Dear friends and neighbors in upstate New York:
We have known many of you for years. Since we retired here, we have farmed, been active in the community and made good, close friends, the kind you can all at 3 in the morning and they will come. We found a real paradise, and we hoped to live here the rest of our lives.
But a serpent has entered in the guise of a drill pipe, promising easy wealth and residuals, turning our paradise into a fractured community.
We are so puzzled by your actions. Please consider some of these questions.
Did you know that by signing a gas lease you were endangering your water and soil as well as ours? Do you know what has happened to water and land in other places where this easy money has been promised? Do you actually know anyone who has become rich from gas royalties? Do you really believe that polluting our water will make us safer from foreign dependency on energy? Do you know that the gas sucked from your well will most likely be converted to liquefied natural gas and sold to China and Japan for as much as five to eight times more than in America? How will that solve America’s energy crisis? Did you know that hydrofracking is considered the dirtiest method of extraction there is, worse than coal or tar sands?
If you have a mortgage on your farm, did you know that the bank can call in that mortgage now that you have a gas lease — that a gas lease is the same as a lien on your property? Do you know that you probably can’t sell your land now? Do you know that we can’t sell our farm now, either, since many banks aren’t mortgaging properties adjacent to those with gas leases? Not only is our farm worthless without good water, it is worthless on the real estate market. Was that your intent?
Those of you who have already signed leases: Are you happy with the money you received as your signing bonuses? Is selling out your neighbors worth it? Has the gas company paid you every year as promised? Have you read your lease recently, the part that says they can unilaterally renew that lease anytime they want, as often as they want, and they don’t have to pay more than royalties for the use of your land?
How far from your house, barns, wells, fields and pastures can they drill? Can you tend to animals, gardens and orchards with bottled water? Can you cook, bathe and wash clothes with bottled water? Can you sell any of your food products if they are polluted with the more than 500 toxic chemicals in the fracking soup that could leak into your wells and aquifers? Can anyone else in our town, since we all use the same water? Do you have any idea what you’ve done? Who do you think you are? How dare you.
Those of you who haven’t signed yet, or who are forming land consortiums to negotiate with the energy companies for bigger bucks: Haven’t you been paying attention to the warnings from our local groups, the Waterkeeper, Common Cause, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, doctors, local communities that have banned drilling, and the cities of New York City and Syracuse? We aren’t angry at New York City and Syracuse. On the contrary, we cheer their wisdom and want Gov. Cuomo to put us on that list, too. Do you have any idea what you’re doing? Who do you think you are? How dare you.
Those of you who haven’t decided yet: Read about fracking and the towns where it is in practice. If you can in good conscience decide to sign a lease after seeing the evidence, please explain to us what there is about money that causes you to lose all good sense? Do you want more than 500 truck trips in your area all day long, with noise, exhaust, tower lights, seven-acre drilling pads, holding ponds and tanks full of toxic chemicals, dumpings in local ponds, creeks and open spaces, pipelines across fields, 24-hour traffic, and boomtown prices in our farming community? Is any amount of money worth turning us into a heavy industrial park that produces big money for the well drillers and destroys everything else? Who you think this helps? Think about it.
Saying that hydrofracking as inevitable is just not acceptable: We hear over and over that “it is going to happen, so we must prepare for the consequences.” What a load of fracking soup! Every regulation, law and ordinance passed to “prepare for the consequences” has been and will be violated. Industry infractions fill volumes of reports, but the gas companies continue to do as they please, pay small fines, take a rap on the knuckles, then keep drilling and pumping. This is intolerable. Who do they think they are? How dare they! And shame on us for letting them.
If you have signed a lease, find out how to get out of it.
If you haven’t signed a lease, don’t.
If you know about the damage they will do in our town, join local anti-fracking groups and tell your friends and neighbors.
There are no innocent bystanders.
Don’t let our town be fractured.
Karen Cookson lives in Sharon Springs. The Gazette encourages readers to submit material on local issues for the Sunday Opinion section.