eight elementary schools goes toward non-mandated programs — those not required by state or federal governments. He said the programs include kindergarten and pre-K classes, a few subjects, teachers and other staff.
The subjects — art, music, physical education and library — don’t have to be taught by teachers certified in those areas, Hochreiter said.
Of the athletic teams in the upper grades, he said, “It’s nice to have teams, but they’re not mandated.”

Also, he said, “We may have to talk about kids walking further to school.”

The next time a teacher loses their job, school programming is cut, a state worker pension fund is drastically reduced, potholes in our streets destroy our cars and bridges collapse, we can thank those who have chased this goose out of our state and the lost resources we may never see.

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter!
1 Comment

Post A Comment