Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Leader has not published this yet

Neil Vitale Op Ed The issue of whether or not to allow hydraulic fracturing as a method of recovering natural gas is, as happens all too often, growing in volume as it shrinks in understanding. Here in Steuben County, we are not in a part of New York which generally draws much attention. From the building of the Erie Canal onward the Southern Tier of New York State has been collectively (and often dismissively) lumped into the massive region known as "Upstate." Now, however, we are the center of attention from a lot of people who often didn’t care one bit about this region before. Our location at the geographic center of the Marcellus shale play in New York, has put us squarely in the center of the national debate over hydraulic fracturing. Those opposed to developing our resources rely on controversy, sensationalism, and skepticism of “big business” to instill fear in our communities. As average workers, neighbors, and citizens, we can’t match the resources anti-gas activists have brought to the region. Dishonest HBO documentaries, disconnected wealthy celebrities looking for a cause and lawyers from wealthy organizations like the Park Foundation will always be able to gain more attention in the media. But we can rely on the judgment of our neighbors. Landowners here - especially owners in rural areas - have a long history of being protective of our land. Myself as an organic farmer, fruit and vegetable farmers, dairy operators, vintners, and every other type of agricultural business are so dependent upon careful use of their land that they simply can't afford to squander their most precious resource. Outside of the agriculture industry, property owners want to see their homes, land values, and community character protected. If there is some "clear and present danger" from which the larger community must be protected, then a case might be made for an infringement on the rights of individual property owners. But a vague, unproven, generalized anxiety over a process that has been shown to be safe for many years in thousands of applications does not meet that test. The reality is that New York’s 70,000 mineral rights landowners want nothing more than to be able to do what their neighbors in Pennsylvania are allowed to do: Lease the mineral rights under their land for the safe and profitable purpose of drilling for natural gas. Unfortunately the new jobs, income, revived Main Streets, and improved schools that would benefit all New Yorkers, are being delayed by a small group of people armed with nothing more than a very big PR machine. This week, in an effort to take back our rights as residents and property owners, The Joint Landowners Coalition of New York unveiled a Declaration of Principles at the Capitol in Albany. This simple two page document asks only that we be allowed to safely develop our property in accordance with the law. It is my hope that every New York resident and elected official will read and consider this straightforward Declaration of Principles that stands up for our rights and our communities. Our state leaders must not allow the voices of a few to paralyze opportunity for so many.

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