Jeff Hellers letter to the members June 15. 2012

June 15, 2012

Fellow Land Owners:

I think it is safe to say that it has been a long, long, four years for all of us. We have been forced to sit back and watch our neighbors in Pennsylvania and Ohio reap the benefits of the Marcellus Shale, and now the Utica Shale as well. All the land bonuses, all the jobs, all the tax revenue, all the road improvements, and all the other benefits that all the other states sitting on the various shale plays have gained, we have missed out on. We have lost all that at a time that New York in general actually needed it more than any other state except possibly Illinois and California. For some of our members, some of our farm members especially, this has been, crushing.

For those of us at the “top” of the coalition activity list it has been especially frustrating. The four people at the very top, have put in what for most of us would be unimaginable hours. For those of us at the next level, the PAC (Political Action Committee), it has been a long, frustrating, struggle. We have had monthly meetings for four years, for some of us occasional meetings between the monthly meetings, political raffles in Albany, presentations at colleges (always radically stacked against us with Antis), meetings with politicians at all levels, (especially within Steuben County), dozens of “letters to the editor” (many of which the papers don’t even print!), we attended, and spoke at, three out of four of the DEC hearings, coordinated hundreds of c-mails and letters to the Governors (Patterson and especially Cuomo), the DEC, etc.

In spite of all the frustration and seemingly unrewarding work, there is some room for celebration. Actually, “celebration” might be a little strong, but there is some good news too. We feel comfortable that gas drilling is coming to New York. It looks like we just have to wait for Governor Cuomo to commit – not an easy step for him politically. When he said ‘this issue will be decided by science and reason, not fear and politics’, in a sense it was all over. Science, reason, history, economics, and all the other benefits, are all on our side. The antis will never totally quit, or give up (as hard as it is for some of us to imagine, they really believe in their cause), but if the Governor was sincere in what he said, it’s just a matter of time until reality sets in. We have actually been close to two serious offers for Steuben County land owners. In both cases, basically, (and making a long story short) they pulled the plug, blaming New York’s Political climate, and went to Ohio.

What we really want to stress for all our members is just to “hold on”. There are all kinds of “signs” that this struggle is now going our way. The low price of natural gas is a temporary problem for us. Please remember that it is temporary. As of this writing the price has rebounded from $2.00 to $2.70. And balancing out that “bad news” is the “good news” of what the Utica Shale could represent to Steuben County. So, as much as possible, cheer up, stay tuned, we’re still working as hard as we can to “git er done” for Steuben County.

There is one “factor” that has been especially frustrating for most of us in the PAC. Looking back over the four years since we started our struggle there has always been one element that kept up a steady drum beat of information and misinformation that worked solidly against your interests. One element that more than any other single element, hurt our land owners in particular, but many other residents as well. One element that constantly fed the “negative” features of gas drilling, without any effort at objectivity or balance, or follow up stories. One element that constantly fed peoples’ doubts about gas drilling, and led to that far too common attitude – “I just don’t know if it’s safe”. That one element is of course the media in general, and for many of us more specifically The Corning Leader. However, even in the case of the Leader there is some hope for change. The new Editor seems to be more objective – at least compared to the past few years.

As a firm believer in the First Amendment in general, and as a student of history, being totally aware of the value of a “free press” in maintaining our “system”, I have to admit that there is virtually nothing we can do about this situation. We can mainly only hope that in the long run the truth will win out over what in effect is a propaganda campaign. The truth is out there, its just not covered very well by The media.

So, keep in touch with your Coalition, and especially keep checking our website, and Neil’s Blog, and you will have a more “balanced” base of information on what is really going on in the world of gas drilling.

Remember the purpose of the Coalition – to help to protect the land owners and their interests! Please remember our “Golden Rule”: do not ever sign a lease without first contacting an attorney or the coalition – or both!!

Stay positive!

Jeff Heller
Chairman Executive Committee Chairman PAC

SCLOC (Steuben County Landowners Coalition)

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