Dimock PA
Dan Fitzsimmons Bill Graby Fred Rovente



Q: Critics of hydraulic fracturing question the safety of developing shale gas. What’s your view?

I’ve found that when people have the facts about developing shale gas, they are more supportive of it, and that’s why our work to set the record straight is so important. Hydraulic fracturing is an innovative technology that has been safely used for over half a century to develop more than 1 million wells. Despite public concern over issues such as groundwater contamination and seismic activity, there are no known cases of aquifer contamination that have been linked to hydraulic fracturing, and scientists agree that the process itself does not cause large-scale seismic activity.


Q: How will developing shale gas affect your region?

Like many other areas in upstate New York, the Southern Tier has lost hundreds of jobs over the past decade due to slow economic recovery and rising taxes. In the Binghamton/Conklin area alone, tens of thousands of jobs have been eliminated in recent years by companies that once helped sustain our job market such as Endicott Johnson and IBM. The potential of natural gas development to create new jobs and boost local tax revenue is critical to rebuilding our economy. Natural gas development will attract businesses to invest in our region and create employment opportunities for those out of work.


Q: Do you think shale gas development can bring economic benefits to our state while also protecting the safety of our communities and the environment?

The track record of oil and gas development in our state speaks for itself. There are 14,000 active oil and gas wells in New York State, which are being carefully monitored and regulated by the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). As a result of this continued oversight, the quality of life in communities where these wells operate has not been significantly impacted and risks are being appropriately managed and mitigated. The DEC has done its due diligence to ensure that hydraulic fracturing technologies will not compromise the safety of our residents or the environment. Independent studies suggest the same. I’m confident that our state will continue to regulate the industry appropriately and put safeguards in place that promote responsible drilling. Far too many upstate New Yorkers depend on their land to make their living, myself included. If hydraulic fracturing endangered our livelihood or our natural resources, I wouldn’t be advocating for it.


Q: How is the JLCNY working to address infrastructure challenges to natural gas development in local communities?

We’ve examined the socio-economic issues related to natural gas development in states that have travelled this road before, and we’re getting solutions ready. For example, in the fall of last year, we hosted a road-use seminar event that convened municipal leaders, attorneys, highway superintendents, and others to adapt “best practices” for New York’s roads and communities once hydraulic fracturing is approved. We provided the foundational steps communities will need to work with industry to create best practice “road use agreements” for when development begins.


Q: People from around the country are starting to learn about the hydraulic fracturing process. How do you recommend they learn more?

There are many resources online, but it’s important to consider reputable sources based on science-based evidence. One good place to start is the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s website.  For information specific to New York, individuals should visit the state DEC website.


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Q: Why do you want to lease your land for natural gas now?

My farm has been in my family for 150 years. We have paid taxes faithfully, nurtured the land and supported ourselves on the fruits of our labor. I’ve dreamed of one day giving this land to my three children, but now there’s a real risk that may not be possible. Currently, our farm is near bankruptcy and unless natural gas development is approved soon, there doesn’t appear to be a light at the end of the tunnel. With few other job prospects in our region, we’re facing the reality that we could be forced to move out of this area altogether, taking with us more than a century of family history. There are few other options. Natural gas development isn’t just something we want in upstate New York; it’s something we desperately need.


Q: Why are you working with other members of your community to negotiate natural gas leases?

We’ve been working together to ensure we had smart leases that would protect landowners and the community. Still, this issue isn’t new to our state. We already have 14,000 fracked wells in NY, and we even use hydraulic fracturing for water wells in our area. At this point, it has come down to trying to get the right to utilize the resources on my land.


Q: Without developing shale gas, where do you see the community going in the next few years?

Sullivan County is the second poorest county in New York State. Schools are closing, folks are moving away and stores are closing their doors on Main Street. Tourism died in our area a long time ago, and our population has declined steadily since the 1980s. Of the 27 active dairy farms in Sullivan County today, only two have someone in the next generation prepared to take over the farm.  In these tough economic times, it’s difficult for farms to provide the sole source of income needed to support a family, as was once possible. Farming as a way of life could soon be disappearing from our region forever.


Q: How does natural gas relate to the rest of the New York area outside of lease owners?

I’m not in the energy business, but I’ve been researching natural gas development for the past four years and I’m aware of the benefits this industry can bring to our state. Gas leases on my property would not only save my farm, but also help contribute to the local economy. Farmers invest approximately 90 percent of their gross income back into the local economy through taxes and the purchase of feedstock, equipment and fertilizer. In addition, the natural gas industry would create new jobs for non-farmers and help fund local schools and public services.


Q: If you could say one thing to critics of hydraulic fracturing, what would it be?

Critics paint this issues as an ‘either or’ discussion when it is possible to benefit from the gas AND protect the environment. Everyone who lives here supports that. The facts and studies speak for themselves – hydraulic fracturing is a safe process that will revitalize our communities and help increase our nation’s energy resources. The New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is currently developing the strictest regulations in the country that will mandate best practices for well development, including cement and steel casings, sophisticated X-Ray equipment and numerous other advanced safety measures to monitor the drilling and the hydraulic fracturing process. It’s time to do what is best for our communities. There are people depending on us to make the right decision.


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Q: What is the difference in how New York and Pennsylvania are treating shale gas development and hydraulic fracturing?

Over the last four years of operation, Pennsylvania has drilled thousands of wells and has taken advantage of the natural gas boom. Northern Pennsylvania has seen an unprecedented period of growth at the same time upstate New York has drifted deeper into economic decline. In Pennsylvania, cities like Sayre, Towanda, Montrose and Susquehanna have seen benefits from natural gas. For example, the Towanda School System has a well on school property, which has resulted in such a surplus of tax revenue that officials are having trouble identifying how to spend it all. Here in New York, however, we are facing massive teacher layoffs. By not safely developing a readily available resource in our backyard, we’re hurting ourselves and the next generation.


Q: If you could tell Americans about the hydraulic fracturing debate in New York, what would you say?

We have a window of opportunity to develop the infrastructure for clean burning natural gas here in New York, but we are not taking advantage of it. With instability in the Middle East, we should be developing this energy reserve as a national priority. Some are working to delay the process ever further, ignoring the voice of those who want natural gas development on their own land. We can develop shale gas responsibly. Now is the time to do it.


Q: What is your response to the common refrain, "The gas has been there for millions of years, what is the rush to get it?"

How can you call four years of government study and regulations a rush? At a time when thousands of wells have been successfully drilled in the state of PA alone, I simply have lost interest in this part of the anti-drilling argument.


Q: How do you explain the environmental safety of natural gas drilling to critics?

Natural gas drilling has often been framed by the anti-drilling crowd in terms of "environmental concerns." Let me tell you: no one is more concerned about the environment than landowners. We depend on our land for our income, and we work hard to protect it.


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