Strictly Business: Schuyler County Farm Bureau in New York State rejects fracking by 10 to 6 vote; More than 150 municipalities passed ban or moratorium

Strictly Business: Schuyler County Farm Bureau rejects fracking by G. Jeffrey Aaron, October 26, 2013, Star Gazette under Business
More than 150 municipalities in New York have passed a ban or moratorium on gas drilling or fracking, according to FracTracker. Earlier this month, Schuyler County’s Farm Bureau joined the fold. Ed Gates, a dairy farmer who has operated Seneca Valley Farms just outside Burdett since 1967, milks 1,000 cows on his farm. Those cows get their water through a series of 11 water wells Gates has dug on his land. And if those wells are ever contaminated, he says, the farm will be in “big trouble”. For that reason, Gates — a member of the Schuyler County Farm Bureau — supported an anti-fracking resolution when it came before the county bureau last year. The resolution was soundly defeated. “Schuyler County has a lot of farmers and some of them own land that they are not working and they would like drilling and fracking,” Gates said. “But I want to work my land and I’m opposed to drilling and fracking.”

A couple of weeks ago, with New York State still sitting on the fence of the fracking issue and the state Farm Bureau in favor of it, the anti-fracking resolution was again proposed at the Schuyler County bureau’s annual meeting — with very different results. This time around, the resolution was supported by a group of like-minded grape growers. And with their support, the anti-fracking resolution passed by a 10-6 vote. “Any member can come and a vote on any resolution the bureau wants to pursue,” Gates said. “This time, grape farmers were there to vote and that’s why we won.”

Gates’s opposition to fracking, a controversial method of harvesting natural gas from tight shale formations by blasting the rock with a pressurized mix of water and chemicals, stems from a concern about his water supply. Remember, he waters his herd with 11 water wells. “And a lot of drilling has contaminated the water table one way or another,” he said. The second reason for Gates’s anti-fracking stance is if his neighbors drill, the gas wells will be connected by pipelines, which would create a spider web of pipe that will cross his land. “You can’t rely on DEC to get them to do it correctly because DEC doesn’t have the personnel,” he said. “They don’t have the people to regulate the drilling or the pipelines.”

In my eyes, Gates has good reason to worry. A quick glance across the border into Pennsylvania clearly demonstrates what’s good and bad about fracking. But what gets me about the Schuyler County’s anti-fracking vote is it comes at a time when a majority of farm bureaus across the state have adopted a different position. Fracking, they say, and the potential revenue stream that comes with it, should be a viable option for farmers having difficulties making ends meet. With the resolution now passed, Schuyler County’s delegates will present it at the state Farm Bureau’s annual meeting in Syracuse in December. If the resolution passes at that meeting, then the New York State Farm Bureau will be obligated to lobby against high-volume horizontal fracking in the state. However, the state Farm Bureau has already come out in favor of fracking, as long as it’s done safely, says Ashur Terwilliger, president of the Chemung County Farm Bureau and director of the state bureau’s District Four, which includes Chemung, Schuyler, Steuben, Tioga and Tompkins counties.

Terwilliger attended the Schuyler County bureau’s Oct. 16 annual meeting. He’s also attended those held in the past and they usually draw between 15 to 20 farmers. But this time, although the number of farmers attending stayed the same, the mix had changed. “I’ve never heard of any of the other county bureaus passing a resolution like that,” Terwilliger said. “When you only have about 15 people at a meeting, it’s easy to load it up to get support. It was a set-up. The motion was made by a supporter, seconded by a supporter and they won the vote.”

The development of Marcellus Shale, the state bureau says, means the ability to invest in farm infrastructure: building the new barns, adding cows and farming equipment to allow the next generation to stay on the farm. These on-farm investments will ripple through the local economy and grow community businesses – from the general contractor, the livestock auction to the farm machinery salesman and seed dealer, the state bureau says. And according to the bureau, “the importance of revitalizing these communities and local economies cannot be overstated.” That might be so. But what’s missing from the state farm bureau’s assessment is the potential harm fracking poses for the environment. You’d think that the farm bureaus, who see their members as stewards of the land, would be especially tuned in to fracking’s environmental debate. But the issue won’t likely get that far because Terwilliger doesn’t give the resolution much chance of gaining support at the state level. “There will be reps there from every other county in the state and it will likely be thrown out,” he said. “The resolution isn’t a cross cut of agricultural opinion across Schuyler County. They didn’t have enough people for policy development so you’re not getting a true cross-county opinion.” [Emphasis added]

[Refer also to:

National Farmers Union (Canada) 2012 AGM Resolution Passed about Fracking Regulations and Enforcement

What Lies Beneath: CCTV America Investigation into Hydraulic Fracturing Interviews Alberta landowners, including former oil engineer, fracing fumes damaging health

Air Pollution and Cancer Spikes linked in Alberta; Alberta’s Oil Legacy: Bad Air and Rare Cancers, Sickening carcinogens now saturate Industrial Heartland, study finds

Water contamination in Parker County exceeds explosive limits, just like in Wheatland and other frac’d counties in Alberta

Extreme Levels of Benzene Floating Around Gas Wells and Compressor Stations; Fracking effects: A long-term study of drilling’s impact shows harmful health effects

Fracking ‘silence’ for life: Gag orders on children & censored government data

How Alberta Will Fight Fracking Folk Hero Jessica Ernst, In famous flaming water case, regulator to argue ‘no duty of care’ to landowners or groundwater

Alberta county councillors scheduled to consider fracking-related resolution

The Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties (AAMDC) frac motion commotion

Wheatland County in Alberta pushes fracking resolution

Wheatland County (Rosebud community, with dangerously contaminated water after Encana frac’d the community’s fresh water aquifers, is in this county) Councillors call for Fracking Halt until Protective Methods are Developed

Local councils to be stripped of right to decide on fracking, Ministers are hoping to speed up Britain’s shale gas “revolution” by taking away powers from local councils to decide on controversial fracking projects

Northern Ireland agriculture minister ‘to block fracking’ on department land

Fonterra in New Zealand to stop taking milk from farms with oil and gas waste

Laurie Blakeman questions Alberta Environment Minister Diana McQueen on Groundwater and Hydraulic Fracturing, McQueen responds “That’s a silly question” when asked about baseline water testing before fracing

Water usage advisory issued for Rosebud

NEWS ALERT: Water Supply for Hamlet of Rosebud Contaminated

Investigators say an accumulation of gases appears to have caused the explosion that destroyed the Rosebud water tower and sent a Wheatland County employee to hospital

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