Drilling Threatens Fabric of Community

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Tompkins Weekly 9-23-13

By Dominic Frongillo

Frongillo on Fracking:
Statement on Vote to Ban Gas Drilling – Part Two
Governor Cuomo has said his decision on fracking will be based on facts and science. However, the D.E.C. has given the gas industry unprecedented access to influence regulations, while ignoring independent experts and scientists which can share critical facts and the latest science. Local government is the only level of government left to advocate for its citizens. 
Some have said we need gas drilling economically. I respond, a ban ensures that we reject the false hope of a boom and bust economy.

We’re also part of a larger story.  Like everywhere in Upstate New York, we’re facing economic crisis, unraveling of community as young people leave for cities and farmers have to sell land just to make ends meet. Every two weeks, our food pantry now serves a third of Caroline’s families. We’re facing increasing inequalities. Rising taxes on the middle class are forcing struggling families to shoulder more than our fair shares. We’re facing the fiscal impacts of our town’s second 100-year storm in five years which caused hundreds of thousands of dollars of damage to our roads and bridges.

In the face of converging crises, insecurity, and uncertainty, we yearn for security, assuredness, control, and self-determination. But gas drilling will only worsen our reliance on the multi-national corporate economy that created these crises.
We were sold on gas being a clean bridge fuel to the future. Instead, it turns out to be a bridge to catastrophe. Fracking for shale gas would release massive amounts of methane — a dangerous climate-disrupting gas that is 105 times more powerful than carbon dioxide in trapping heat in our atmosphere. Due to methane leaks and energy-intensive methods, fracking may be worse for the climate than coal.
Fracking would undermine the work of Energy Independent Caroline and all those advancing a vision of transitioning away from fossil fuels that are destroying our future and building a clean economy so everyone can prosper.
We are not alone. Our story is playing out in communities around the world. I have been to the United Nations, where I learned that in community after community, country after country, fossil fuel extraction is destroying communities, poisoning democracy, deteriorating our atmosphere, and putting all our lives at risk.
We did not ask for it. Our vote tonight is part of the same story playing out in the mountaintops of West Virginia, the coasts of the Gulf of Mexico, and the boreal forests in Alberta, Canada, where ordinary citizens are joining together to protect the communities they love against the powerful fossil fuel industry.

For me, this is a moral issue. And in the moral arc of history, we New Yorkers have led.  New York women led the fight for the right to vote. New Yorkers have led in fighting for the abolition of slavery through the underground railroad.  Imagine a time where our economy was inextricably linked with an activity that was inherently immoral – and the courage it took for people at that time to say, “we’re all benefiting, but this is wrong. It must stop.”
We are in such a time now. Let this be the time in history that we came together to start turning the tide away from corporate power and the deadly fossil fuel economy that is burning away our future. Let this be the time in history that our nation, instead of being the greatest source of destruction on Earth, once again became the beacon of freedom and hope for the world.
We have a responsibility to lead our nation forward. And that begins right here, right now, in this town Hall, in this small rural upstate New York community.

To meet our increasingly uncertain future, we must return to community – to a local economy where we rely on our neighbors more than we rely on foreign corporations.  And this transition is already beginning. Local businesses are leading the way to buying local. Community-supported farms are sprouting up as a new generation of farmers till our soil. Homeowners are tightening up their homes. Our town’s new office building is super-insulated, powered by solar panels and heated by geothermal – all without fossil fuels.

As a town with a strong history, we believe strongly in our community’s to self-determination, and to choose our own destiny. Caroline’s Comprehensive Plan, literally written by citizens, sets a vision of a safe, affordable town with a vibrant local economy, clean water and air, healthy forests and farmland, and a revitalized farming community for future generations. Enacting this ban, we choose to affirm that the collective vision that we articulated for ourselves is still the vision that we wish.

We have much more work to do.  I am hopeful.  Witnessing the citizen participation over the last year and a half has been one of the greatest inspirations of my life.  This vote is an opportunity to affirm our fundamental belief that we, the people, are still the ones who choose our own destiny.
I cast my vote to protect my hometown, which I so passionately love.

Dominic Frongillo is a council member and Deputy Town Supervisor in the Town of Caroline.
This is part two of a two-part essay.

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