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Why the Town of Morris should not allow high volume hydraulic slick water fracturing natural gas drilling.

I am Bob Thomas, a resident of the village of Morris and a Fire Commissioner for the Joint Town and Village of Morris Fire District.
I ask your indulgence for a moment before I get into the work of the Advocates for Morris.

I have a story about the skunks and the deer and about whales and apes.

Last spring as I was raking up the piles of sticks, stones, and leaves that accumulate where you pile the snow when you plow I turned up the lower foreleg of a deer. There was still some hair and hoof on it.

I hadn’t butchered a deer last winter and I know my neighbors are careful to keep their yards clean after they butcher one. So how did the deer leg get there?
Sadly, I don’t have a dog anymore and when I did have a dog I walked him on a leash because if he got the scent of something he was wont to run off and investigate. Dogs don’t run free up on my street in the village.

In college I had a roommate from the city of Providence, RI. He lived in an area of such high traffic that his parents didn’t let him have a bicycle. He didn’t learn to ride a bicycle until he was a sophomore in college. But when he learned to ride he made up for it. After graduation he rode his bicycle from Rhode Island to Portland, Oregon.


My city roommate offered a suggestion. He said, “Maybe a herd of skunks ganged up on the deer and they dragged the foreleg into your yard. Then something scared them away and they ran off without it?” My roommate has a good imagination but his business background needed a little more grounding in nature.

I didn’t give that story much credence. I had never seen a “herd of skunks” or even seen more that a mother and four kits together. Certainly they would not be fast and powerful enough to take down a deer. I don’t think deer need to worry about skunks.
Which brings me to two whales off the coast of Africa a few million years ago.

They are humpback whales and they can sort of “spyhop” raising their heads out of the water and see the beach. On the beach they see some apes playing with sticks. They snort as whales might do and laugh. One whale says to the other, “Did you see those silly apes playing with sticks? We certainly never have to worry about them troubling us!”

But in recent times beings in many ways like the apes, called humans, hunted the whales to the ends of the earth – almost to extinction.
Which brings me to today in Morris, NY.

At this time Otsego County and Morris in particular are not home to any really heavy industry or big time oil or gas exploration. For years and years in Morris we could be as concerned as the deer about the skunks or whales about the apes and it wouldn’t matter either way.
Things can come at you from far away and they can end up right next door.

The shale gas people are looking to exploit was laid down on the floor of an ocean over 360 million years ago.
But now, right now, in Morris, we are at a crossroads. The people of the town of Morris are faced with the possibility of allowing heavy industry including drilling and fracking for natural gas into the town.

What would this mean for the day to day lives of the people of Morris?

In Morris all current activities are governed by the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Clean Drinking Water Act and other acts that were passed, many while Richard Nixon was president to preserve and protect aspects of the environment that are deemed essential. In order to commence with fracking the gas industry sought exemption from these and other acts. These and many other factors coming to attention to people across the town, county, state, and country have led some people to want to move cautiously with regards to allowing fracking in their districts.

Just last night the board of the Town of Springfield in Otsego County voted 5 to 0 to pass an ordinance to ban heavy industry and fracking within their town.

Members of the Advocates of Morris, originally numbering nine and now up to forty one, has been looking the issue of fracking and what it would mean to Morris. We thought that Morris is fine the way that it is. The values of the Master Plan of Morris approved by the town board of Morris in 1987 still hold.

READ SOME OF THE Values from the Master Plan.

We talked to friends and neighbors and people in town that we had never met before. Many seemed to agree with us. We brought our concerns to the Town Board and we were told that people in Morris didn’t seem to mind fracking and the Town Board wasn't hearing any opposition to it.

Advocates for Morris decided to get a better idea of the overall picture of the feeling in the town toward fracking.

We sent out letters with self addressed stamped post cards to the that a petition mailing was sent to 640 registered voter households and, as of this date, we have a total of 407 petition signatures that cross all party lines--residents from all walks of life and owners of lands large and small--and that a door-to-door petition campaign is under way. More are coming in as we speak. (418 after the meeting!)

We heard from elderly long term residents both white collar and blue collar. Rich and poor. They all agreed that they not willing to have Morris undergo fracking.

So having considered the negative aspects of fracking and the positive aspects of life in Morris as we now know it we ask the board to consider and pass a stand-alone ordinance to ban heavy industry including but not limited to high volume fracking for natural gas to protect Morris as described in the master plan.

4. PRESENT DRAFT OF THE PROPOSED STAND-ALONE ORDINANCE FOR THE BOARD'S REVIEW (I'll provide you with seven copies of the town draft in presentation folders--one each for McCann, Webster, Wagner, Walling, DeGlee and Ewing--and the other for your use. This is identical to the Springfield ordinance that has already passed legal scrutiny. Faith Houston and others will be preparing for presentation of this draft to the Village Board on July 5.)

See the ordinance at the link below. STAND ALONE PROHIBITION DRAFT ORDINANCE 2ND DRAFT TOWN.docx

Advocates for Morris are willing to work on committees or do anything else to help get the ordinance into place.

Respectfully, if by chance, the board has invited drilling advocates to speak, we ask to be able to respond to whatever they have to say. The way Advocates for Morris sees the current situation the majority of the people of Morris have made their preferences known. They prefer Morris the way it is – not the way it could be after it has been twisted and strained (or some better words) by the actions and activities of fracking.

5.INVITE QUESTIONS/COMMENTS FROM THE BOARD: (If they again say they can't prohibit drilling due to their fears of litigation, remind them that Otsego 2000 will provide funds and representationm. And as regards the town’s commitment to working with Delta on road preservation, only 14 of Otsego County’s 34 communities thought it worthwhile to contract with Delta for their road protection plan. It’s being said that the costs for this consultant are now expected to go beyond the town’s initial $8500 investment (talk w/Bob Eklund if you can find the time) and that they will bear no part or provide any representation or witnesses in the event of future litigation regarding the roads. (What was that enormous road repair expense figure we saw recently on costs to a town in PA?) Protection of our roads is, of course, important, but the health and safety of the residents, the preservation of property values, and the protection of our water resources and environment are far more important considerations. Is it appropriate to ask the board when they will meet to examine and discuss the information we have provided and our proposed land use regulation?)