Gas Drilling Debate Gets Personal in Cooperstown, NY

A New York Times article slanted to be anti-drilling, but nonetheless comes out pretty balanced overall, examines the personal nature of the debate over fracking in New York State by examining the neighbor against neighbor conflict in Cooperstown, NY.

From the article:

Like many farmers, she [Jennifer Huntington, who is suing Middlefield, NY to overturn a drilling ban] sees the drilling opponents as largely comfortable urbanites in an area increasingly home to retirees and second-home owners who know nothing about the economics of farming and little about the safety of drilling.

She cites the methane digester her family introduced in 1984, which used manure to produce natural gas that was used in part to heat the county nursing home, or the co-generation unit added to it seven years later that produced electricity for the farm.

“This land and my family are my life,” Ms. Huntington said. “We probably use three to four million gallons of water to feed my cows. I’m not going to spoil something I need to make my living and for future generations to come.”

Opponents have suggested a boycott of businesses that do not oppose fracking, and have circulated reports via e-mail identifying cars or trucks possibly involved in gas leasing that have been seen at their neighbors’ residences.

Many drilling proponents, meanwhile, say the professionals and retirees drawn to the area have become antigrowth fanatics, opposing a once-a-year music festival proposed in nearby Springfield, wind turbines proposed for Cherry Valley, even additional Little League fields.

Indeed, people on both sides say the ill will probably goes beyond fracking.

“At one time, people in Cooperstown could disagree, but it was never personal,” said Catherine Ellsworth, who writes a column in a local weekly newspaper and supports drilling. “Now it’s more like they want what they want, and that’s it. There’s no sense we’re in this together. But I guess that’s not just here. Society has changed, and Cooperstown has changed along with it.”*

Ms. Ellsworth’s comment is very insightful. Society has changed, and not for the better.

*New York Times (Oct 29, 2011) – Drilling Debate in Cooperstown, N.Y., Is Personal