Appalachian Basin

Oxford Touches the Hot Natural Gas Stove

There was a public hearing in the village of Oxford regarding a natural gas moratorium, despite the village already having a zoning ordinance which renders the moratorium unnecessary.

Last night there was a public hearing in the village of Oxford, New York, Chenango County regarding a proposed moratorium, which will be the first in Chenango County. It also falls quickly on the heels of the overturning of nearby Binghamton’s moratorium. Many have spoken out against this legislation and continue to do so, but the board had already made up their minds.

The mayor spoke first, saying passing a ban was a bit of a foggy area, but they feel they can enact a moratorium. The board sent the moratorium to the Chenango County Planning Department where it was approved. The Chenango County Planning Board basically told the town they were touching wet paint.

Chenango County had three main concerns. The first concern were the definitions in the proposed moratorium. The second and third concern both had to do with the Binghamton decision. They were concerned Oxford is not in need of a moratorium because there is no hydraulic fracturing  in New York which makes a moratorium pointless. Reading between the lines, they’re saying if this decision is brought to court, like Binghamton, they don’t think it will hold up.

Of course, the Mayor completely disregarded the county’s suggestions and the existing zoning ordinance which will give them the time needed to iron out anything they feel they need to before development gets to the town. You can view this portion of the meeting in the following video.

When public comment was allowed, Bryant LaTourette was first to make a statement. He asked if David Slottje would represent the village if a lawsuit were initiated. He mentions Binghamton because the board simply tried to ignore the fact they are doing something which has already been proven faulty.

Another landowner, who owns 77 acres in the village and who would be hurt tremendously if the board approves the moratorium, told the board to allow the existing zoning ordinance to do what it is meant to instead of enacting a moratorium.

Meanwhile, Latourette further reminded the board that they received warnings against implementing the moratorium from the county, an insurance company, and several attorneys. “Hot stove, don’t touch.”

Will Bradley followed LaTourette. He discussed the letter the board received from the planning board. He asked if all the board members had read the county’s letter and they all nodded but one admitted he did not understand the letter. Everyone seemed very surprised at the complete disregard the board showed the county.

Facing a defiant Mayor who said he feels the village has a broader knowledge of the area than the Department of Environmental Conservation Bradley would not back down. He urged the board to wait for the DEC to release the Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement. On another note, he mentioned no one on the board owns a business so they don’t understand what it means to be a struggling business owner in the village.

One woman, Donna, spoke to express her agreement with Bryant and Will.

A representative from Norse Energy also presented at the hearing. He read a letter from the head of Norse discussing what a natural gas moratorium would really do to the village. He also asked if Slottje would pay for any lawsuits initiated against the Village. He urged the board to wait for the DEC and the SGEIS before making a decision.

Denise LaTourette also presented and had prepared fourteen points against the moratorium. The fourteen points were landowner rights, financial liability, need, negative business impact, taxpayer liability, board qualifications, Chenango Planning Board concerns, Binghamton lawsuit, appeals in Dryden and Middlefield, Rob Wedlake’s opinions, Norse Energy’s statement, Mang Insurance’s statement, village border confusion, and the fact a moratorium will not prevent the truck traffic.

One of the antis who spoke told the board they had heard a lot of non-legal opinions thus far in the meeting. He then mentioned he wasn’t an attorney either but it didn’t stop him from giving his opinion.

Another anti rudely pointed his finger to the crowd and attempted to question that person regarding a statement they made. Based on the reaction in the room it was clear  no one heard what he thought he did.

By the end of the night it was clear, the board was planning on doing whatever they pleased regardless of who warned them not to. The DEC is going to be working on the SGEIS until they feel it is adequate to protect New York State. Having towns or villages ban natural gas development is unnecessary and leaves a technical decision in the hands of those not qualified to make such a decision. Further, these towns don’t have a reason to enact a moratorium as the judge from the Binghamton case has so clearly stated.

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