Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Showdown at the Town of Middlefield

Last night the Town of Middlefield had their much anticipated town board meeting to hear public comments about changes or clarification to their zoning ordinance. Part of the clarification was to include a ban on any natural gas activities in their town.

The meeting was well attended; there were doctors, lawyers, professors, teachers, vacation home builders, retirees and farmers. Majority of those in attendance either lived in the Cooperstown part of the Middlefield or the Beaver Meadows Road Area.  There were portions of the population that was missing.
There was a lot of talk about financial investments; the fear of losing financial investments if drilling of any sort was allowed.  There was little or no mention of community stewardship of the actual town center of Middlefield and its residents which is in dire need of economic help. (Community stewardship, by an extremely lose definition means a realization of dependence between the economy, the environment and social contribution to the whole community).  
Supporters felt that Gastem USA’s proposed natural gas development plan that would be limited to conventional gas exploration. They warranted this process as legal, time-tested and without any adverse effects. They spoke about their financial and community stewardship in their farms, family and community.
Opponents talked about financial investment in their homes and businesses that would be affected by hydraulic fracturing. The talked about being forced out of their homes, or having to lose their businesses and investments having eventually to move away.
Despite the severity of the ramifications of the decision, residents were extremely cordial and sympathetic to each other’s plight. The rift in the community was still apparent but the one thing the connected everyone was the common concern about the protection of the environment which first and foremost includes the watershed.
What struck a chord, was the comments made by one resident who understood the need to be proactive; to look for other alternative of energy sources and not focus on natural gas
The next step for Middlefield’s stance will be deliberation at the County Planning level. 
To become more involved in the community (the community investment factor) is to see beyond the “view sheds” or the “water shed.”  It means understanding the dire economic situation that exists. Once you open eyes to the boarded up stores and restaurants or the homes covered with tarp, or even the number of children whose only meals are obtained through the school’s lunch programs, it is apparent that the communities within that spectacular view shed or the water shed are in dire need of some kind of economic stimuli. We cannot forget that.


  1. Unfortunately, Gastem is a marginal operation at best, a penny stock on the Toronto exchange with no record of actually producing gas - anywhere. They signed up some cheap leases locally and have been misrepresenting their intentions ever since. Was not at the meeting but have read several reports of. Springfield is going to exercise its right to regulate land use and that will include prohibiting noxious, hazardous industrial activities - like shale gas industrialization. At that point, Gastem's dog & pony shows will become moot. Since Ouebec has banned horizontal hydrofracking, Gastem may simply cease to exist.

  2. Thank you for your input Chip Tex;
    This discussion goes beyond Gastem and their business decisions and/or their regional intentions. It is about The Town of Middlefield and the others like Middlefield that are calling for outright bans on ALL natural gas development (shale and non-shale) using zoning laws.
    Zoning has been a controversial problem for many years and on many levels. In this case where some residents are attempting to zone out the any natural gas; there are potential socioeconomic consequences. Especially, if the potential from non-shale gas resource exists.