May 4, 2011

Higher education is not salvation

I don't get to agree with the folks over at One of Nine very often, but this time I think they've nailed it:

So if upstate NY does decide to stick to its existing [higher education] knitting rather than diversifying, and at the same time potential students (or their parents) start to figure out that it might be wiser to acquire higher education in some non-traditional way (such as distance learning), or build up a work history and become self-sufficient earlier, thus becoming able to take more risks because they haven't racked up buckets of debt--what then? What happens to upstate? Wouldn't it just become "even more a welfare ward of downstate" anyway?

There are real advantages to having colleges and universities here - I don't want to understate that. At the same time, though, those colleges and universities are in many ways the last remaining outposts of a formerly much more prosperous (and diversified) Upstate economy. They've done well because higher education has seen more of a premium than the other things we used to make - but there are lots of reasons to think that that won't last forever either.

I don't expect that premium to vanish, especially for Cornell - but at the same time I don't expect it to keep growing like it has.

Posted by simon at 8:13 AM Comment

May 5, 2011

Varna moratorium non-introduction

I still haven't found time to write this up - and it needs some detail - but here's the recording of the Dryden Town Board's discussion of the proposed moratorium in Varna (25.8MB, 25 minutes) and the draft local law that wasn't actually introduced in the end.

Posted by simon at 7:49 AM Comment

May 6, 2011

Game camera catches skunks, raccoons, cats, kids

A few weeks ago I bought a game camera to try to figure out what's moving around in our woods - particularly deer and coyotes. Although pretty much everything I've seen suggested I was getting the right camera, they seem to be unreliable in general, so I tested it out closer to the house, pointing at the chicken coop. That got me 2700 photos in a couple of weeks, mostly of chickens, but the night photos and a few of the daytime photos had surprises.

Skunk exploring.
Skunk exploring

Raccoons trying to get in.
Raccoons trying to get in

Cat talks with raccoon.
Godric the cat talks with raccoon

We learned some important things, notably that there's a whole family of raccoons here (at least three), and that the skunk was actually able to get into the chicken coop. One of the pictures showed how he did it, so we've patched up that intersection between the coop and the fence. Fortunately the raccoons couldn't get in, or we wouldn't likely have any chickens now. We only have two chicken hens and a duck drake in the coop now as it is.

I've posted a gallery of game camera photos if you'd like to see more. So far, this camera is awesome, and figuring out the skunk's entrance may have earned back enough to justify the cost already.

Posted by simon at 9:27 PM Comment

May 7, 2011

Etna residents want to keep post office

I noted an announcement about a meeting to discuss a possible closing of the Etna Post Office. I couldn't make it, but the Cortland Standard's Scott Conroe reported on Thursday's meeting. (The article didn't make it to their website, unfortunately.)

About 20 people showed up to a 10:00am meeting to discuss the future of the Post Office. Etna is one of 67 post offices in Upstate New York the postal service is considering closing:

Krul told the residents that the Etna Post Office, which is located in a corner of the community center, could close and they would receive mail through either the Freeville Post Office, three miles away, or rural delivery service at home mailboxes, or clusters of mailboxes in neighborhoods.

"No decision has been made..." People serviced by the Etna Post Office would receive 60 days notice if the post office is going to close.

There seems to be a moratorium on filling empty postmaster positions, and Etna's postmaster retired last year. It doesn't sound like anyone at the meeting was encouraging the USPS to close the Post Office.

Posted by simon at 2:45 PM Comment

May 11, 2011

Town Board Agenda and Zoning meeting tonight

I can't find an agenda for it on the Town website, but the calendar reports that there's an Agenda meeting tonight at 7:00pm 7:30pm at Dryden Town Hall, 93 East Main Street (Route 392) in Dryden. The Town Board page lists it as 7:30pm, however, which is when it usually is, so I guess I need to find out.

The main reason I'd suggest coming is the push toward completing zoning, though I don't yet see a new draft at the Proposed Zoning Resources page. I said back in February that I'd hold off on many new comments until there was a new draft - I didn't expect to still be waiting for a draft. Usually the first half hour to an hour is discussion of the agenda for the next week's regular Town Board meeting, and anything after that is zoning.

Posted by simon at 6:42 AM Comment

May 12, 2011

Quiet Town Board zoning meeting - pass in July?

Last night's Dryden Town Board agenda and zoning meeting didn't include much detail. There was some discussion of gravel mining, leaving Planner Dan Kwasnowski to send more detailed mapping information to board members, and some discussion of how to integrate the proposed heavy industrial ban with zoning, but not much detailed discussion of the proposed zoning itself. (The ban would come in a second stage, as amendments.)

