By Dan Hust
HORTONVILLE Delaware’s town board voted overwhelmingly Wednesday to move away from its previously-cited neutrality and towards embracing a pro-gas-drilling stance.
The matter was not initially expected to be on the agenda. Councilman Harold Roeder had considered bringing up a resolution promoting property rights and safe gas drilling, but Supervisor Ed Sykes had tried to discourage him.
At the end of the board meeting, several audience members began asking the board to again consider doing what several other townships in Sullivan County have done: enact a ban or moratorium on drilling activity.
That quickly turned into a heated argument about the merits and safety of drilling amongst Roeder and attendees on both sides of the issue, ultimately resulting in Roeder making a motion on his resolution, seconded by Councilman Al Steppich.
“People are pushing and pushing,” Roeder argued vehemently. “... All this does is reinforce our position.”
The relatively short resolution read, “Be it hereby resolved that any landowner or entity that owns the rights to minerals within the corporate bounds of the Town of Delaware has the right to determine how they exercise and protect their mineral rights in accordance to the laws of the State of New York and to the laws of the United States of America.
“Be it further resolved that if gas drilling does come into the Town of Delaware, that those who are involved in the process of gas drilling and those who regulate the gas drilling process see to it that the entire process of gas drilling be made in a responsible and safe manner.”
Sykes and Councilman John Gain joined Roeder and Steppich in approving it, with Councilwoman Cindy Herbert abstaining.
“I’d like to think about it a little more,” Herbert said, explaining that the process seemed too fast.
With many of the passionate arguments already made in the minutes prior, the passage of the resolution only garnered a smattering of public comment afterwards, though it was just as passionate.
“I’m going to hold you guys responsible when something happens to my health,” warned Callicoon businesswoman Rosie DeCristofaro, her finger pointing at the board which Roeder deemed “bullcrap.”