Despite widespread support for fracking ban, Carlisle says no


By Jim Poole

Carlisle Town Board members rejected a hydrofracking ban after listening to most residents support a ban at a public hearing last Wednesday.
With only Supervisor Larry Bradt voting in favor of the ban, all four councilmen voted against it.
"My vote is going to be to ban it, according to what a majority of the people want," Mr. Bradt said, but councilmen didn't follow his lead.
Anti-fracking attorney David Slottje wrote the Carlisle law, which is similar to others he wrote for Schoharie County towns, except it takes into account that Carlisle has no zoning.
Most speakers in the audience of about 60 came out in favor of the ban, arguing that Governor Cuomo's ban wasn't assurance enough.
The state ban, Mr. Slottje said, could be overturned by another administration or the state Department of Environmental Conservation.
"Our town has the final say. We are a home-rule state," said Jacqueline Turnquist, supporting the ban.
Others argued that the danger of pollution would be high in Carlisle's porous underground karst.
"The science is clear," said William Cooke. "The risk exceeds the reward. I'm concerned about what we're leaving for our kids."
"If there's even a possibility of messing with our water, why are we even debating this?" another man asked.
Opponents of the ban countered that the proposed law was unclear and left too many unanswered questions.
"Laws are easy to pass, difficult to enforce," said Mac Holmes. "The language is very vague and can be interpreted in many, many ways."
But supporters responded that the town should pass the law, then amend or clarify the language of it later.
Opponents also contended that the law could affect agriculture. Councilman Dave Laraway later said he had at least a half-dozen phone calls from farmers worried about the law's impact on what they do with their land.
Mr. Slottje said that the law wouldn't touch farming, and others agreed. Linda Cross pointed out that an attorney with the state Agriculture and Markets Department judged the law to be compatible with farming.
"The Department of Health and DEC are on the same page," added Debbie Christman.
Several speakers--and a few councilmen--said that while they were against fracking, they couldn't support the law as written.
Only Councilman Bob Smith spoke in favor of fracking. He doubted the validity of a town survey, claiming it was taken by anti-fracking residents. The survey showed 52 percent of the residents were against fracking.
"The benefits of fracking outweigh the risks," Mr. Smith said, drawing catcalls and cries of "You can't drink gasoline" from the crowd.
In the vote, Councilmen Smith, Laraway, Kevin Sisson and Mary Tillapaugh voted against the ban.
Town Attorney Mike West said the law could only be brought up again if the board approved a motion to reconsider it.