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OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 9/16/13

Covert NY -- Small-Town Democracy in Action

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Message Dory Hippauf

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In America we have a representative form of government.   We elect people to represent us.   This is done at the federal level, the state level, the county level, and local levels.   

The assumption is the elected people represent and act according to the will of the people.   In other words -- the people are the boss.     Typically, if there is an issue or a point of concern, the people are able to talk to their representative officials and initiate an action to resolve the concern or issue, thereby adhering to the will of the people.

A few months ago, I wrote about Covert, NY - small town, with a big issue and an unresponsive town council.   (See: COVERT NY -- A NATURAL GAS BATTLEGROUND.)

Residents of Covert had spent countless hours attending town hearings, talking to their board, circulating petitions, writing letters, and making phone calls to gain the town board's attention and cooperation.   

What happens when the elected officials ignore the will of the people?   The people are now faced with a choice.    The people can throw up their hands and do nothing, or they can take responsibility for their government and change it.

Taking responsibility and changing the government to be responsive to the will of the people is just what the residents of Covert, NY, are doing.

Frustrated with the lack of a collaborative and cooperative town board, residents of Covert are now working to make a change.     The Covert Town Board is made up of 5 members -- 3 of those members are up for re-election on November 5, 2013, and Covert residents have put up their own candidates.

They have kicked off their bid to take responsibility for their local government by supporting 3 candidates whom they believe will be responsive to the will of the people.    Their website COVERTCOUNTS.ORG outlines the concerns and issues and facing them today and how their candidates will work to resolve them. states:

"As a rural community facing new and challenging socio-economic and environmental changes, the Town of Covert, more than ever before, needs leaders with fresh, creative ideas and sound policies, not only for the development of growth-stimulating programs, but also programs that will ensure the health and well-being of the community at large. We all want to see Covert thrive, prosper, and at the same time remain a beautiful place everyone can enjoy. In order to achieve this we need a proactive government, we need collaborative and cooperative representation that will take charge and be advocates for the people it serves."


One big issue is that of natural-gas drilling.   While New York State does have a moratorium, a moratorium is just a pause, a waiting period, and does not mean there will be absolutely no fracking in the future.

Covert is on the Finger Lakes and part of the Finger Lakes National Forest is in southwestern Covert.    It's a beautiful countryside with access to lake and forests alike.   According to the 2000 census there are less than a thousand households year around, but increases during the summer months as other families spend time at their vacation homes in and around Covert.

In addition to the "summer people" spending time in Covert, they also spend money, which adds to the health and growth of the local economy.    Both permanent and temporary residents of Covert live there because of the lakes, the forest, the quiet, and the rural flavor.    What happens when that is gone?

As we know, the minute a gas lease is signed, the property values decrease, and not just the property with the lease, but also properties in the immediate area.   Obtaining refinancing or mortgages become extremely difficult if not impossible.    Property insurance may be canceled or force the owner to seek insurance for industrial development because that is what natural-gas drilling is -- industrial development.

It's not just drilling; it also includes the midstream infrastructure of gathering lines, compressor stations, glycol-dehydration plants, and expansion of the major transport pipelines. All this affects the local economies and their tax base.

Think about it.  If you wanted to build a home in an industrial park you would be denied a permit and prevented from doing so.   Yet, a corporation may be allowed to turn your residential neighborhood into an industrial zone.   Pennsylvania is seeing this all across the Marcellus Shale.   The once rural and peaceful communities are now one big industrial park.    


If the natural-gas industry has done one thing for Pennsylvania it has been to showcase it as the best example of how NOT to drill and develop the resource.    Covert NY is not the only community watching the decimation of Pennsylvania.    Towns, villages, and communities across the country and the world are watching, learning, and working to prevent the same thing happening to their homes.

We've heard about the water contamination, the air pollution, the spills, the leaks, the explosions, and related direct impact.    More recently, we've seen people who have gas leases go ballistic over receiving tiny royalty checks or in some cases being billed by the gas corporation for post-production costs.

What about the indirect impact?   Call it the Gorilla on the Table - Local property taxes.

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Dory Hippauf, born and raised in Massachusetts, now lives in the rugged mountains of Northeastern Pennsylvania with her partner, their 2 dogs and 5 cats. She became involved with the "fracking" issue when a landman came knocking on her door, (more...)
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