Recently, nearly 100 people crowded the Oneonta Town Hall to respond to a report by Otsego Now head, Jody Zakrevsky, about the controversial gas decompression station proposed for Oneonta.
The backlash was overwhelming. A long series of speakers unanimously condemned the project and demanded instead a full-scale effort to transition to renewables as soon as possible.
As the speakers pointed out, a myriad of solutions exist to the problem of inadequate natural-gas supply affecting some institutions and businesses in Oneonta. We heard about retrofitting buildings for energy efficiency, replacing gas and oil furnaces with heat exchange systems, and developing local renewable energy sources, including solar and wind.
This isn’t pie in the sky. The Otsego County Conservation Association, for instance, is currently supporting a NYSERDA-funded program, Heat Smart Otsego, to promote the financial and environmental benefits of currently available non-fossil fuel technologies. Check it out.
The speakers also made clear the gravity of this issue.
We’re not just talking about inconvenience, higher costs, or limits to local economic development. We’re talking about a global crisis increasingly affecting us all.
The inability of our local community to do its part in getting us off fossil fuels is symptomatic of a larger political failure which is dangerous to our future. We have mostly relied on someone else to deal with this problem, usually in Albany or Washington.
They haven’t done the job, and it doesn’t look like they’re going to, at least not unless they’re prodded from below.
Yes, our community continues to be divided over energy policy. The editorial in last week’s edition of this paper characterized speakers at the town of Oneonta meeting as “anti-gas true believers.”
There were a couple of strident speakers, as with any large group, but nearly all were thoughtful people pointing out the very real and harmful consequences of using more gas.
Mike Zagata in last week’s paper also misinforms the public by talking about “clean-burning natural gas,” when in fact there’s no such thing. The combustion of natural gas unavoidably produces CO2, a polluting greenhouse gas. Zagata admits as much by worrying if plant growth will absorb the extra CO2.
Even worse, he ignores the seepage of methane from wells, pipes and compressors, which adds another, more potent greenhouse gas to the mix, making natural gas as bad as any other fossil fuel.
By contrast, Zakrevsky, to his credit, bemoaned his fate at the Town of Oneonta meeting, confessing to the crowd his own confusion and lack of expertise. He was hired to promote local economic development, he noted, not to make energy policy. He’s exactly right. He and Otsego Now are not qualified to make energy policy and should not be tasked with that burden.
What was painfully obvious at the meeting was the lack of coordination among capable parties interested in developing a local energy plan. Currently we have groups too often confined to their respective silos – elected officials, economic development people, the local business community, the colleges, the hospitals, the environmentalists, etc.
Each of them is working on their piece of the elephant. What’s lacking is an effective mechanism for combining their resources and talents to develop a plan for all of us.
In my last column I mentioned the Tompkins County Energy Roadmap (Google it!) as a precedent for what should happen here. That initiative began in 2010 as part of a Tompkins County Energy Strategy for 2020. It was first developed as a project by Cornell graduate students.
In 2014, a steering committee was formed composed of individuals “who represent the breadth of experience, interest and perspectives within the community regarding our energy future.” The draft Energy Roadmap was then presented to numerous community groups and has since become the focus of Tompkins county energy policy.
This Energy Roadmap doesn’t rely on hiring expensive outside consultants, who are often ignorant of local circumstances; nor does it narrow options by handing authority to a single, unprepared agency. Instead it utilizes the expertise already found in a variety of existing organizations and individuals.
We may not have Cornell University, but we have SUNY Oneonta and Hartwick College. We have Otsego 2000, OCCA, Citizen Voices, chambers of commerce, the Land Trust, Farm Bureau and Sustainable Otsego, and others. We have individual engineers and scientists and retired executives who’ve worked for multi-national corporations. We have the talent.
Let me suggest, again, that the Otsego County Board of Representatives, in a bi-partisan spirit, is the logical authority to establish an Otsego Energy Task Force. A large, diverse umbrella group is far more likely to develop a comprehensive, viable energy strategy that gets it right, and to do justice to the needs of the community as a whole.
The point is to get key people in the same room and tackle the problem. It’s up to the County Board to make this happen. The time is NOW.
Adrian Kuzminski, a retired Hartwick philosophy professor and Sustainable Otsego moderator, lives in Fly Creek.
