The following guest viewpoint was written by Bryant La Tourette, a Chenango County landowner, businessman and member of one of the largest landowner coalitions in the Marcellus and Utica Shale region. Bryant has attended 19 town board meetings throughout the shale region, most recently the Town of Lebanon, NY just last week (see this MDN story warning of the impending meeting).
Bryant provides an eyewitness account of what happened at the meeting, including an anti-drilling bias by the town supervisor running the meeting.
Bryant La Tourette
I have attended many meetings, but Lebanon, NY takes top prize for the most misguided display of anti-drilling fear I have seen to date!
The town supervisor, Jim Goldstein, must have a serious agenda against any gas drilling company or business. His anger overflowed to the point of dictatorship. He saw our names (those of us there to speak on behalf of landowner rights) on the speaker list and he clearly tried putting us off as long as he could.
On hand was special speaker David Slottje, an anti-drilling lawyer who travels around the state trying to get town boards to ban fracking. His presentation showed contempt for capitalism, free enterprise and the deeded land rights of individuals. All with full support from Supervisor Goldstein.
As an example, Slottje bashed owners of large energy companies. He spoke about the successful CEO of a Forbes 100 business as if he were evil. And at one point, Slottje suggested “grandfathering” existing gas wells, saying the state should not develop any new wells. The wells located in Lebanon feed NYSEG’s natural gas lines—providing gas that powers many of our local businesses. It was an all-out assault on free enterprise.
The topper: Slottje wants to take away your ability to use your own land by means of a moratorium, with the ultimate goal of a ban on gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing.
I want to thank the few who attended from the Town of Lebanon. A young man from the community stood up and asked a question of Slottje: Who pays for you to support of this one-sided view? The young man gave the answer before Slottje could respond: the Park Foundation funds him. It is the Park Foundation, from Ithaca, NY, that has publicly stated they are in full support of an anti-fracking agenda! The young man’s comment sent Slottje into defense mode. Slottje responded that he does not receive funding from the Park Foundation but does receive donations from “caring, concerned” citizens! He said he is not single-source funded. The young man should have asked one more question: What is the percentage of your funding from the Park Foundation versus all funding you receive?
After Slottje’s presentation, Supervisor Goldstein was asked if the board would entertain other speakers on the topic. His answer was yes, as long as the speakers were not agenda driven! I thought, “What Lebanon are we in?” I had to wonder, was Goldstein actually saying Slottje was unbiased?!
I asked a few simple questions that caused Supervisor Goldstein to instantly become defensive. I thought they were valid questions—information Goldstein should know about his own town.
One question I asked: How much of the town of Lebanon is leased for drilling? He didn’t think the question was relevant. Meaning he had no clue. Another question: Do you know anything about NY State town law 265? Again, he had no clue. I explained these questions are serious questions he should investigate. In anger he asked me who I was and indicated I had no right to attend his public meeting because I’m from neighboring Chenango County. I explained my concerns are valid and my goal is to save people’s time and taxpayer’s money by preventing a move that will divide the Lebanon community and in the end will likely be overturned. I had a very simple motive in attending.
At the beginning of the meeting Slottie stated he would not address the audience in his presentation. But he lashed out and pointed to members sitting in the audience, feeling the need to defend himself. A video of the meeting was made catching Slottje’s comments for all to see.
The meeting location was moved to a local church to accommodate the “massive showing” expected. The town hall would have been fine—maybe 25 people in total showed up. As I sat there in the church listening to anti-capitalist, anti-freedom remarks, I half expected lightning to strike.