Column, 310 words

Fracking Free Speech

The gagged townspeople of Sanford, New York are suing their town board over the infringement of their First Amendment rights.

Jim Hightower

It’s one thing for Big Oil to bust into our communities, groundwater, and economic well-being with the hydraulic fracturing natural gas boom. Now, in addition to poisoning the environment, this fracking fad is busting the free speech rights of locals who dare to speak out against it.

Welcome to Sanford, New York. It’s a pleasant place of 2,800 citizens on the New York-Pennsylvania border. Unfortunately, the pleasantness has been interrupted by a major squabble over whether or not to allow big companies to extract natural gas by fracturing the huge Marcellus Shale formation that underlies the region.

Fracking is already rampant in Pennsylvania, but New York imposed a moratorium on the dangerous practice to assess the health and safety issues involved.

hightower-fracking-CREDO.fracking

CREDO.fracking

However, as OnEarth magazine reports, Sanford’s town board is eager to allow oil and gas outfits to frack away. The board even leased land to one corporation that wants to drill inside the town. Last fall, Sanford officials went further, imperiously imposing a gag order on their own citizens. It seems that opponents of the profiteering frack rush were using the board’s public comment session to…well, to comment publicly.

Irritated, the board decreed that any topic could be discussed at its meetings — except fracking.

The town leveled this autocratic restriction on people’s democratic rights by saying that the ongoing discussion on fracking got in the way of other board business. But, gosh, that’s the way it is in a democracy. The people themselves can dare to set the agenda by insisting that our local leaders discuss the big issues that matter most to our families and communities.

The gagged townspeople have now sued the Sanford board for fracking their free speech rights and making a mockery of democracy. For more information, contact Catskill Citizens for Safe Energy: www.catskillcitizens.org.

OtherWords columnist Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, writer, and public speaker. He’s also editor of the populist newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown. OtherWords.org

  • http://www.facebook.com/lalnaper Lori Lathrop

    ABSOLUTELY loved this article Jim… it is amazing how quickly and quietly “fracking” has come into our lives. North Carolina and mountains all along the Appalachians’ have been leveled and destroyed, ground water polluted, before people even really knew what was going on – people are getting wiser to the dangers of fracking and the environmental ramifications – if the board of their own TOWN won’t listen to them – the government is not going to either – our government pushes through their own agenda no matter what the people say so they would really rather that we just don’t comment….. keep on practicing your first amendment rights, unfortunately it probably won’t do much….. what a shame since we are suppose to have officials and government that is by the people and FOR the people….

    • AFV

      Your state imposed religion should fix that!