Appalachian Basin

Oxford Delays Natural Gas Vote As Slottje Funders Trash Industry

The Village of Oxford, NY held a board meeting and public hearing this week on a proposed natural gas ban authored by the CEDC, a grantee of the same organization distributing a flyer trashing the natural gas industry. Oxford is the only municipality in Chenango County considering such a measure and are doing so at the behest of an entity with no apparent scruples.

I headed back to the Village of Oxford last night for yet another board meeting and public hearing on their proposed moratorium, drafted by the Slottjes, through the Park Foundation funded Community Environmental Defense Council (CEDC).  We’ve been pointing out the this “free” legal advice comes with a hefty price tag, not to mention turning over municipalities to the bidding of  Park Foundation elites.  The Village seems more than willing to make such a deal with the devil, but they are likely to regret it later when they are sued and have to defend the indefensible.

We’ve also learned the name of another funder of the CEDC that makes the Village’s reliance on their advice even more suspect.  That funder recently bankrolled the distribution of an outrageous mailer to Southern Tier residents that we plan to address in a separate post.  We can tell you, however, it is probably the most inflammatory collection of lies about the natural gas industry we’ve seen to date, other than maybe “The Flowback.”  The organization is The Civil Society Institute and, yes, it funds both this sickening material and the Slottje’s.

What is the Village of Oxford thinking, relying upon an entity such as the CEDC that is linked to these efforts to give them “free” legal advice?

As you may recall from earlier posts, we have been following this effort pretty closely since Oxford is the only municipality in Chenango County considering a ban or moratorium and it’s one of the few proposed that is within the probable developable portion of New York’s Marcellus Shale.

Let’s have a quick recap. The village has held several meetings for the public, as well as the various boards of Oxford debating whether or not to move forward with this moratorium. We’ve covered those here, here, here, here, here, here and here, and we’ve posed 20 questions to those opposed to natural gas development in the village.

Members of the board and planning board toured natural gas development in Pennsylvania, and they heard presentations from both Attorney Slottje and Attorney Wedlake, giving both sides to what a ban/moratorium really looks like. The Oxford Planning Board recommended moving forward with the moratorium at a previous meeting. It’s been quite a journey and one that’s not over yet with the board’s decision to hold-off on voting again at last night’s meeting.

That’s not to say the board has not previously tried to take action. They proposed an amendment to their zoning code which bans natural gas development; however, this ban was not been approved at the county level, the county having identified several legs and practical issues with it.

Chenango County does understand the inter-muncipal impacts of these zoning ordinances, bans, and moratoriums for they impact not only the village, but surrounding municipalities and the county as a whole. As such, they denied the amendment and informed the village of the their decision last Friday.

The county gave four reasons for denying the amendment including; the unintended consequences, changes in the zoning ordinance that need to coincide with a well-considered plan (Oxford’s comprehensive plan has not been updated since February 1970), the fact the law was not timely because the Department of Environmental Conservation is not finished with the SGEIS process, and the economic impacts of the zoning on other towns, villages, and cities surrounding Oxford.  See video below:

A public hearing was held to allow members of the community to voice their opinion on whether or not to move forward with a ban/moratorium restrictions which would require overturning the county decision. The village can enact the legislation if it receives a super-majority vote, which is a majority plus one.

The first to speak at the public hearing was Bryant LaTourette.  LaTourette urged the board to wait and hear what happens with the Dryden and Middlefield now combined lawsuit first, as the village was advised by Attorney Rob Wedlake would be the wise thing to do.  He noted the county was essentially agreeing with Wedlake in their observations.  He also said this had been a long road and, if the village was determined to vote, they should just do it.  He observed the village board had  most likely already made up their minds and suggested it was just stringing the public along by not voting.

Will Bradley spoke during the hearing as well.  He supported everything LaTourette said and discussed the hypocrisy of the long chain of events.  He asked the board if they used natural gas, and when they confirmed they did, he argued they used it for the cheaper cost and if they all stopped using natural gas he would fully support their stand against developing the resource.  Closing his argument, he told the board they need to look at where they get their information from, and act on facts, not baseless fears.

Recent resident and elder extremist Irving Hall spoke next.  He is completely against natural gas development and has pushed the board to pass the local law in several variations.  This time, he attempted to put words in the county’s mouth and criticized their remarks on the local law.  He talked for almost ten minutes, enjoying the limelight.

Sue Dorsey brought in some visual aids  and talked about the difference between vertical and horizontal natural gas wells.   She also talked about the DEC not yet releasing their regulations.

One man who works for Norse Energy tried to clear up some of the misconceptions and address the fear mongering by the opposition.  He informed the audience of the multitude of regulations the natural gas industry lives under and talked about the specific safety regulations Norse has implemented.  One of his main concerns with the proposed law was the fact his kids go to school in the local school system and they only have 33 children in their class.   School enrollment is vastly decreasing across New York and it could threaten the smaller school systems forcing them to close.  This is happening because people are moving out of the area in search of work in other states.

Other supporters spoke as well, including this supporter of natural gas development.

The public hearing came to a close and the board decided to wait until this coming Tuesday to vote on whether or not to pass this ordinance.  The vote will be held exactly seven days after the public hearing.  Meanwhile, the trash flyer from the CEDC’s funder, the Civil Society Institute, continues to circulate throughout the area, as the Oxford Village Board considers its advice.  There’s something awfully wrong here.

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