Cooperstown, New York Divided by Contentious Fracking Debate

The debate over <"">hydraulic fracturing has turned nasty in Cooperstown, New York, according to a report from The New York Times. Some of the most vocal opponents of fracking in the upstate New York village have reportedly received threatening letters which compare them to Nazis. Proponents of the controversial drilling technique have also become targets, with one dairy farmer telling the Times that she recently received a letter threatening her business, promising the farm would fail “when your water is poisoned.”

New York State’s moratorium on natural gas drilling via high-volume, horizontal hydraulic fracturing officially expired on July 1, and it is expected that the state will begin issuing new drilling permits at some point next year. The New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has proposed new drilling regulations, and has scheduled public hearings for November 16 in Dansville, November 17 in Binghamton, November 29 in Sheldrake and November 30 in Manhattan.

According to The New York Times report, the fracking controversy in and around Cooperstown has “emerged as the defining, non-negotiable political issue.” Opponents of fracking, concerned about ecological threats like the possible contamination of drinking water, often dominate local discussions. For example, at the top of the Village of Cooperstown’s website is a statement recommending a statewide ban on gas drilling and fracking. The nearby town of Middlefield, which includes parts of the village, was one of the first New York municipalities to ban gas drilling. And more than 30 antifracking candidates are running for office in Otsego County in November.

But many of those who want to see fracking banned claim their opposition has made them targets. According to the Times, 10 received identical copies of an unsigned letter calling them Nazis.

On the other side of the debate, dairy farmer Jennifer Huntington said she became a target when she filed suit to overturn the Middlefield drilling ban. In addition to the letter which she said threatened her business, Huntington said she has been forced to take her daughter out of the local school because of antifracking activism.

Many Cooperstown residents are shocked at how contentious and divisive the fracking debate has become there.

“At one time, people in Cooperstown could disagree, but it was never personal,” Catherine Ellsworth, who writes a column in a local weekly newspaper fracking supporter, told the Times. “Now it’s more like they want what they want, and that’s it. There’s no sense we’re in this together. But I guess that’s not just here. Society has changed, and Cooperstown has changed along with it.”

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