Town Attorney Mahlon Perkins is doing a close edit, and is only handing out paper copies at this point, so I'm guessing that there won't be a chance for residents to see it until just about the time it's introduced next month with a public hearing and possible passage in July. The Board sounded like they were much more done with the zoning than they had sounded in the past. I'm not sure if that's because they're actually done or because they're tired of talking about it.

It's not clear to me what the status of the Planned Unit Development and especially subdivision pieces of the zoning are, and it sounded like subdivision might actually wait until the rest of the zoning is passed. However, that didn't sound like the plan before, so mostly I'm confused.

Posted by simon at 12:09 PM Comment

May 14, 2011

All kinds of things to do today

and hopefully the rain will hold off, or be light.

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology will be having its Go Wild, Go Birding event today from 10:00am to 3:00pm at its offices on Sapsucker Woods Road.

The Spring Garden Fair and Plant Sale moved up to the Hanshaw Road Armory this year, and will run from 9:00am to 1:00pm.

Also in the neighborhood, Primitive Pursuits will be having its family day from 10:00am to 4:00pm at 4-H Acres, on Lower Creek Road just north of its intersection with Route 13.

If you feel like working hard in a beautiful place, there are also Six Mile Creek cleanups today from 10:00am to 2:00pm.

Posted by simon at 6:17 AM Comment

Thin-skinned developers put my head in a box

A technicolor mailbox, at that, though it's only sort of "my head".

'Simon' inside the technicolor mailbox.
'Simon' inside the technicolor mailbox.

If it wasn't for the "SIMON" scrawled across the forehead, I wouldn't have guessed that was for me, as the resemblance isn't particularly close. However, Town Planner Dan Kwasnowski did tell me Wednesday night that he'd told the developers that the last thing he wanted to hear was more from me about an empty technicolor mailbox, so I'm reasonably certain who they meant.

I'd have thought that Nick Bellisario and Otis Phillips would have toughened up to criticism after years of making the heart of Varna look horrible, and the pretty much endless comments about "Mount Varna" in the hamlet. I guess not. Here's the full set of articles on this place so far - I can't say I'd have expected any of them to provoke this kind of response.

On the bright side, what's that paper back there?

Stormwater reports.
Stormwater reports.

Well, it's not the full Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan (15.2MB PDF) I've have guessed would be in the box, but at least it's progress reports by the engineer working for the developers. That seems like a much better thing to put in a box.

Posted by simon at 6:46 PM Comment

May 16, 2011

A miracle kid in Dryden

The first part of this article about a Dryden 6-year-old is terrifying, but fortunately it has a happy ending.

I'm delighted to see TC3 creating open source textbook material "for math, introduction to psychology and introduction to biology".

Live on Ellis Hollow Road? It sounds like you may want to put your recycling out the night before, until construction is complete.

Posted by simon at 9:24 AM Comment

From Varna to Etna in six minutes without a car (1912)

Well, six or seven minutes on the Lehigh Valley, if it kept to its schedule. Here's the 1912 schedule for the parts of the former Elmira, Cortland, & Northern route in and near the Town of Dryden.

Sundays Southward Week-days MilesSTATIONS Northward Week-days Sundays
330 326 332 322 321 331 325 329
11:05 am 5:50 pm 11:30 am 9:00 am 69.6 Cortland 10:07 am 1:17 pm 6:55 pm 6:55 pm
11:19 6:04 11:44 9:14 76.1 McLean 9:48 1:03 6:33 6:38
11:28 6:10 11:52 9:20 80.0Ar. { FREEVILLE } Lv.
Lv. { (George Jr. Republic) { Ar.
9:40 12:55 6:25 6:30
11:28 6:30 11:52 9:40 80.0 9:25 12:55 6:10
11:35 6:35 11:58 9:47 82.8 Etna 9:19 12:48 6:04
f11:42 f6:43 f12:05 pm f9:54 86.3 Varna f9:12 f12:42 f5:57
11:49 6:51 12:10 10:03 89.0 East Ithaca 9:05 12:35 5:50
12:04 pm 7:01 10:18 93.7 Besemers 8:51 5:38

Freeville and George Junior Republic are the same stop, with sometimes different Arriving and Leaving times because it was the junction with the Auburn Line.The "f" on the Varna entries is for flag - the train would stop there if requested, but otherwise skip the station. The northbound Sunday schedule only runs from Freeville to Cortland.

