Middleburgh gets an earful on fracking


By David Avitabile

Residents who spoke at a Middleburgh town board public hearing Thursday were unanimously opposed to hydrofracking and urged the town board to adopt zoning laws banning the practice.
Town board members are poised to vote Thursday at a special meeting on whether to approve proposed anti-fracking zoning amendments that were written by Ithaca attorneys David and Helen Slottje. The special meeting will be held in the town hall on Railroad Avenue starting at 7pm.
The public hearing will remain open at the special meeting.
All 19 residents who spoke, one in poem, last week opposed fracking and asked that the board adopt the zoning changes that would prevent drilling and fracking in the town.
It is very likely that the amendments will be adopted this week.
After the residents spoke, three board members gave their opinions and all three were in favor of adopting the change.
About 40 people attended the hearing and nearly half spoke.
Village board member Bill Morton noted that the Slottje amendments have been upheld by three New York courts, including the highest.
Fracking creates too much noise, truck traffic, and pollution and is a threat to tourism, quality of life, property values, homes, roads, and water, Mr. Morton added.
Fears of contaminated ground water was a common theme among the speakers.
"The weakest link is the ground water," said John Lawlor of Canady Hill Road.
"If we pollute those wells, how am I going to water 900 animals," farmer Rich Stanton added.
"This fracking is going to ruin our ground water," said Robert Wright.
"The fact that it might happen puts the fear into you," added village resident Bill Ansel-McCabe. "You have to watch your water."
Leaks could ruin the water and food in the area, noted Harold Wright of Ecker Hollow Road, who added, "I have a problem with this big time."
Susanna Schmidt of Canady Hill Road came to the area because of its beauty and farming opportunities and does not want to see the area spoiled.
"I don't want to turn this area into a toxic dump. We have to do as much as we can to protect what we have."
Betty Pillsbury of Coons Road added, "I'd like to keep it as natural and pristine an area as we can."
Many speakers talked about the future.
"We have to worry about the generations to come. We have that chance tonight," Erynne Ansel-McCabe said.
"If we don't take a stand now, we won't have future generations in the valley," added Lisa Stanton of Route 145.
Pipeline companies are already putting the pressure on farmers and other landowners, she continued.
"These people don't play nice, they do not play fair."
Mr. Stanton added, "I don't need a pipeline. I don't need fracking to survive."
Business owner Patty Eddy Beal noted, "We've invested in our businesses, homes and families. To have a few people benefit from fracking is not worth it."
One speaker, Rhonda Coullet, put her opposition to fracking and what it would do to farming in the form of a poem.
Board members, Supervisor Jim Buzon, and Councilman Brian DeFeo and Councilwomen Susan Makely, spoke in favor of the proposed zoning changes.
At first, Councilman DeFeo explained, he was concerned about the complexity of the proposed changes and felt that the town's comprehensive plans and zoning laws should be changed before the anti-fracking laws were put in place, but he has changed his mind.
The town's zoning language needs to be changed, he added.
If you are opposed "you have to fight fire with fire."
Councilwomen Makely noted that if she was not on the town board she would "be right in the audience."
The town has to act, Mr. Buzon explained.
"With something like this, you have to be proactive. You can't be reactive."
The town board could not vote on the proposed changes last week because the adjoining towns had to be notified, according to Mr. Buzon.
Board members can vote on the changes this week, he added.
Councilman Frank Herodes was not able to attend the public hearing portion of the meeting and Councilman David Lloyd did not comment on the issue.