Dateline: 17 July 2012
All Sempronius town board members were present for the July town board meeting, as was the town attorney, and around ten members of the community (I didn’t make an exact count).
Prior to the meeting, a woman from our citizen advisory committee passed out a paper to each board member. The paper stated:
"A Majority of the Board-appointed Citizen Committee on investigating Hydraulic Fracturing recommend a moratorium against “Fracking,” starting immediately, and continuing for at least a period of not less than one year after the New York State regulations are in place.”
Shortly after the meeting was officially started, without any discussion, the Supervisor said that he would like to have a vote on whether to have a moratorium on hydrofracking in Sempronius. The vote was two in favor of a moratorium and three against a moratorium. This vote, which is now a matter of public record, was as follows:
In favor of a moratorium:
Opposed to a moratorium:
After the vote was taken, our town attorney spoke and told the board that he felt we still have plenty of time to deal with this issue. He further stated that he had read some recent newspaper articles about hydrofracking in New York, and his personal feeling was that hydrofracking was not even going to be allowed in the state because of all the anti-fracking pressure being put on Albany. He also expressed the opinion that he did not think this was as important of an issue as people were making it out to be, and that the town had other more important matters to deal with.
A woman in the audience asked the board if those who voted against a moratorium could explain their rationale for doing so. One man replied that he was opposed to a moratorium because he didn’t think that the gas companies would ever drill in our town.
The woman then asked if the other two board members would give their reasons for voting against the moratorium. At that point, our attorney spoke up and said that town board members are under no legal obligation to answer questions from the audience, and that the audience is not even supposed to ask questions. He said that the board members could answer the question if they wanted to.
They chose to ignore the woman’s question.
A short while later, a man on the citizen committee asked to speak and addressed the board. He reminded the board that the committee had been tasked at the last board meeting with investigating whether there had been any accidents in New York State with gas wells and pipelines. He replied that he could find no evidence or examples of any such problems ever occurring with gas industry activities in New York State. He then thanked the board for the opportunity to serve on the committee and said he would be available if the board needed him again.
Later in the meeting, Joe Lorah spoke saying that now that the moratorium vote was over, he hoped that those on the board who had stated (in a previous meeting) that there were more important issues to be dealing with in our town would bring those matters up for discussion so we could properly deal with them.
The meeting progressed with usual business. Before the end, a woman on the citizen committee said that she understood that the board had voted, but that, as the board had requested, she had found information related to gas industry problems in New York, and that she would like to share the information with the board.
She stated that she had found information about 270 incidences of problems with gas industry activities in New York State in the past 30 years. A list of these problems was compiled by Walter Hang, president of Toxics Targeting, using the State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) hazardous substances spills database. They ranged from gas line leaks, to brine spills, and at least one contaminated well. Here is an link I found to a newspaper article about the compiled list of drilling accidents: State Files Show 270 Drilling Accidents in Past 30 Years.
And that pretty much sums up all the hydrofracking-related details of the July meeting.
Some Final Thoughts
I started this web site on January 24 of this year. That was the day after the Sempronius Public Hearing about hydrofracking. I established this web site because a fellow board member stated at that meeting that I had said something at a previous meeting that I never said. And when I politely tried to correct him, he loudly disputed me.
I realized at that moment that if I was going to have a voice in this discussion I needed to create a forum of my own where I could clearly express my views and concerns about the hydrofracking issue in our town. I also wanted to create a record of events for anyone who was interested in the issue, as well as for future reference. That’s how DoWeFrackSempronius.com came to be.
After yesterday’s vote not to proceed with a hydrofracking moratorium in our town, my question has been answered...
Yes. We do Frack Sempronius. A vote not to proceed with a moratorium is, for all intents and purposes, an invitation to any gas company to come to our town. Whether that will actually ever happen remains to be seen.
I was asked if, after the vote, I was disappointed that I "lost." Such a question reveals a significant misunderstanding. This was not a win-or-lose situation for me. It was a do-the-right-thing situation.
I did not create this issue in our town. I simply responded to the issue when it was brought before the town board by a group of concerned citizens. I saw it as my responsibility to take the matter seriously, investigate it, and make a decision about it. This web site is a chronicle of what I discovered and the factors that entered into my decision to oppose hydrofracking.
From the beginning, I identified and defined the matter of public safety as the most important issue in my mind. As far as I'm concerned, public safety should trump all other factors. I determined that hydrofracking (as it is now done) has a history of accidents, and that it has harmed innocent people in communities where it has been done. With that in mind, I felt I had a high personal responsibility to protect the people of Sempronius by voting for a moratorium, and then a ban.
I have made my beliefs about this issue perfectly clear on this web site. No one needs to ask me for my rationale for voting for a moratorium (and, for the record, I'll be glad to answer any question from the audience at any monthly board meeting, as the Board has always done in my 12 years as a board member).
As time wore on, my greatest concern with this issue of a hydrofracking moratorium was that it was not going to be properly addressed by the board. That the matter of a moratorium was not going to ever be voted on. That our responsibility was not going to be taken seriously. And I pressed the board to make a decision. Now that it has been voted on, I’m satisfied. I certainly disagree with those who voted against a moratorium, but I’m satisfied that the issue has been addressed and resolved.
I want to make it clear that, in the course of this months-long debate in our town, I have never responded to the anger and animosity directed at me with anger or animosity. That’s not me. I have no ill will towards anyone who had disagreed with me on this issue.
In the end, it is my great hope that those who say hydrofracking will never be done in Sempronius are right. Because if they’re wrong, that’s when I’m going to be really disappointed.
And that’s when I'll start writing here again.
P.S. I would like to express my sincere thanks to everyone on the citizen committee who volunteered to research and advise the board, and who took their responsibilities seriously.