Like the 1885 schedule I published earlier, this comes from David Marcham's excellent Ups & Downs of a Rural Life: Elmira, Cortland & Northern RR 1867 to 1967 and On. He reprints a schedule on page 85.

Posted by simon at 10:59 PM Comment

May 17, 2011

School elections today

It's time once again for school elections. Both the Dryden and Ithaca school districts have four candidates running for three seats plus a budget to vote on.

In the Dryden School District, polls are open from 7:00am to 9:00pm at the Dryden High School-Middle School on Route 38 between the Villages of Dryden and Freeville.

In the Ithaca School District, polls open at noon, and it's complicated. Here's a quick summary of where to vote, though you may want to check the map to be certain which district you're in:

  • If you normally vote in District 8 at Bethel Grove Church Activities Center (1749 Slaterville Road), you vote at Belle Sherman Annex (Mitchell and Cornell Streets., Ithaca).

  • If you normally vote in District 9, Ellis Hollow, at the Varna Community Center, you vote at Caroline Elementary School, 2439 Slaterville Road (Route 79).

  • If you normally vote in District 4, Varna,, at the Varna Community Center (943 Dryden Rd), you still vote at the Varna Community Center.

  • If you normally vote in Districts 1 and 5 at the Etna Fire Station, you vote at Northeast Elementary School, Winthrop Drive, Ithaca.

As always, it's complicated.

While double-checking these, I also realized that the Ithaca Schools have a Twitter feed - you might find that useful if you live in the Ithaca district.

Posted by simon at 7:21 AM Comment

State Trooper honored for work on Varna thefts

This month's Office of the Month is State Trooper Seth Littlejohn. His investigation of a Varna burglary led to two arrests and the recovery of more than $1000 of stolen property taken from the Varna Community Association and Habitat for Humanity.

Two Dryden residents received promotions from the New York Army National Guard, and three Dryden High School seniors received an honorable mention at the Rod Serling Video Festival.

Posted by simon at 7:40 AM Comment

May 18, 2011

Church tour Saturday; early Dryden pilot

Cathy Wakeman's Dryden Town Talk points out two great events coming over the next week. This Saturday, the Dryden Methodist Church will be open from 11:00am to 1:00pm to showcase its Memorial Windows and tell its history "as part of the New York State Landmarks Conservancy Sacred Sites Open House". Then, on Wednesday at 7:00pm, the Dryden Town Historical Society will explore the life of Paul Wilson, an early test pilot and stunt pilot.

She also notes that Dryden Family Medicine needs someone to help maintain their shelf of Family Reading Partnership books. Think you can help?

The Journal reports that all local school budgets passed. It's detailed results show the Dryden school board race with Karin LaMotte, Chris Gibbons, and Michael Scott winning, and Paul Lutwak missing the last seat by 16 votes.

Posted by simon at 8:44 AM Comment

Town Board meeting tonight

I can't be there tonight, but given my steady rate of sneezing, that's probably good for everyone involved. The Dryden Town Board will be meeting tonight at 7:00pm at Dryden Town Hall, 93 East Main Street (Route 392), Dryden. Here's the agenda.

Posted by simon at 5:09 PM Comment

Past pain across the road

I like that there used to a railroad operating across 366 from me - I'm always interested in trains, and have a stack of books and models and assorted other bits from them. At the same time, I remember that it wasn't all a picnic:

Yard crews, road crews, and all other employees are also governed by Rule 8: "If an employee shall be disabled by sickness or other cause, the right to claim compensation will not be recognized. An allowance, if made, will be a gratuity justified by the circumstances of the case and the employee's previous conduct."

The EC&N's accident record over [1884-1890] is testimony to the hazards of working on the railroad. The railroad's annual reports to the state indicated there were over sixty injuries or fatalities... including an average of one employee fatality every twenty weeks and one non-fatal employee accident per month. - The Ups & Downs of a Rural Line, page 34.

I sometimes wonder why my employer pays workers compensation insurance while I work at home at a desk job, but then I think over the amazing use of passive voice in that first paragraph and marvel that it was considered legally just fine not not to take responsibility.

While most of the accidents Marcham describes in that book took place elsewhere, the Varna-Etna area seems to have been prone to washouts. A caption for a photo of Newton L. "Doc" Hunt on page 134 notes that:

Like nearly all his fellow trainmen, he experienced several train accidents including separate incidents in 1907 and 1944 caused by track washouts at Varna. He carried scars from these accidents to his death at the age of 67 in October 1952.

