[The below is an abbreviated version of a statement delivered to the Town of Delaware Town Council by Jen Watts at the July 18 regular meeting.]
We are Jen Watts and Brian Caiazza, and we are full-time residents, taxpayers, property owners, business owners and parents of two young boys on Robisch Hill Road in Hortonville. We are here today to speak out against the pro-drilling resolution passed by our town board at last month’s meeting.
We would like to thank Councilwoman Cindy Herbert for upholding her position of neutrality in abstaining from the vote to pass the resolution, demonstrating the kind of common sense and prudence that the intensely controversial matter of drilling within the Town of Delaware warrants. We would also like to thank Councilman John Gain, who at last week’s special meeting made a statement expressing his regret at participating in the vote to pass the resolution, saying it was too sudden and there was no time for him to think about it.
Our home, like that of many of our fellow townspeople, is our primary investment. We patronize the local businesses, employ local townspeople and have poured our savings into the improvement of our property. What effects will this pro-drilling resolution have on neighboring home and real property values? How will it affect our ability to maintain the value of our property or to resell or to refinance? Until recently, we had convinced four of our close friends to consider our town in their home search. All four immediately crossed it off the list upon the breaking news of this resolution. And in recent news, Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co. has determined that the exposures presented by hydraulic fracturing are too great to ignore, and it won’t cover related damage.
With language composed by the Joint Landowner’s Coalition, the newly adopted pro-drilling resolution is blatantly pro-industry. The manner in which it was pushed through, without regard for the Open Meeting Law, raises an obvious question: Do any members of the board have a conflict of interest that is driving their recent actions in this matter? Each council member is bound by Article 18 of General Municipal Law that deals with ethics and conflicts of interest, and says that if you have a pecuniary interest in natural gas drilling or stand to gain financially in some way from policy that would bring drilling to our town, not only should you announce this and recuse yourself, but you should not be participating in any discussions regarding the matter.
Town residents are by no means in unanimous agreement that drilling is the right direction for our town. The last round of elections was not won in a landslide, despite the pro-drillers’ spin. We propose the appointment of a neutral, independent, fact-finding panel representing all sides to determine the very real health, safety and financial implications of drilling should it come to our town. It’s called a comprehensive impact study, and to do any less by our community makes the town council derelict in its basic fiduciary duties according to Article 2 of New York Municipal Home Rule Law, which includes (among other things):
• Prudent management of town finances, the incurrence of obligations, accruement of debt and the protection against unnecessary claims against the town;
• The care and management of its roads, highways and general municipal infrastructure;
• The protection and enhancement of the physical and visual environment;
• The protection, order, conduct, safety, health and well being of persons or property therein.
We implore you, our town council, to exercise caution and prudent consideration. You are the only thing standing between us and the potential hazards caused by a cutthroat, billion-dollar backed industry. Please rescind the pro-drilling resolution and conduct a comprehensive impact study immediately.
[Jen Watts and Brian Caiazza are residents of the Town of Delaware, NY.]