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Letter to Dryden Town Board on gas drilling prohibition vote

July 28, 2011

TO:  The Dryden Town Board

FROM:  Ron Szymanski

I am writing to the Board to ask that you vote “NO” to amending Article XXI of the Town of Dryden Zoning Ordinance which, if enacted, will prohibit natural gas drilling in the Town of Dryden.  Such a prohibition carries with it a number of serious consequences for the residents of Dryden.

  1. ILLEGAL.  The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has jurisdiction over natural gas drilling in the State.  The DEC underwent a rigorous, 3-year process involving all stake-holders to produce its 1095 page report on High Volume Hydro Fracking.  The DEC is now considered the world expert in this area.  The report directly addressed the concerns of Barbara Lifton (D-Tompkins/Cortland), Legislature Chairperson Martha Robertson (D-Dryden) and County Legislator Mike Lane (D-Dryden).  The Board knows and confirmed by the Town Attorney on June 15, 2011 that the preemption law gives jurisdiction of natural gas drilling to the state by way of the DEC.  Section 5 of the ban claims power to override state and federal law.  You don’t have to be a lawyer to know that towns can not override federal and state law.
  2. ANTI-TAXPAYER.Banning natural gas drilling eliminates this new and substantial source of tax revenue, continuing to place an ever-increasing burden on the local taxpayer.  In addition, the taxpayer willbe liable in federal and state court to class, group, or individual actions by landowners, the DEC, the Department of Agriculture and Markets, the US Government and the natural gas drilling companies to an estimated $125,000 in legal fees per lawsuit and more significantly, exposure to hundreds of millions in damages for an uncompensated taking of the entire interest in mineral rights.  The damages will not be shared by other towns.
  3. ANTI-BUSINESS.  The natural gas drilling ban limits opportunities for local businesses, from trucking to restaurants.  The County recently dropped a road ordinance because of its unintended consequences on local businesses.  In addition, it denies Dryden residents access to jobs and further compromises our tax base.
  4. ANTI-FARMING.  A ban on natural gas drilling specifically targets farmers and agricultural zones since drilling occurs on open land.  It eliminates an important energy and cash flow source needed for our farmers to survive.  This law is opposed by the Farm Bureau and the Department of Agriculture and Markets.  Prosperous farms are the key to keeping agriculture healthy in Dryden and preserving the character of our community.
  5. ANTI-EDUCATION.  A ban on natural gas drilling denies our schools the benefit of the increased tax revenue they need to not only survive but to grow, innovate and excel.  Also, we learned the Auburn City School District for one uses the natural gas from their property for the school district.  The State will likely enact a gas separation tax which will enable the State to better provide aid to schools.  Finally, it is estimated that the taxes derived from one well will fund 10 teaching positions.

There is clearly no consensus in the Town of Dryden regarding natural gas drilling.  The process of considering this new amendment has proven one thing:  regardless of which side of the issue they are on, the residents of Dryden love our town, want clean air and water and want to live in a safe community.  I urge you to take the needs and interests of ALL Dryden residents into consideration and vote “NO” on the amendment to Article XXI.  Then, the Board should work with the DEC and all area residents to provide for the safe operation of natural gas drilling in the Town of Dryden.  Allow us to take advantage of this transforming opportunity.

Respectfully,

Ron Szymanski