Woodstock & Fracking Have One Thing in Common

The Town of Bethel, in Sullivan County, NY, was home to the Woodstock “music festival” in 1969. Bethel is also the latest New York township to ban hydraulic fracturing. Both events have at least one thing in common: They’re both supported by hippies and hippie-wannabes.

Last night, the Bethel town board voted 5-0 to ban fracking before a “crowd” of 70 in attendance:

The board cited fears that fracking would harm the clean air, pristine waters and open land in adopting the law, in what member Vicki Vassmer Simpson called "the most important decision" she’s made.

Bethel thus became the third Sullivan town to ban drilling, along with Tusten and Lumberland. Highland is also moving toward such a ban. But although most believe that the gas below those three Delaware River towns isn’t worth drilling, some say the gas in the Marcellus shale beneath Bethel could be productive.

That’s one reason opponents of the law have threatened legal action — even though similar laws have been upheld in two other New York towns.

"They’re marching themselves into an unnecessary lawsuit," said Al Larson, who heads a landowners’ coalition in Bethel that wants to lease some 14,000 acres for drilling.

So even though Bethel Supervisor Dan Sturm believes the town is "on solid legal ground," the board also voted unanimously to retain environmental lawyer Deborah Goldberg of Earthjustice — at no cost — "in the event the town requires representation."*

Yep, the Park Foundation, Earthjustice…fear mongering organizations with deep pockets that are funneling money to townships to get them to adopt these bans. And they accuse “big oil & gas” of buying off people!

Why the comment about hippies? It’s been MDN’s observation after attending a number of anti-drilling meetings and festivals that many who are against drilling were once hippies, their long hair still in ponytails, but now gray (and with no hair on top). They are people who are counterculture in their philosophy and practice. Not everyone falls into that camp certainly—there are well-meaning people who have been duped by the fear mongering of organizations like Earthjustice. But going back as far as the visit of Dish, TX Mayor Calvin Tillman to Binghamton in 2010 (see this MDN story), MDN has observed that hippies, who once protested the Viet Nam war, then the Gulf wars, and who are without anything to protest today with one of their own occupying The White House, have now found a new cause: protest fracking. And so a loud, counterculture minority has taken up their cause célèbre.

It struck MDN as amusing and not at all surprising that the epicenter of hippie culture in 1969 would also be a place that would ban fracking in 2012.

*Middletown (NY) Times Herald-Record (Apr 27, 2012) – Bethel adopts anti-fracking law, citing threat to clean air, water