Friday, March 18, 2011

Public Opinion versus Scientific Fact

Jane Forbes Clark has put her name behind those fighting natural gas resource developments in Otsego County. For those people who do not live in Cooperstown and do not know who Ms Clark is, this article talks about her role and her influence in the lake side town.  Having Clark’s endorsement is seen as a major victory for those who live in the region around the lake.
Recently the Leatherstocking Corporation along with Brewery Ommegang; a local German-style brewery located in Cooperstown joined forces to fight to keep natural gas development out of Otsego County.  Larry Bennett, of Press Relations and Special Services for the Brewery has spent numerous hours doing research and trying to understand the impact that hydraulic fracturing would have on the Brewery. Bennett concluded from his findings that the added traffic brought by the trucks associated with natural gas development will not be conducive to a business that relies on the water that the aquifer provides.
 It is not clear whether Mr. Bennett sought expert opinions from those involved in the designing and implementation processes of natural gas development to understand how the processes works or what measures are taken to prevent any mishaps. One would hope that Mr. Bennett as a spokesperson of a large establishment understands the risks that his establishment presents to the aquifer and knows how diligence can help lessen the associated risks. It is hoped that Mr. Bennett decision was not based on information within the public opinion court.
On the flip side, Clark’s endorsement was already known to most, even though it was only mentioned in whispers. It, the endorsement, did not mean much to the rest of the County residents who live outside the center of the affluence.  This includes the residents who do not frequent the successful Brewery, the Cooperstown venues nor the upscale events as patrons; they work them as menial and minimalistic labor; the kind of jobs that can barely support the vision that they have for their futures; the people who had no idea what Leatherstocking Corporation is.  Their lives go on.  Those people represent  the majority of the county.
The ending of this story remains to be told. This writer believes that truth is not mutually exclusive, both side can’t be right at the same time. The answer lies somewhere in the middle. However, finding the voice to be able to express it is when both sides are engaged and poised for a long haul fight.
What has been painfully overlooked in all this, are the people who speak the science. It is doubtful that any of the parties involved in Otsego County's plight, even those offering information on the processes have actually seen a natural gas well drilled, or hydraulic fractured. It is doubtful that they have spent anytime conversing with the engineers and environmental scientists who have dedicated their lives to designing safe and effective processes.
Public opinion can be a dangerous tool especially when it carefully tuned to shroud the truth.
Note: This article represents the personal opinion of the author

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