A few years ago Mike Lane sent me an article about some innovative way of replacing a culvert along this line somewhere in Varna. I didn't post it here because it was post-1922 and still in copyright, but I'll have to track it down and see if I can figure out where exactly that work was done. I understand that washouts were part of what ended the use of the line, which may someday become a trail and is now a key corridor for water and sewer infrastructure.

Posted by simon at 7:03 PM Comment

May 20, 2011

A visit from the State Police

Well, I didn't expect that.

State Trooper R.K. Smith just stopped by my house to let me know that Otis Phillips wants to press trespassing charges against me for daring to open the technicolor mailbox.

I'll keep you all posted on how this goes. The trooper was nice enough, but wow.

Update: And here's the resolution.

Posted by simon at 12:11 PM Comment

May 21, 2011

Dacha project rising on Bone Plain road

It's a house, not necessarily a Russian vacation house, but the impressive educational homestead these folks are building reminds me that Bone Plain Road seems to be the place to be over the last few years for strawbale homes and sustainable living. It's also interesting to me that they approached the project as a group of six people, which makes a lot of the do-it-yourself easier as well as increasing the return on building investment. They also have a website.

If you have natural gas, you should know that NYSEG will be sending Heath Consultants to look for leaks over the next few months. Note that:

All Heath vehicles will be clearly marked and all Heath employees will carry NYSEG contractor photo ID. Any customer who has doubts about someone claiming to be a NYSEG employee or contractor should ask the person for the name and phone number of their supervisor.

Posted by simon at 8:18 AM Comment

May 23, 2011

TC3 commencement Thursday

Tompkins-Cortland Community College will be celebrating commencement this Thursday at 6:00pm:

According to the college, 291 of the graduates are residents of Tompkins County, 152 are residents of Cortland County and 48 are residents of Tioga County.

In the Journal's Viewpoints section, County Legislator Martha Robertson writes about the perils of a property tax cap without mandate relief and Murray Cohen of Dryden warns that Al Qaeda is not dead.

Posted by simon at 6:08 AM Comment

And another critter

I posted some game cam pictures of skunks and raccoons earlier this month, but now we have another night visitor: a possum.

Possum exploring.
Possum exploring

Possum visits chicken coop.
Possum visits chicken coop.

The possum came by a couple of nights, but doesn't appear to have actually gotten into anything.

We did have a problem, though - our neighbor came by a few nights ago to report that he'd seen a fox carrying away our last two adult chickens. That was just twilight, and we'd seen the fox around in daytime. (The chickens had defended themselves well in prior attempts.)

We do have seven pullets growing up, and a dozen new ducklings on the way, but for now our only adult poultry is a very lonely duck. There's a lot more fencing and construction work to do this year...

Posted by simon at 6:20 AM Comment

May 24, 2011

Virginian arrested in Malloryville

US Marshals came to Dryden early Monday morning and arrested Robert Neil Adlon on burglary, larceny, and fraud charges in Virginia. He apparently was "hiding in a small camper trailer" and found asleep.

Local police will be busy this weekend, with an extra focus on enforcing traffic laws. The article includes details on seat belt law requirements.

Posted by simon at 5:48 AM Comment

Two months of garden in twenty-two seconds

The game cam photos are great fun, and the weather station provides up-to-the-minute information on what's happening here, but some things happen over longer times.

For those kinds of things, time-lapse cameras are a lot of fun. I used to marvel at them in middle-school films, but time-lapse cameras are now pretty ordinary appliances. I set one up in December, and kept track of its progress through January. Somewhere in mid-January, though, it stopped taking pictures, and I only got it going again in mid-March with fresh batteries.

The quick version, of photos taken at 2:00pm on March 18th through May 21st, looks like:

A few rounds of snow pass, then you see puschkinia flower at the lower left and chionodoxa and daffodils at the upper right, before the daylilies and goutweed explode out of the ground.

I also did a version with all the photos, running from December 5th to May 21st (with that mid-January to mid-March gap), and the camera running from 4:00am to 10:00pm. It's very different, as well as being five and a half minutes long:

Including night changes things drastically. This shows snow falling and melting at a much slower rate, and the shifting light and traffic on Route 366 are much more important.

I'm moving the camera to a different location, as I think that one will be dull for the rest of the summer, but I'll post more videos when they're ready - probably a few months.

