By Kaitlin Carney
ELDRED The Town of Highland joined neighboring towns of Tusten and Lumberland on Tuesday by banning hydrofracking and gas drilling through Local Law No. 3. The vote was 5-0.
The law underwent a revision after written and public comments were received from many who felt the law was simply, “a bad law.” On Monday the town hosted a public hearing at the Eldred Central High School to discuss the proposed revisions. Sixteen residents signed up to speak, all but one spoke out in favor of passing the law.
At the public hearing, Town Attorney Michael Davidoff outlined the changes and revisions made to the law, including the addition of a severability clause, allowing any portion of the law deemed inappropriate or illegal by a court of law to be removed without affecting the remainder of the law.
Nearly 50 people listened in the audience as residents spoke of the need to maintain aquifers and rural character by protecting them from the dangers of gas drilling. Speakers thanked the board for their work and courage during the process.
The resolution was presented by Supervisor Andrew Boyar, with Councilwoman Amanda Scully making the motion and Councilman Fred Bosch seconding for discussion by the board.
Councilman Jim Gutekunst stated, “I've been involved in reviewing and analyzing gas drilling for approximately four years. I am going to vote yes for a few reasons, one being health and environmental issues, the ramifications of these won't be known for decades. As a board we took a trip to Bradford County. Yes, there was economic activity there but not the type compatible with THIS town. It would change the character of the town and would be betrayal of town citizens and my ancestors. The town’s people have spoken through correspondence and statements at public hearings. I belong to a hunting club and I have a lot of friends on the other side of this issue. I hope that everyone can get on with their lives and enjoy the town.”
Boyar commented, “The concept of jeopardizing our surface waters and aquifers is entirely repugnant to me. I strongly believe that a community has the right of self-destiny, also known as ‘home rule’ and it is abundantly clear that this community overwhelmingly wants to ban fracking from our borders. On a personal level, for the past 50 years I have spent an enormous amount of time in the woods, on lakes, and in streams and in rivers. Fighting to make sure this legacy is insured is what a sportsman is about.”
Councilman Scully posed the question, “For those of you who think that we are taking away your rights to make money and have rights to your minerals… what makes that right more important than the rights of the people of the Town of Highland to have clean water and land to pass on to their children?”
The roll call vote was unanimous and received with a standing ovation and cheers from the crowd.
Boyar remarked, “Okay, now we can get back to the business of running a town!”