Appalachian Basin

Preston’s On Board The Natural Gas Train

Broome County Executive Debbie Preston was recently re-elected.  She completely supports safe and responsible natural gas development for New York.  We had the chance to sit down, talk with her and discuss her stance on natural gas development.

Earlier this week we got the opportunity to sit down again with Broome County Executive Debbie Preston and talk about her recent win in the election and recent developments with respect to natural gas in New York State.  Preston, a long time supporter of natural gas development, will continue to advocate for New York State shale gas development  as long as she feels it is done safely and responsibly. Preston a resident of Conklin, New York, and is not involved with any landowner coalitions nor is she a landowner herself, points which only add additional credibility to her arguments.

The first topic up for discussion during our interview was how the Ad Valorem tax and her own tax plan would benefit Broome County.  Preston said the revenue from the Ad Valorem tax would be astronomical for the County.  Moreover, this money would stay in Broome County and help local businesses and residents struggling to stay afloat by providing alternative ways to fund the cost of government.  The County would see numerous benefits from the tax and many more regarding natural gas development in general.

It’s easy to appreciate the potential Preston sees by taking a look at next-door Pennsylvania.  The Montrose area across the border, for example, is home to newly paved roads and a new state of the art hospital being built through the donations of multiple gas operators in the area.  Then there is the new technology center at Elk Lake High School.  Did we mention that this is being done without the added benefit of an Ad Valorem tax?  Imagine the possibilities for New York.  Here’s a great explanation of the Ad Valorem tax by Ron Gould, from an earlier post we did to help you imagine what Preston sees.

Preston stated she would not support natural gas development if she didn’t believe in it.  She is not immune to the abuse dished out by those opposed to the development of shale gas and told us she had been called all sorts of terrible things by those intent on fear mongering and bullying.  Below, however, is a video of Preston speaking at the Albany natural gas support rally where she spoke candidly about the reasons she supports natural gas development.

We asked her about the local elections, including her own, and specifically inquired whether she thought her stand on natural gas helped her in the election?  Preston indicated natural gas may have helped her, overall, in the election but said the election involved many issues as well. Her opponent, nevertheless, ran on a harsh anti-natural gas platform while Preston stood strong to her beliefs and supported natural gas development throughout the entire campaign.

We also asked the County Executive what she thought about other local elections winners?  Preston said she was very satisfied.  We briefly discussed the pro-natural gas candidates who won in Windsor, Chenango and Sanford.  Each of these elections involved vigorous debates between the two sides of the natural gas debate  and the pro-natural gas candidates came out on top in all of them.

Support for Natural Gas Development at The Albany Rally

Support for Natural Gas Development at the Albany Rally Where Preston Spoke

This was a nice transition to our next question; whether she felt a silent majority supports natural gas development in New York State and Broome County?  She answered yes.  She spoke of the many anti-natural gas protests that have been held outside her office building, noting the very low turnout at most of them.

Preston said not a lot of people are standing up and speaking openly in support at such events, but they are showing up as a majority at the polls. She expects more people to come out and vote in support of the pro-natural gas position in the future as well.

Importantly, Preston stated she has received support from local landowner coalitions but also offered that she does wish people in support would be more vocal on a regular basis, as they were the day of the Albany rally.

We asked what she thought about local towns or villages passing moratoriums.  She clearly grasped the significance of these actions in terms of image and landowner rights.  She indicated her belief any town, city or village enacting a moratorium negatively impacts its neighboring towns, cities or villages who may be supportive of natural gas development, making it a regional issue.  She said one thing that really bothers her is a small group of people telling others they cannot enjoy their mineral rights and or lease their land, which has very negative consequences for farmers.

So how does Preston feel about the Department of Environmental Conservation still not releasing the Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement?  She said she was disappointed because the DEC should have brought the health study into the picture earlier to avoid the current situation.  We asked if she felt there were any health implications associated with natural gas. Preston told us if people were getting sick, there is no way it could be kept secret; her way of expressing skepticism about some of the unsubstantiated health claims that have been made by natural gas opponents.  She suggested no one could hide the fact people were getting sick from a practice employed for decades if it was truly responsible.

We asked her if she had anything else she wanted to make clear regarding her stand with natural gas development. She told us she hopes to promote Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) vehicle use throughout Broome County, including city buses, in the future.  She would like to see our American product used efficiently right at home to benefit our local areas.  She’s apparently reading news items such as this one.

CNG on the Rise: Consumer use of the fuel is most prevalent in California and New York. Utah is catching up fast, with the most CNG stations per capita and more than 5,000 CNG vehicles on the roads. With a $3,000 state tax incentive credit and CNG prices at about 86¢ per gasoline gallon equivalent, it’s no wonder that even the governor drives a CNG vehicle.” (CNGNOW.COM)

Rachael, of course, couldn’t resist asking Preston about her feelings on Mayor Matt Ryan getting Binghamton’s water tested. She said it was actually shocking, for a few different reasons. Preston was the Supervisor for the Town of Conklin, so she understands the process a municipality has to employ to ensure public safety when dealing with a water supply.  She told us the municipalities have to get their water tested regardless and the Susquehanna River Basin Commission is very strict with public water regulations and has high standards.  She, like many of us, felt Mayor Ryan was engaged in a political ploy of sorts.  The water is tested periodically anyway so it was basically Mayor Ryan telling his constituents not to trust the water tests the City has been receiving for years.

The interview went well and we were very thankful Preston took the time to meet with us.  It’s nice to know she’ll be sticking around for the next few years as Broome County Executive. Her support and fight for natural gas gives many in Broome County the hope that, one day, the County will be able to enjoy all the benefits natural gas development brings.

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