Posted by simon at 6:59 AM Comment

Current Dryden voter registrations

I last looked at voter registration based on data from before the 2010 election, when more people had just registered to vote. It's probably a good idea to revisit those numbers again, now that the Board of Elections has removed people who hadn't voted in a long time or whose mailing addresses bounced. Both major parties lost a few voters, while minor party results are more mixed.

PartyNumber (Oct 2010)Number (May 2011)Change
Blank (Independent)17951783-12
Working Families3026-4

Slightly more Democrats disappeared than Republicans, likely because Democrats residents still seem to be less permanently planted here. (I'm kind of surprised that losses to the two parties were that similar.) Libertarians who shifted to the Republicans so they could vote for Ron Paul in the primary may have returned to the Libertarian line - and likely get to switch again - or maybe those are just new Libertarian voters.

I'd heard from a few people that they were considering switching to the Green Party now that it had official ballot status again (because of Howie Hawkins getting more than 50,000 votes in the 2010 Governor's race). However, I don't see any sign of that in these numbers. The Green Party hasn't been a force in Dryden politics to the best of my knowledge.

Posted by simon at 12:15 PM Comment

May 25, 2011

Seward signs on for local zoning of gas drilling

I'm very pleased to report that State Senator Jim Seward has co-sponsored S.3472, a bill clarifying current law so that municipalities can regulate oil and gas drilling through zoning.

The bill amends subdivision 2 of § 23-0303 of the environmental conservation law, as added by section 846 of the laws of 1981, allowing for any local government to enact or enforce local laws or ordinances of general applicability if the local laws do not expressly regulate the oil, gas and solution mining industries regulated by state statute, regulation, or permit. Local governments shall not be prevented from enacting or enforcing local zoning ordinances or laws which determine permissible uses in zoning districts.

This is great news for everyone from opponents of local gas drilling who've been pushing for this approach to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Posted by simon at 12:12 PM Comment

May 26, 2011

Southworth House donated to Historical Society

At last night's annual meeting of the Dryden Town Historical Society, President Betsy Cleveland said that attorney Mike Lane had called her and said he needed to talk with the Board of Trustees. She'd wondered "who on earth would want to sue the Historical Society?" but it was a happier story than that.

Attorney Mike Lane makes an announcement.
Attorney Mike Lane makes an announcement.

Lane told the story of Rebecca Simpson, last of her line in the Southworth House, built in 1836 between the present Presbyterian Church and the fire station. She'd always loved Dryden and that house. She had been active in the early days of the Historical Society, even a Trustee, and she left that house and most of its furnishings to the DTHS.

Southworth House, from the Presbyterian Church.
Southworth House at twilight, from the Presbyterian Church.

There's a lot more to do to make this happen, but the DTHS has started work on it. Expect to see a lot more fundraisers over the next year or so, and hopefully a lot of excitement!

(And yes, I should have brought a better camera with me.)

Posted by simon at 6:29 AM Comment

Memorial Day ceremony Monday

The Ithaca Journal's listing of Memorial Day activities notes Dryden's parade at 10:00am and 11:00am memorial service. They call it the "town square", but I've usually heard the area where the services are held, between the Methodist and Presbyterian churches, called the Village Green.

You can see pictures of the 2008 ceremony here.

Posted by simon at 7:20 AM Comment

Dryden Courier articles now online

More and more Dryden Courier content has been moving to the Ithaca Times website, which is an improvement since the Courier doesn't have its own website. I was usually stuck using the search function to find it, but I'm very happy to see that there's now a simple page for Dryden stories, with lots of news you may want to catch up on.

Posted by simon at 7:54 AM Comment

Time Square, no traffic

On my way to last night's excellent Historical Society talk on early flier Paul Wilson, I stopped in Time Square and sat on one of the benches. I suddenly realized that it was confusingly quiet - there was no traffic! I fumbled for my cell phone to take a picture and captured this view of an unusually empty place.

Empty Time Square.
Empty intersection, Time Square, Village of Dryden.

Even at busy intersections, there are occasional gaps, and not just at four in the morning.

Posted by simon at 12:04 PM Comment

May 27, 2011

TC3 graduates 700

This morning's Ithaca Journal visits yesterday's TC3 graduation, focusing on the story of Jeremy March, who kept up a full slate of academic and athletic activities while fighting off a brain tumor. It was a busy night:

In a filled gymnasium, March was one of more than 700 students to receive recognition for completion of associate degrees or certificates at Thursday night's 42nd annual commencement ceremony. Of those students, 130 had averages of 3.5 or greater and five students graduated with a perfect 4.0. The youngest graduate was 18; the oldest was 65.

