Henry Kramer

Hammer

Martha Robertson’s column in this morning’s Ithaca Journal sets up a bunch of straw men.  Let’s just knock them all down.

Fracking doesn’t threaten the property values in Dryden.  Natural gas is a resource to harvest and use, one which will enrich the entire town.

Could accidents happen?  Sure, but have some perspective.  A gasoline station is surely more threatening to the environment than a gas well.  Even Love Canal, walking distance from where I went to high school, didn’t affect the property values elsewhere in Niagara Falls.   The so-called “Urban Renewal” (rhymes with nodal development) and decades of progressive government sure did a number on the Falls, however.

The thing that threatens Dryden isn’t fracking, it’s the education bubble.  Rural central New York is having some hard times. Dryden is propped up by Cornell and Ithaca College.  They aren’t likely to go away anytime soon, but we can easily see serious contraction.   They need families who will spend tens of thousands of dollars a year more than they might spend elsewhere.  They need the government to continue to fund research and “social education.”  And they need to keep attracting foreign students who are filling an increasing number of classroom seats.

Gas drilling isn’t the only way Dryden can hedge against a bubble meltdown -- a pro-business climate would also work wonders.

Will fracking completely clog the roads in Dryden?  Not so much.

The numbers seem large, but think about  how many school buses and TCAT buses ply our roads,  mostly at rush hour.  Add garbage and recycling trucks.  The semi-tractors that run through the town, 24/7.  We have moving companies, utilities, towing services, on the road all the time.  Will we notice the increase?  Sure, like we notice traffic changes on the first day of school.  Is it immense?  No.

Is everyone wringing their hands because the damn school buses go by 180 days a year?  Because the TCAT bus comes by every hour, changing gears on the hills?

Now, consider that drilling is not a forever thing...each well is drilled in less than 70 days and all of the equipment moves on.  It takes that long to build most of our houses.

Robertson wails about how “dangerous” drilling is, citing a list of insurance risks on mandated disclosures: fires, explosions, blowouts...  Have you ever listened to the litany of risks for prescription drugs on TV?  How is it that with the risk of dizziness, hives, hair falling out, suicide, hangnails, blue tongue spots,  complete bone loss or spontaneous human combustion, people still line up for those sleeping pills or cholesterol reducers?  Because the risks, while possible, are small and it is very likely that their lives will be better.

Our Martha says that the town’s only option is a fracking ban.  This is sort of like a hammer in search of something that looks like a nail.  It isn’t necessary for government to fix or control everything, and like that hammer, sometimes wielding power only creates problems. 

Dryden followed 14 other towns in  jumping off a cliff, and happened to be the one tagged with a lawsuit.  Martha says the town’s risk is in losing the Anschutz lawsuit -- as Henry Kramer’s companion article points out, the town would really lose if they won the lawsuit, since we would then be open to a truly expensive taking lawsuit.

So, will the fate of the ban, and the fate of fracking in Dryden be settled by the November 8 elections?  No -- that was always going to be settled by New York State, in the DEC and the courts. 

However, the fate of that hammer -- the inappropriate wielding of government power, and the entanglement of lobbying interests like the Park Foundation, and Agenda 21 in local government, and a war on private property... maybe.  Maybe.

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