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Farmer fights for right to frack

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: Farmer fights for right to frack
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A lawsuit between a Cooperstown dairy farmer and the Town of Middlefield has grabbed attention across the state. Jennifer Huntington wants to allow low-volume hydrofracking on her property, a drilling technique that is accepted by the DEC. However, the town passed a law banning all heavy industry. Our Cara Thomas spoke with some local business owners and the public to get their take on the debate.

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- Jennifer Huntington knows what it's like to rely on her land for income. As the owner of Cooperstown Holstein Corporation, she's learned to be self sustaining, not only producing dairy and beef, but the cow's feed as well.

"And there's no way any of us would do anything, when I say 'us' I mean agriculture and farmers in general, would not do anything to harm their land," said Huntington.

That's why Huntington did her fair share of research when it came to a decision she made more than two years ago, when the company she was leasing a portion of her land to proposed drilling a DEC permitted low volume vertical well, a drilling technique that is not restricted under the current hydrofracking moratorium. But her plan was stifled when Middlefield banned all heavy industry.

She said, "This was an opportunity for a little added income without a lot of loss of property. Many farmers are having to sell off land for housing sites to pay taxes and pay bills and you never get that land back."

But Huntington's decision to allow drilling on her property has come with much resistance from local residents and businesses that believe hydrofracking is not in the best interest of their community.

Ellen Pope, Otsego 2000's Executive Director, said, "A large part of our economy depends on clear water, clean soil and clean air and at the advent of hydrofracking it could compromise all of those."

One business in particular is the Ommegang Brewery, only a few miles away from the farm, which says potential pollution into the water supply is a major concern.

Larry Bennett, from the Ommegang Brewery, said, "If the water is polluted and we can't clean it then our options become we truck it in, really expensive. We close, we don't want to do that, we're a successful business, or we move. I mean, those would be the options if the water was polluted."

While Huntington says their concerns are valid, she says as long as the right precautions are taken, pollution wouldn't be an issue. She says in the future, this locally harvested gas could be a cost saver for the local municipalities.

Huntington lost the first trial against the town of Middlefield back in 2011, but she says she's not done fighting yet. She'll be back in court on March 21st.

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