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Environmental meeting attracts local political group

Published August 13. 2010 05:00PM

The Tea Party's political stance on the environment is portrayed nationally as being pro-business over environmental protection. For proof look no further than the apologies issued by the majority of Congressional Republicans to BP Oil in the wake of the Administrations attempt to impose greater responsibility for the Gulf Coast oil spill on the company. However, the complexity of the rising conservative movement, in which many independent chapters pursue different agendas, was put on display during the Kidder Township Environmental Advisory Committee's regularly scheduled meeting August 11th.

Attending the meeting was a delegation from the Carbon County Constitutionalists, a conservative group aiming to restore legal fidelity to the Constitution. Their purpose for attending the meeting was to learn and voice their concerns about the issue of shale drilling, which has preoccupied the Kidder EAC in recent months.

After quickly running through a number of smaller issues, the EAC began discussion about the drilling operations, which are kicking into high gear across the state. "Tonight's main topic is of course Marcellus shale," said Frank Gilotti, president of the Kidder EAC. At present, drilling for shale, which extends in an unbroken band from southern New York through Maryland, is occurring mostly north of Wilkes-Barre, in the northern tier.

The goal of the Kidder EAC is to investigate ordinances already in place in other areas and, based off them, create new ordinances for Kidder township that would offer the township a degree of protection from the harmful effects of drilling operations. "We have to try and get ahead of the flood by building before the rain starts coming," said EAC member Bob Dobosh.

Members of the Carbon County Constitutionalists, lead by Gene Duffy, expressed disbelief at the state of affairs, which allow drilling to happen in the form that it is. The Constitutionalists, who are also pursuing a project of restoring power to county sheriffs, viewed the issue through the lens of impact on individual property rights and environmental impact. "We have to take a stand," said Duffy, "how is it possible that a corporation has more rights than an individual?"

Members of the Constitutionalists also expressed concern about the impact of polluted water and air on property values in the area. "I'm not against drilling," said one member, "but I am against polluting water."

An interesting example of the differing approaches to politics and local government was displayed by the interaction of the two groups during the course of the meeting. Duffy and the Constitutionalists used the issue to forward their belief in the necessity of adherence to the Constitution and the power of the county sheriff. "We need to get the sheriff out there with warrants," Duffy said at one point.

The Kidder EAC took a more narrow view of the issue. "You guys are looking at this through the very broad lens of the goals of your group," said Dobosh, "but we as an organization cannot do that. We have a mandate that specifies what we can do and we have to act within that. All we are allowed to do is make recommendations about changes to Kidder township ordinances to the Board of Supervisors through the Planning Committee. As an organization, that is the only way we have to help residents and its what we're going to do."

Both groups expressed admiration for the other. "Individually we might agree with you," said Hank George of the EAC, "but we have to act a certain way as a group. But we need you to do what you do as a different kind of group." Duffy said that for their part the Constitutionalists would stand behind the EAC in their efforts. He also invited members of the EAC to come as private citizens to the County Commisions weekly Thursday morning meetings, which the Constitutionalists often attend.

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