Albany Law School put on a great day long conference on land use planning and land use zoning. It may have been the first (and last ? ) time that both sides were represented on all the issues : the dSGEIS, the Middlefield/ Dryden suits, and land use zoning. So thanks to Charles Gottlieb and his crew for putting it on. About 120 attendees – mainly from local government. Nan Stolzenberg and Ted Fink did a great job explaining why land use plans are essential – and how to do a good one. Mike Kenneally of the NY Association of Towns showed once again why every town needs to be a member of the NY Association of Towns.
To the inimitable Helen Slottje fell the sublime task of vivisecting a fracking toady – Tom West – in front of the assembled journalists, videographers, town and state officials. Although Deborah Goldberg of Earth Justice was scheduled to debate West, she was unavoidably detained and was unable to be there. Helen, on the other hand, was scheduled to make a presentation on how a moratorium was the sensible course for Upstate towns that have not already enacted road and land use ordinances.
This put the unflappable Helen in the position of having to debate Tom West on the spur of the moment. Guess what, she rose to the occasion- like she had been preparing her whole life for that. After West finished trying to convince the crowd what he could not convince the Middlefield or Dryden courts of – that gas wells, as a land use, are some how magically immune to land use statutes – a novel concept that no zoning attorney from any other state could argue with a straight face, Helen rose, smiled benignly and, since she had no Power Point of her own, asked the moderator to leave West’s up on the screen – so that she could hoist him in his own petard.
Helen Looking Mighty Pleased With Herself – and for good reason . . .
West took a seat in the jury box (this was a moot court classroom) and Helen proceeded to eviscerate his arguments, line by line, case law by case law, statute by statute. Simply put, West literally shrank in his seat – into a sort of shrunken apple man caricature. (Wouldn’t you if you were being disemboweled in public ?) Helen left no one in the room in doubt as to why the Middlefield court the Dryden court could not believe a fracking word that fracking lobbyist West said.
I learned a lot, including that there is a visual clue as to when Tom West is lying: his lips move. He simply does not miss an opportunity to prevaricate, equivocate, mislead or just good old fashioned lie his fracking behind off. Remarkably, he would look for opportunities to tell some whoppers. For instance:
Tom Boy said the trial judges were biased. Tom Boy said that “the appellate court would be less likely to pander to locals” than the Middlefield, Dryden or Binghamton trial judges – that “the appellate court was above that sort of thing”. This struck me as a rather low blow to the judges. Plus, as Helen pointed out, it was a flat out lie. Both the Middlefield and Dryden cases were heard in other counties – away from the townships. And both judges were conservatives – which squares with the jeffersonian principle of Home Rule. And the Binghamton judge was in Broome County, ie. Vichy, New York. So Tom Boy basically insulted the trial courts – on camera. Slick !
Tom Boy said ag. vehicles were subject to road use agreements. A question relating to road use agreements came up and another attorney answered it. But Tom Boy had to chime in and say that “ag. trucks have to comply too”. Which is not the case – ag. trucks, local deliveries, etc. are specifically excluded from road use agreements – which are entered into on a project by project basis – by whoever is responsible for the project – ie. the frackers.
Tom Boy said that they did not know shale gas was coming to New York State – in 2004. Which was about 60 years after fracking was invented, 20 years after the first commercial horizontal fracks, and and 10 years afte the first shale gas fracks. And a year before Chesapeake started signing leases and Tom West re-wrote the state’s compulsory integration law and dictated it to Allison Crocker at the DEC.