Appalachian Basin

The Oxford Board Sets The Story Straight on Natural Gas

Oxford, New York has been the site of an ongoing saga over natural gas development.  Wednesday’s town board meeting was the latest chapter in an attempt by natural gas opponents to drown out other voices but the town board wasn’t so easily intimidated as village leaders. 

We’ve covered the situation in Oxford extensively over the past few months. For those of you who have not been following, the village tried passing a moratorium and after some legal ramifications surfaced, decided to go with some ill-advised amendments to their zoning law.  The town, on the other hand, has been very cautious and had decided to wait to take action until pending lawsuits on moratoriums are finalized and  the Department of Environmental Conservation makes its final decision in approving regulations.

On Wednesday night, the Oxford Town Board was confronted once more by  natural gas opponents who thought they could bully the town board into submission. Unfortunately,  that strategy didn’t go so well for them.

The town board addressed the audience at the outset with some ground rules, telling those in attendance the debate in Oxford had become far too personal.  They reminded the audience everyone has an opinion and not everyone may agree but everyone should still attempt to be civil.

Ellen Anderson spoke against natural gas development.  She complained because people who never went to meetings before now feel they have to attend.  She made it seem a terrible inconvenience to have to attend a meeting once a month.

The next person to speak was Irving Hall.  Like Alex Lotorto, Hall is another “serial protestor”.  He has spoken at all the meetings I have attended in following this discussion.  He is a ready source of misinformation on natural gas, and this meeting was no exception to the pattern.

Hall ignored the board’s ground rules and launched into personal attacks on individual board members.  He began by pointing out that one board member produces maple syrup and suggested natural gas production would somehow turn the syrup radioactive.  He then suggested this board member wouldn’t want to see his maple syrup outfitted with a label warning purchasers to “have a Geiger counter ready when you pour your syrup on your pancakes Sunday morning.”

Not only was this claim outrageous, but it was also the worst case of sophistry that’s been offered at these meetings.  This illustrates the absurdity of the allegations we hear from the other side.  They so often make no attempt to compare, connect, contrast or provide any of the normal information a rational person would want to make an intelligent decision.  They simply assert an isolated fact, or, as in this case, an unsubstantiated claim and then extrapolate to ridiculous lengths.

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Hall then moved on and personally attacked the other board members one by one.  One man is a science teacher.  Hall told him he needed to prepare his students for the natural gas discussion.

Another board member is a real estate agent.  Hall claimed natural gas development would destroy real estate values in the area.  He said real estate would do well in some places, but not all, if natural gas comes to the area.  That would hardly be a surprise in any area, but Hall then proceeded to further assert most homeowners would be unable to sell their homes.  This was, once again, a baseless allegation but Hall was undeterred and continued to demand the town board simply accept his vision of reality.

The board tired of Hall’s propaganda rather quickly and reprimanded him on these tactics.  They informed him they were ready to listen to anyone in the audience with legitimate concerns but would not entertain further conversation from him because he hadn’t listened when the board had responded to his earlier inquiries.  Watch the whole thing unfold below.

Bryant LaTourette spoke next.  He told the board they were correct; personal attacks had, unfortunately, divided the town and they were justified in demanding more civility and less demagoguery.

Another man named Rich Anthony said he doesn’t normally doesn’t speak at meetings but had decided to do so that night.  He told the board he has lived across from Gerry Lake for 40 years and has always allowed people to use his property.  He told a sad story.  He and his family were out to dinner at a local restaurant and he was appalled when a natural gas opponent made an inappropriate hand gesture to him.  He told natural gas opponents in the audience to look within their own group and reflect on this and how much division they have brought to the community.

A representative from Norse Energy told the audience the company is reorganizing, but still working within the community.  He also noted the company still pays incredible amounts of taxes to Chenango County communities and corrected much of Hall’s misinformation.

Vic Furman spoke next.  He told the audience he has experienced difficulties when he tried to speak with people against natural gas development.  He told the board they should schedule an open forum and allow a question and answer session where only facts are presented.

Will Bradley told the board they won’t have to worry about poisoned maple syrup.  He then went on to say natural gas supporters are tired of always being on the defense and would be making their voices directly heard n the future.  His point resonated with other supporters in the audience who are tired of municipal meetings being dominated by handfuls of individuals who seem enthralled with natural gas as their latest cause.

By the end of the meeting it was clear friends of natural gas were coming out in force.  They indicated they were tired of the distortions and misinformation and the town board was, obviously, tired of the name calling.  It was nothing less than inspiring to see a town board resume control and ensure civil discourse.  May it continue.

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