One of the many delights in getting older is you realize some things aren’t going to be resolved in your lifetime. If you’re 65-and-holding, you
American paranoia and its companion, the National Security State, won’t be dissipated tomorrow, if it can ever. And, year to year, we witness the ever-fuller flowering of these truly abhorrent aspects of modern American life during the Hall of Fame’s Induction Weekend.
In addition to all the other indignities of recent Induction Weekends – metal barricades, legions of police officers and military personnel, armored cars, frowning men in camo watching us from the rooftops – add two more for 2018.
One is drones that buzzed Cooperstown skies
this weekend, even as signs went up: “Drone Use Regulations In Effect” (for the rest of us). The other was no-parking signs that went up within block after block of Cooperstown’s barricaded-off downtown.
Who is buzzing us and what are they looking for? That information isn’t readily available. (Not the Russians, we hope.)
The vastly expanded no-parking zones, Cooperstown Mayor
Ellen Tillapaugh explained, are in the event of an incident at Induction venues – an exploding knapsack, ala Boston Marathon, perhaps: Visitors can be more quickly “evacuated” – yikes.
“These acts of mass murder,” President George W. Bush told us a few hours after the Twin Towers were felled on 9/11, “were intended to frighten our nation into chaos and retreat. But they have failed. Our country is strong.
“A great people has been moved to defend a great nation,” he continued. “Terrorist attacks can shake the foundations of our biggest buildings, but they cannot touch the foundation of America. These acts shatter steel, but they cannot dent the steel of American resolve.”
Of course, that was nonsense. Mohamed Mohamed el-Amir Awad el-Sayed Atta and his Gang of 18 won 9/11. As a people, we’ve been running scared every since, as evidenced yet again this past weekend as America’s Pastime was celebrated under Big Brother’s watchful eye.
(FYI, homeland security spending rose to $635.9 billion in the decade following 9/11, from $69.1 billion, according to the National Priorities Project.)
Ironically, how many visitors remarked to you how lovely Cooperstown reminds them of the good old days, of unlocked doors, kids on bikes, well-tended houses (where, presumably, mom and dad live with a couple of kids), for the time being, tree-lined streets? (What’s that buzzing?)
Still, you can understand the anxiety of the powers-that-be. If everything that might be done isn’t done and something happens, imagine the recriminations – in this space, no doubt, and far beyond. Heads would roll, careers would be lost. There’s a self-propelling momentum from – is it too much to say? – freedom to chains, at least e-chains.
How, as a nation, do we ramp it back? How, as a community, might we be a model? Maybe a place to start would be a community de-briefing in the next few weeks. Or is this none of our business? And more community input next spring as security is planned for Induction 2019.
To ask the question – how do we ramp it back? – is easy. Perhaps the answer will only be found in the march of history-to-come.
The Romans no doubt felt similar paranoia, with a resulting National Security State, archaic by comparison. It was solved when the Visigoths took over. Problem solved – at least that problem. Will paranoia be part of American life until American life is no more?
Meanwhile, what next? Returnees from the U.S. Open golf championship on Long Island on Father’s Day Weekend provide an inkling. All parking, all of it, was at Gabreski Airport, 10 miles from Shinnecock Hills Country Club.
To get to the open, you had to park your car or SUV there, along with 10,000 other vehicles. All attendees went through security screening, including metal detectors, then were put on buses that took them to the golf course and brought them back at day’s end.
Certainly, that model must be under consideration for the prospective Derek Jeter induction in 2020. If so, you read it here first, folks. The difference: Shinnecock is a golf course; Cooperstown – for the time being, anyhow – is a living, breathing community.
Weekend A Hit
While ever-tightening security is hard to ignore, Induction Weekend 2018 was also a lot of fun, and plenty of inspiration.
Six inductees – the most since 1971 – promised a lengthy ceremony, but it went by quickly, with Chipper Jones and Jack Morris’ humor, Trevor Hoffman’s food for thought and Jim Thome’s message: Success takes hard work, and he gave details. (Also, his daughter Lila’s rendering of the National Anthem was on it.)
Bob Costas winning the Ford C. Frick Award added a sheen of show biz, the Parade of Legends was bigger and better than ever, and the visitors were happy.
Given the crowd was the second-largest – 52,000 to Ripken-Gwynn’s 83,000 in 2007 – things generally went smoothly, even the traffic.