Why Safe Energy Development

Dryden Safe Energy Coalition

Fracking and gas well drilling is a great concern to many people in Town of Dryden.  It should be.  We all breathe the air and drink the water and need to be concerned about our environment.  We all want it protected, regardless of our views on energy.  Whatever we do with regard to this problem, we certainly owe it to ourselves and our children to exercise caution and care.  So, energy development must be done in a safe and regulated fashion and the industry must do what is right voluntarily or be required to do what’s necessary to preserve our water supply, our roads, and to restore our lands.
At the same time, energy development is truly an opportunity and we are fortunate that parts of the District may benefit.  Landowners have state established mineral rights which may be valued at as much as $3,000 per acre, the latest going price, plus up to 20% royalties.  We cannot simply take away such value with a ban, it is unjust to do so without compensation.
Assume you are a farmer with 100 acres of unleased land.  As vacant land, they are worth about $2,500 an acre, less if you have an agricultural tax break.  Your land is worth $250,00.  But the mineral rights alone AT TODAY'S PRICES (not the prices that were bid years ago on some land at the beginning of leasing) are now worth $300,000, more than the total vacant land value.  If you have land already leased at a lower price, you'll have a chance to renegotiate the lease at the new higher price when the lease runs out; however the ban Dryden passed [on 8/2/11], if sustained, may mean your lease will be extended by law and never run out.  Assuming the Dryden ban were to be sustained, Anschutz [the company currently suing the town], their entire property interest having been taken, would then be free to move to the next step, seeking recovery for an illegal taking at an easily provable five million dollars in yet another law suit the town would have to defend at taxpayer expense, enough money to run the Town of Dryden for a few years.
New sources of wealth mean new opportunities for many residents.  Right now, it is, or should be, about our economy, the number one problem for our area and our nation.  Safe energy development will bring in jobs, some of them high paying.  They will bring in revenues for Dryden businesses and public bodies, which means lower taxes than our already high tax burden.
As we have lost manufacturing base locally, we need new sources of income and jobs.  Who will benefit the most from energy development?  Landowners who may lease or participate in development, farmers, and rural people who have sometimes been passed by when urban based development has occurred may prosper.  For those in Tompkins County, energy will supplement education as a new and different source of wealth.
Gas exploration may also serve to lower the already too high tax burden borne by many residents of this District.  Energy states have long utilized “energy separation taxes,” which tax natural gas as it comes out of the ground.  The energy companies pay that bill, it is then passed through in prices not just to local people but to people across the nation.  For years, Dryden residents have been paying the separation taxes of other energy rich states.
DSEC believes Dryden residents should consider all the facts, but should read data with a careful eye to the source.  Films such as Gasland are not searches for truth, but one sided presentations.  Too many falsehoods about development are taken by too many as true.  For example, even in hydrofracking, the injected water is separated from the water table by thousands of feet of impermeable rock.  The chemicals are not unknown.  PA, TX, and WY require the publication of the chemicals.  They are on the web.
So, what is DSEC’s position on fracking and gas exploration?  The U.S. needs new sources of energy and gas is relatively clean energy.  We should move cautiously and carefully into development but with all speed consistent with safety and with an open mind about energy development.  True, we must be careful to keep our environment as clean as reasonably possible without setting barriers which are set so high as to be insurmountable and effectively a prohibition of development.  For our rural residents, this can be a real chance to prosper.
Provided the State enables localities to do so, some limited local zoning may be useful to protect residents against any abuses.  This zoning should be narrowly tailored, in accordance with law, to those items of damage actually caused and should not single out any one industry or be punitive in intent.  Zoning should not be an excuse to completely ban an activity.
Energy development has its pros and cons.  DSEC represents a moderate, middle of the road approach, recognizing both the advantages and disadvantages and balancing the two, while promoting economic growth and much needed good jobs.  Energy development can help solve the problems of good, hardworking people in Dryden who cannot make ends meet.
Finally, we believe energy development in New York is inevitable.  It should be done safely and its economic benefits recognized.  The State will go ahead and we should rely largely on the state level for adequate regulation.