|(file photo from meeting in summer)|
Tuesday night it was standing-room-only at the Brooktondale Community Center as Caroline residents took the floor to argue in favor of a frack ban. The resolution is short – only 55 words – simply asking the town to ban high-volume slickwater hydraulic fracturing because the intensity of industrial development would threaten the town’s “clean air, clean water, soil, rural landscapes, and health” as well as its social and economic well-being.
But – despite the fact that 50 people spoke passionately in favor of the ban and only a handful argued against it – the Caroline Town Board did not pass resolution. Town councilman Dominic Frongillo and town supervisor Don Barber were the only “yes” votes. Council members Linda Adams and Toby McDonald voted no and Councilman Peter Hoyt abstained, essentially killing the resolution.
While many people reiterated the known dangers to health from air and water pollution, it was Frongillo’s closing statement that brought the crowd to its feet. “We are gathered tonight to affirm that we are one town,” he said, “that we choose the future not just as individuals but as a community.” He reminded people of the hours they put into crafting a Comprehensive Plan to guide the town’s development. That vision for the town, he said, describes “a safe, affordable place to call home, a vibrant local economy with locally-owned small businesses that enhance our rural town, clean water and air, healthy forests and farmland, and a revitalized farming community for future generations.”
Gas drilling – on the industrial scale being proposed – would fundamentally alter the town’s character, Frongillo said. Industrialized drilling isn’t compatible with the plan for the future and takes the town in the opposite direction from that which the citizens outlined together.
“Contrary to what some tonight have said, we have a responsibility to our citizens to protect the health and welfare of our community,” Frongillo stated. “The five of us sitting at this table represent and must be advocates for everyone who is affected by our decisions, including children and future generations.” When one-half of the registered voters ask the Town board to do something, it’s the board’s responsibility to listen, he said.
In response to fears about lawsuits, should the town adopt a fracking ban, Frongillo said he would rather the town place the health of its citizens over avoiding lawsuits from a foreign corporation. “I would risk that we placed the concern for the downstream effects of our actions over the potential for trickle-down money to some in our community,” he stated. “I would risk that we used this moment to recommit to our vision for community we are proud to leave for the next 20 and for the next 200 years.”
As for the results, Frongillo reminded people what their effort was for. “This resolution is about hope,” he said of the frack ban. “Hope that every farmer for another seven generations can earn a decent living on their land. Hope that our kids can play outside without fear… On behalf of past, present, and future Caroline citizens, I cast my vote for investigating every available means to protect our town, our water, air, community, roads, housing values, safety, farmland, rural hillsides, local economy, and our democracy.”
Though disappointed by the vote, the crowd seemed neither surprised nor dismayed. Many people are looking towards the November election when both Hoyt’s and McDonald’s seats are up for grabs. Both candidates running for those seats have expressed strong support for a fracking ban and suggested that the resolution could be revisited in January.
Thank you to all the people who contributed to this post.