Jubilant Local Fracking Foes
Shift Focus To Renewables, Pipeline
By JIM KEVLIN • The Freeman’s Journal/HOMETOWN ONEONTA
Editions of Thursday-Friday, Dec. 25-26, 2014
Today, Albany. Tomorrow, Kalangadoo, Australia.
While local fracking foes were elated by Governor Cuomo’s Wednesday, Dec. 16, announcement that he plans to ban the controversial practice in New York State, they were already looking beyond.
The widest-reaching is Lou Allstadt, the retired Mobil executive vice president, whose short-term plans include appearing on a Jan. 12 panel at San Francisco’s Commonwealth Club. Fellow panelists will be Angus Gillespie, a Shell vice president from The Hague, and Mary Nichols, California Air Resources Board chair.
“I hope we don’t spend the whole time on (fracking),” said Allstadt, who for the past year also has been active in the Citizens Climate Lobby, which is asking Congress to enact a fee at the mine head and the drilling pad to encourage customers to move away from fossil fuels. “The whole big picture is renewables, and how do you transition to that.”
As fracking foes gathered at Cafe Ommegang within hours of the governor’s announcement to celebrate their victory, discussion – and subsequent interviews – turned to a number of outstanding issues:
• A ban on the spreading of sometimes radioactive brine from fracking operations in northeast Pennsylvania on Upstate roads to reduce dust. Dumping of other kinds of fracking waste in Upstate landfills is also a concern.
• Halting the “fracking infrastructure,” as Otsego 2000 President Nicole Dillingham put it, including the Constitution Pipeline through Delaware County and a new compressor station on the existing Dominion Pipeline at Minden, Montgomery County, 10 miles north of Cherry Valley.
• Quality-of-life initiatives to position Otsego County for an era where fossil fuels play less of a role. Dillingham mentioned promoting organic farming, the breweries and farmers’ markets. Bob Eklund, New Lisbon, said the Butternut Valley Alliance hopes to encourage solar energy, and promote its towns as artists’ communities.
In June, Allstadt was on Capitol Hill with 600 individuals affiliated with the Citizens Climate Lobby who in a few days were able to discuss the fee idea with 507 of the 535 senators and congressmen.
The fee would raise the price of fossil fuels, discouraging their use, and the revenues generated would be distributed to Americans to use as they wish, he said. At-border fees would prevent foreign companies from unfairly competing with U.S. concerns.
“Just doing away with fracking doesn’t help you unless you reduce total fossil-fuel use,” said Allstadt, who has received queries, in addition to Kalangadoo, from anti-frackers in Canada, the U.K., Ireland, Poland and Bulgaria, and provided them primarily with scientific studies that support the cause.
Allstadt declined to predict when legislation will be introduced, saying the Citizens don’t wish to see that happen until a clear bipartisan majority of support is achieved. “This is not a liberal or conservative issue,” he said. “We all have to deal with climate change.”
While it is supporting fight against the “fracking infrastructure,” already filing testimony in Schoharie-based Stop the Pipeline’s legal challenge, Otsego 2000 is also moving on, said Dillingham. It organized its second Glimmerglass Film Days in November, and is proceeding with its historic preservation awards and programs to help farmers.
The fracking ban, though, “removed a cloud that has been hanging over our region,” allowing people buy homes, move their families here and start businesses without worry, she said.
Since the fracking decision, U.S. Rep. Chris Gibson, R-Kinderhook, has visited the county, and told a Sustainable Otsego delegation meeting in Cooperstown that he will introduce a resolution recognizing climate change and the need to combat it, according to SO Moderator Adrian Kuzminski.
In some ways, it will be harder to combat multiple manifestations of “fracking infrastructure” than promoting the single focus of the ban, said Kuzminski, whose listserve was able to turn out hundreds of anti-frackers on short notice.
Still, “it reaffirms some kind of belief that the system is not totally broken, politically, that big money will carry the day,” said Kuzminski, a philosopher who has written such books as “Fixing the System,” a history of population. “Coming up against the largest industry on the planet, it turned out they couldn’t turn the trick because of grass-roots resistance.”