Anti-fracking activists in the Southern Tier, like myself, have to persist in the face of deep divisions within our community and hostility from elected officials.
A journalist recently asked how we in Vestal are dealing with news of delays from the Cuomo administration. I replied that our work continues: to press our town board for a moratorium in Vestal and to replace those members who have been unresponsive to the almost 2,500 signatories on a petition calling for a moratorium.
Our battle with our town board is not a unique one in the Southern Tier. For the most part, if town boards aren’t downright hostile, they are not warm and fuzzy either when it comes to the idea of a moratorium or ban on gas drilling.
Last week, the town of Chenango held the first public hearing on a moratorium in the Southern Tier, the result of a major push by Concerned Citizens of the Town of Chenango, who gathered more than 1,600 signatures and made many presentations in favor of a moratorium.
Just before the hearing, they were informed by Broome County that rather than the usual majority needed to pass a moratorium, the County had the right to force them to gain a super majority of votes for a moratorium. That is, 4 out of 5 people on the board have to vote for the moratorium, rather than 3 out of 5.
The challenges we face here are difficult to understand by those from outside of the region. We had the privilege of having Beth Radow and Greg May appear at a Vestal Residents for Safe Energy (VeRSE) event. A woman who travelled here from downstate with Beth was visibly appalled at what we have to deal with — the contentiousness of the issue and the harsh divisions within our community.
This pro-fracking mentality is best represented, perhaps, by the Joint Landowners Coalition, which is based in Binghamton. They argue that the region’s poverty and unemployment justifies allowing a dangerous practice that threatens our health, environment, and future.
It is really hard to wrap your brains around this mentality.
In order to continue to work on this issue, I more or less have to ignore it. I know it is out there and I know nothing I can ever do or say or demonstrate will ever change it. So I concentrate on stopping fracking, which means continuing to present at town board meetings, write guest viewpoints, speak at rallies, talk to my neighbors, post on Facebook, hold events, consult with other strategists — what’s an organizer to do?
And, of course, I’m grateful for the support of our allies across the state in New Yorkers Against Fracking.
Sue Rapp is the co-founder of Vestal Residents for Safe Energy, a group based in Vestal NY. (VeRSE) is a volunteer group working to protect the health and safely of the town residents, the quality of life in the town and the economic interests of the majority of the town’s residents through a moratorium on gas drilling in the town.