New NY 23rd reader Patricia Bence provided this report on Tom Reed’s Owego meeting.
With a wind chill approaching 20 degrees below zero around 50 people attended a meeting with Congressman Tom Reed at the Tioga County Office building on Thursday, February 19, 2015. Reed’s agenda was to hold a “discussion” with the public on the subject of his recently proposed legislation, Defense of Property Rights Act (H.R. 510) .
Defense of Property Rights Act.
As mentioned in an earlier New NY 23rd post, the Defense of Property Rights Act is an attempt to permit property owners to obtain compensation (sue) when local, State, or Federal government impairs the value of ownership. Reed is saying that property owners with mineral rights could sue New York State, since they potentially lost millions of dollars when fracking was banned.
Reed started the meeting stating that the President asked all members of congress to ask their constituents what to do about the Islamic State. We never got to that. He then talked for some time about how this bill came about. He mentioned the idea occurred to him when fracking became controversial. He mentioned several times during the rather raucous meeting that the law would serve any perceived loss related to one’s property, not just fracking.
Many people made statements followed by questions. The crowd was very involved and vocal. I think Reed was surprised and frustrated at several points, in my opinion.
The plan would have property owners evaluate the price of their perceived loss up to a cap of $2o, ooo or 20% of their loss. Several people said 20% of what? How can the landowners put a price on something (gas) that is still below the ground? Others asked how the money would be distributed? Tom said one possibility is that they would get 20% off their tax bill, which someone pointed out would raise taxes for the rest of us in the county. Reed said this bill would apply to any government agency that takes away ones right to make money or enjoyment from their property for any reason, not just fracking.
One speaker said she loved the bill because it would force landowners in Tioga County to realize there isn’t much quality gas here as Jerry Acton has been saying all along.
Frieda Black, a woman who owns a farm (110 acres) in Chemung County explained she turned down a signing bonus of $2,000 an acre because she didn’t want to be responsible for the possibility of polluting hers or other person’s property. She has an organic farm and feared not having clean water. Her most powerful message to Reed was: This bill will prevent any government agency from creating laws that protect society’s health.
A retired Veterinarian spoke to me, after the meeting. He said he went out to a farm, found that a cow had TB, and told the farmer it is state law that he couldn’t keep the cow. Under this law the taxpayers would have to pay for loss of his cow.
Responding to a constituent who said she didn’t believe drilling belonged in our community, Reed said there is no evidence of hydraulic fracking fluid in any water anywhere. Someone shouted out “Have you been to Pennsylvania? “ He said he has been there, and then admitted to the problem of methane migration which has to be looked at.
Another woman questioned Reed’s interpretation of the 5th Amendment. There is no “taking” i.e. the state did not take anything from the landowners. Reed disagreed with this, and said he believes the ban took away the landowners right to use their property as they saw fit. Many people said it’s the gas companies that should pay.
When asked where the money was to come from Reed’s aide said the state. Later, Reed explained it could be any government agency that violated a person’s property rights. Several people throughout the meeting pointed out that the taxpayers will be paying and indeed raising taxes in the governmental entity that committed the so-called crime.
Another person said I would like to see the reaction you would get in Westchester County when their taxes go up because of these payments to land owners. Reed did not seem fazed by this saying well yes it would be all of NYS taxpayers collectively paying for what their Governor did.
A question about how this law would affect zoning prompted Reed to give the same response he gave all evening “If the landowner can prove his right to do what he wants with his property then he has a claim.” The crowd groaned.
There were several conversations about the repercussions of such a bill in that everyone would be suing Town Boards, State Government, EPA etc. for every perceived loss of an opportunity to use their property as they wished. Someone shouted out “a lawyers bonanza.” And this was going to “open a can of worms”
When asked how successful passing this law may be, he said he was optimistic, and “we are just getting started.” (quiet giggling)
One farmer said he was for “safe drilling,” and another shouted out: “don’t listen to people (in the back) row; they are anti-frackers.” The person next to him said: they make up lies.
There were several long, contentious sessions of back and forth on the ins and outs of the proposed bill ending with Tom sweating a bit.
Affordable Care Act
Reed said he doesn’t believe in a public option for universal health care after another speaker asked what he thought about a public option. He believes in empowering patients and doctors to figure it out in the free market.
A speaker asked “Why won’t you and the Republican party draft a bill on health care that includes the items you like from the ACA and then propose to repeal the rest of it? Because you have been at it for 5 years and saying Repeal and Replace.
Reed admitted they have no replacement plan at the federal level and their proposal would be it belongs to the states to do their own plans. It seems to this writer this is the first acknowledgment by a congressman that Republicans don’t have a plan and have no intention of developing one.
A woman from Ithaca said he should be mindful about reducing Social Security Disability especially when it comes to mental health. Reed responded with “What is considered a disability?”
Reed did allow people to ask questions and made every attempt to provide an answer. This was, however, not a particularly polite audience. He make a remark at the end about following the rules.
Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP)
Two people were outside the meeting room handing out pamphlets asking people to vote no on Trade promotion Authority (fast track) and TPP although they did not address the issue during the meeting.
A Question that didn’t get asked:
“And if this gas takings claim is a winnable case, then NYS will go broke paying forest owners like me who can’t sell timber due to the ash borer quarantine. Is that Reed’s plan? Or do just his friends get to sue?”
Another voice adds:
I believe that the bill (Defense of Property Rights Act) would be a good idea since it will force the landowners to finally evaluate the Marcellus Shale gas drilling performance on their property. Evaluation of thousands of gas wells in north eastern Pennsylvania using the data provided by the gas companies indicates that the Marcellus Shale drilling performance is not economically viable. The performance of gas extraction in the Southern Tier does not match that of Bradford, Susquehanna, and Wyoming Counties in Pa. The gas companies know this since they have drilled test wells. Cuomo knows this, but apparently the landowners do not know this. I asked Tom Reed if he was aware of the analysis of performance of the Marcellus Shale in Pa. and applied to NYS done by Jerry Acton and the non-partisan League of Women Voters, and he indicated that he was. So, Tom Reed is aware that there is no economic boom to drilling in the Marcellus Shale in his district.
If fracking is allowed in NYS, I would be able to use this law to sue for the loss of my property value due to the thousands of trucks driving by creating noise and pollution. Others would be able to sue for their property losses if fracking decreases their property value.
I was happy to see so many Dems there! We outnumbered the pro Tom Reed folks.