Marcellus Shale

Slottje Selling Spree Questioned in Pittsfield

Last month, attorneys Helen and David Slottje presented their powerpoint and template moratorium to the Town of Pittsfield, Otsego County, New York.  The town board agreed to allow some individuals to speak at their meeting this month expressing why a moratorium is dangerous for a town and it certainly opened some eyes.  The town board didn’t exactly know what they wanted to do, but they knew they didn’t want to enact the same moratorium the Slottjes have been pitching to every other town in New York State, as they see where that has gotten some of these  towns.  If they had doubts before, they have certainly grown as a result of this month’s discussion.

Wet Paint: Do Not Touch

Some other towns, generally on the fringe of the natural gas region, are enacting bans and moratoriums.  These towns are, however, being legally challenged.  How can any town board comfortably enact a ban or moratorium before they see where the two appealed court cases end up?  It’s a bit like the signs say “Wet Paint: Do NOT Touch,” don’t  you think?  Do other towns really have to test this, touch the paint if you will, rather than wait a few more months to see where the lawsuits go?  Well, many taxpayers think it can wait!

A few members of the board indicated they wanted to enact a moratorium to give them time to create laws.  Others told the audience they felt the presentation given by the Slottjes was slanted. They invited presentations from a pro-gas contingent from neighboring Chenango County to explain why a moratorium might  be  unnecessary and a waste of money for the town.

The Truth of the Matter

The moratorium some members of the Pittsfield Town Board wanted to enact was created by their town attorney. It was extremely short and very vague, a fact which ensures unintended consequences.  It was anticipated this would cost the town $1,000-$1,500, if it decided to proceed.

First to speak against the moratorium was Bryant Latourette.  He passed out information and asked the board some questions about its intentions.  He asked the board to explain why it was in favor of enacting any moratorium at all.

Vic Furman also spoke, discussing his experiences throughout the last few years working with local landowner coalitions.  He warned the board against basing their decisions on slanted petitions.  “It’s easy to pad a petition,” he said, noting some petitions seem like they are large until compared to the number of the people in towns involved.  He discussed his research, which you can watch below.

Earl Colley was the last to speak and said he was attending the meeting to protect landowners who are part of local coalitions and speak for them.  He asked the board why they were enacting a moratorium and suggested if it was to enact laws to protect Pittsfield, as they have stated previously, they would need to go out and hire a hydrologist, a geologist, and engineer to do exactly what the Department of Environmental Conservation was doing.  He asked who would do the research and how much money it would cost.

The Public Roars

Following the presentations the discussion opened up. Some tough questions were asked.  The board continued to say it wanted time to enact laws but it became apparent during the discussion that it had made little progress working toward a road use agreement, which could be done quickly, perhaps even faster than a moratorium.

When told it would most likely take a year before Pittsfield ever saw a gas well, some members of the board told the audience to think of the moratorium as an insurance policy.  They said everyone has insurance not because they think they are going to get into accidents but because they want to be protected.  They suggested a moratorium would be the “insurance” in case natural gas exploration came to the town within the next six months.  This was quickly were countered by those who asked why the town would want to waste $1,000-$1,500 on a moratorium when they could rapidly develop a road use agreement in less time than it would take to enact a moratorium?  Watch the video of the conversations below.

Note in the video below the town board tells one woman they will not be able to extend their moratorium any longer than the six months, although later in the meeting members contradict that statement.

The Decision

You can hear the moratorium proposal in the video below.  It seemed at first the board would vote to immediately pursue a moratorium.   Thankfully, it was tabled and the board instead created a committee to investigate what a moratorium really entails.  Many members of the audience identified the problems with the moratorium.  Some problems included lawsuits, unintended consequences, and wasting taxpayer’s money because the moratorium is too vague.  Regardless, it was clear the discussion did open the town board’s eyes a bit.  They listened and they tabled – another setback for the Slottje’s selling spree.

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