Ulysses Town Board Gets Overwhelming Message Opposing Fracking In Town
Last night the Ulysses Town Board saw a presentation by Concerned Citizens Of Ulysses about a survey of residents on the subject of drilling for natural gas in our town. The meeting room was packed, with at least 50 people in attendance, in addition to the members of the Town Board.
The presentation given by Ken Zeserson, chair of the Town Planning Board and member of the Ulysses Gas Drilling Advisory Board, described natural gas drilling as a threat to social and economic health of the community. Zeserson spoke in favor of a principle of “Rational growth, but only if it doesn’t interfere with the environment we enjoy,” and encouraged members of the Town Board to act to stop drilling, saying, “It’s possible for little towns to stand up to hydrofracking, and say, ‘Not here. Not now. Not ever.’”
A cooperative effort by CCoG, UGDAB, and Back to Democracy had drafted a petition supporting a ban on drilling for natural gas using slickwater horizontal hydrofracturing to in our town. Robert Oswald reported the results of the petitioning effort, showing a broad base of opposition. “It’s not limited to any geographical part of the town, political party, age of gender,” Oswald said, and showed extensive statistics to back up that claim.
1,047 signatures from Ulysses residents are on the petition so far, and even more signatures from people who live in neighboring communities. Of those who were asked to sign the petition, 80 percent did, and only a small fraction of those who did not sign expressed support for natural gas drilling using hydrofracking. Those who signed the petition reflected the demographic characteristics of the town in general, rather than a skewed minority of our population. Farmers and students, rural landowners and residents of Trumansburg alike signed the petition.
After the presentation of the petition was over, Supervisor Roxanne Marino remarked, “It’s the most professional petition I’ve seen, that’s for sure.”
A zoning amendment was then proposed. The amendment does not attempt to ban fracking by name, but would have the effect of banning fracking by prohibiting “high impact industrial uses”, defined as activities that have four or more impacts, such as truck traffic, use of explosives, and high water use. Agricultural activities would not be banned by the amendment. In order to prevent lawsuits against the Town of Ulysses by a proxy for a drilling company, the proposed zoning amendment contains a provision that would require an “administrative remedy” to be fully pursued before a lawsuit could begin.
Members of the Board asked specific questions about the proposed amendment, and expressed an eagerness to look the amendment’s specific language. Board member Liz Thomas suggested that a larger public forum on the matter ought to be held. “It may be that we’ll want to have an informational session for the public that’s larger,” she said.
In addition to three speakers from CCoU and the Ulysses Gas Drilling Advisory Board, 19 residents rose to speak in favor of the proposed zoning amendment. Only one resident spoke against the measure.
Marty Petrovic, Mayor of Trumansburg, spoke in favor of the proposed amendment, though not in his capacity as mayor. He explained that the Village Board of Trustees has already passed a resolution stating that Trumansburg will not provide water for use in fracking by drilling companies. “I can’t think of anything that would more ruin the life, health and welfare of our community than hyrdrofracking,” he said.
Biologist Sandra Steingraber talked about her research on the health impact of fracking, and also discussed impact on the more general quality of life in the town of Ulysses, saying, “All those thousands of truck trips to each well will fill our roads with trucks. That’s a certainty.”
Resident Tree Cook talked about her concerns about the likely impact of drilling for natural gas on income through tourism. “I’m a small business owner, and a lot of my customers are tourists,” she commented. “People will not come here when we have this type of industrial landscape.”
Veterinarian Michelle Bamberger explained her work with farmers in Pennsylvania whose animals had been poisoned by chemicals related to hydrofracking, and said to the Board, “I hope that you’ll stand up and do the right thing here, not just for the community, but for other communities across the country.”
County legislator Jim Dennis joined those expressing support for a move by the Town to prevent fracking here. A representative of the West Shore Homeowners Association also came forward in support of the zoning amendment.