CHENANGO COUNTY – It’s all about the gas. Tomorrow’s winners in the general election will eventually determine whether Chenango County is friendly to energy companies that want to do business in the Marcellus and Utica beneath our feet or not.
The ballots in only four of 23 Bullthistle municipalities won’t feature candidates running on some sort of shale gas drilling stance, or face opposition at all. Chenango County Board of Elections officials report that competition for supervisor and council positions is rare in the traditionally conservative towns of North Norwich, Norwich, Oxford and Pitcher. The gas drilling issue isn’t a factor in the one ward race for supervisor in the City of Norwich, either.
Both the incumbents and their rivals in every other town had something to say about this election year’s hottest topic, however. The majority advocated for safe drilling and the economic boom from extracting natural gas, but many others called for road use regulations, a longer New York State Department of Environmental Conservation review period or no drilling at all.
“Gas drilling issues has a lot of people coming out to run that normally hadn’t thought about it before. It has brought in an unusual number of candidates,” said Republican Party Commissioner Harriet Jenkins.
The following towns have, perhaps, the most contentious races on the issue: Coventry, Afton, Plymouth, Guilford, New Berlin, Preston and Smithville. The contenders’ opposing opinions about drilling in the race for supervisor in Afton are perhaps best representative of the conflict. Over the course of the year, the Afton Town Board has passed and then rescinded a road use ordinance that would have regulated the heavy truck traffic that comes with high water hydraulic fracturing. Republican Candidate John H. Lawrence said he is “definitely not” against gas exploration and fracturing,” but is “very concerned” about keeping the environment safe.