Interests line up on both sides of gas drilling debate

NORWICH – Greene businessman Enzo Olivieri warns that a moratorium on natural gas drilling in New York would kill everyone’s hopes for new jobs, and the anti-drillers pushing for it will ultimately succeed because they have deeper pockets.

“That’s what it all boils down to. They, who for the most part come from downstate, have more money than we do up here, so they’re more powerful,” he said.

Olivieri’s exasperation was recently relayed in a phone call to The Evening Sun after the New York State Senate voted Aug. 3 to impose a nine-month moratorium on the controversial high water volume horizontal drilling technique, called hydraulic fracturing. The restaurant owner and real estate developer said he fears that the promise of economic recovery in the area and throughout upstate New York may now simply “wash downstate along with the region’s water.”

Referring to New York City-based protesters who want to ban drilling, he said, “They are the first to use our resources, our water and our crops, and not pay the adequate amount for it. Now they want to take our jobs away?”

It’s been a tough month for both landowners and the oil and gas corporations wanting to do business in New York. From the Chenango County Office Building in Norwich to the state’s capital in Albany, anti-drilling protesters have come out in droves to ride the wake of the senate’s moratorium and also to take credit for causing an U.S. Environmental Protection Agency hearing on the safety of hydraulic fracturing in nearby Binghamton to be postponed.

The federal study is being conducted along with New York’s own environmental review. (The latter is more than two years in the making and expected to be completed by year’s end.) And in Chenango County, activists are calling for the local government to join other counties that have already banned drilling until the EPA finishes, which some say could take from two to four years.

Chenango County Farm Bureau President Bradd Vickers, who has been an unbiased guest on many an educational seminar and radio broadcast held in New York this year, said he doesn’t want to think about how long it might take the EPA to decide whether hydraulic fracturing should be regulated by the federal government’s Safe Drinking Water Act rather than by state regulators.

“I hate to even think about it. It’s not just the farmers going under. At some point, you just have to move forward. ... You have to think about our local supply of food,” he said.

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