There are also lots of pictures of the TC3 graduation.

Tompkins County sales tax revenue is climbing, putting the county "about right where it should be" for its budget expectations.

Have an old refrigerator? NYSEG will recycle it.

Posted by simon at 6:47 AM Comment

Bruno Schickel running for Supervisor

It's not even petition season yet, and builder Bruno Schickel has announced plans to run for Town Supervisor this November. His list of "key issues" includes:

  • More efficient local spending;
  • Lowering the property tax burden;
  • Thoughtful zoning modifications to keep housing affordable while avoiding excess regulations that lower land values;
  • Slow, careful and balanced gas drilling policies that will unite neighbors and friends through thoughtful communication with all town residents; and,
  • Connecting Dryden residents with their neighboring communities by a network of trails on the old railroad track beds.

WHCU has a short piece on the announcement and incumbent Supervisor Mary Ann Sumner's response.

(And yes, he's this Bruno Schickel.)

Update: The Ithaca Journal has an article, though it looks pretty much like the press release.

Posted by simon at 8:55 AM Comment

May 28, 2011

Home Necessities expands to Elmira Heights

The Ithaca Journal reports that Home Necessities, whose offices and warehouse are on Johnson Road in Freevile, is opening its ninth store in Elmira Heights.

Posted by simon at 7:48 AM Comment

May 31, 2011

Speculating on a hydrofracking compromise

[I do not have any insider knowledge of conversations in Albany and Washington.]

Over the last few months, I've concluded that our federal and state governments don't seem especially inclined to regulate fracking (hydraulic fracturing) in drilling for oil and gas.

The Obama administration can't seem to say enough good about natural gas, whatever the source, while New York State seems to be shambling toward a July 1 release of the Supplement Generic Environmental Impact Statement (SGEIS) on fracking, with a 30-day comment period and a likely shorter review to follow. Despite the Pennsylvania blowout, it doesn't sound like the Governor is looking for much delay. The Assembly held hearings last week, but I've not heard much from the Senate about moratoriums or bans lately.

The one interesting bit of news I did see, however, was our Republican Senator Seward signing on to Democratic State Senator Suzi Oppenheimer's bill allowing municipalities to handle drilling in zoning. Fellow Republican John Bonacic is also a co-sponsor.

This approach, combined with the regulation likely to be in the SGEIS, opens up some possibilities, though I'm not sure either the gas companies or the environment will feel protected by them:

  • Allowing municipalities to zone out hydrofracking will make it easy for places that obviously don't need the risks of drilling - cities and villages - to ban the practice.

  • Allowing municipalities to permit hydrofracking will make it easy for places that are chomping at the bit for drilling to allow the practice.

  • Places that have a mix of both will continue to have controversies, but at the local level.

In the short run, my guess is that most of the Southern Tier except perhaps the cities and a few towns will support hydrofracking and gripe that the state gets in the way of economic development by regulating it at all. Other areas will be more cautious, especially the more tourism-dependent parts of the Finger Lakes, Cooperstown (if the Baseball Hall of Fame and Chamber of Commerce are an indicator), and, perhaps most difficult of all, the watersheds for New York City and possibly Syracuse and Rochester.

I can't bring myself to say that this is a great idea. I've watched the mining industries' for too long to think they value the environment nearly as much as their advertising claims. I have less and less faith in the federal government's interest in regulating them, especially as the easy oil and gas disappear. And Albany, well... it's probably better thought of as a bazaar than a courtroom.

However, this does seem like a way to break the logjam. I definitely consider it an improvement on having the state start issuing permits while denying municipalities any power to regulate where fracking happens. Some activists - not the most committed, but some - would likely step aside so long as drilling couldn't happen in their own area. It's at least theoretically possible that municipal-level bans would give gas companies working in the open areas an incentive not to spill, because a clean record might encourage more towns to open up to them.

Of course, they might rely instead on recipes of lawyers and pouring money into local elections. The drilling companies, after all, have a relentless focus on extraction, while maintaining local resistance requires a lot of time and energy that won't sustain a business.

Albany could turn a different direction, but while I don't love this compromise, I do suspect it would take pressure off legislators and the Governor - which always seems to be their goal. It feels a classically New York solution combining regulation (understaffed as it may likely be), placing burdens on local government (political instead of financial this time), and nods in the direction of economic development for Upstate New York, however temporary it may be.

We'll see.

Posted by simon at 6:43 AM Comment