President Barack Obama’s visit to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown was closed to the public, but that didn’t stop protesters from both sides of the hydrofracking debate from heading there anyway.
The president was there to talk about upstate tourism, but for many of the other day visitors the economic issue was hydrofracking in the state’s Marcellus shale region.
“When the president talks about having a hundred year supply of gas and this is supposed to be the pathway to the future, how does it make any sense to open up export facilities to ship that gas as fast as we can somewhere else, and grow an economy somewhere else?" said Keith Schue, one of several anti-fracking protesters standing across the street form the National Baseball Hall of Fame. "That just doesn’t make any sense.”
Schue says shale-rich counties like Otsego simply can’t have a thriving tourism and gas industry existing on top of one another. He also says fracking won’t deliver promised jobs to the struggling upstate region.
Wes Gillingham, program director for Catskill Mountain Keeper agrees.
“It’s not long term jobs," Gillingham said. "It's short term jobs, and then even the folks that have those jobs are facing health threats because of the things that they’re exposed to.”
Just a block down the street was a small, but no less passionate, group of pro-natural gas drilling supporters arguing for the state’s six-year old moratorium to be lifted. Victor Furman, with the Joint Landowners Coalition of New York says too many anti-fracking protesters simply don’t understand how beneficial the drilling would be.
“They think that electricity comes from a switch on the wall when actually it comes from natural gas or coal in the ground, and they gotta realize that natural gas is the best choice," Furman said. "We just need to move forward with this.”
Sandra Davis, a mother to three young boys, came all the way from Delaware County to support the drilling. She says she’s heartbroken to see small towns in her county deteriorating.
“You know every year we wait to pay our land taxes with our income taxes," Davis said. "We should not have to do that. We should not have to struggle and I should be able to give my kids more.”
It’s still unclear which way Gov. Andrew Cuomo will go with natural gas drilling, an issue that will wait until after the November election.