Grassroots group presents demand for drilling ban in Butternuts

By WKTV News

BUTTERNUTS, N.Y. - At the June 8 meeting of the Butternuts town board, Fred Johnson, speaking on behalf of the Friends of Butternuts presented results from a petition drive started in mid-April to ban hydraulic fracturing, or hydrofracking, and other forms of heavy industry in the town.

The Friends of Butternuts is a recently formed grassroots group comprised exclusively of town residents. Johnson, a prospective candidate for the Butternuts town board, reported that 781 people had signed the petition.

The petition asks the town board to “pass legislation prohibiting heavy industry in the town (including hydraulic fracturing for natural gas). It bases its request on the values expressed in the town’s 1990 master plan, which demonstrates the residents’ will to protect the their health, air quality, soils, property values, traditional businesses and natural beauty. The petition also calls for a road protection law.

In his presentation, Johnson pointed out that the political will to ban fracking does not represent a “minority of NYMBYs” but rather the majority of the town. The mandate for a ban cuts across all segments of the population, including party lines, age groups, life styles, length of residency, income levels, and employment, he said.

Johnson also pointed out that some people who had signed leases with gas companies had also signed the petition because of growing doubt about the desirability of the practice of hydrofracking.

“We went out of our way to be fair in our recording of responses,” said Michele Farwell, who coordinated the petition drive. “In addition to those who refused to sign in person, we marked as “no” residences displaying “Friends of Natural Gas” signs on their property.”

Farwell also said that the petition drive was ongoing and will be updated at the next town board meeting.

Actions the group asked the town board to take based on the results of the petition include:

* contacting a land-use lawyer to explain the legalities of a law to ban heavy industry

*a moratorium on all development until the town’s comprehensive plan process, which is ongoing, is completed

* general support from the board for the comprehensive plan process

* passage of a town law prohibiting heavy industry, including gas drilling.

“I think the petitions speak volumes,” said town supervisor Charles Eckelmann. “The results tell us that there is a large majority of residents who don’t want hydrofracking in the Town of Butternuts.”

Raw data for background info

Voter Rolls:
662 Residents Contacted
500 Signatures
153 Declined
9 Undecided
75.5% of Voters Contacted Signed
23.1% Declined
1.4% Undecided

Residents and Property Owners not On Voter Rolls:
281 Signatures

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