How the fracking boom changes small rural towns


The story of Oxford Village and the Town of Oxford is repeated across America’s rural communities.  See also the Page “Fracking: Environmental Battle of this Generation”

The following brief (Feb. 11 2013) excerpt from a discussion of the dilemma by John McChesney and Ann Noble (on “Talk of the Nation”) summarizes the dilemma shared among rural communities everywhere that hydrofracking can occur:

John McChesney, former director of the Rural West Initiative, Bill Lane Center for the American West, Stanford University

Ann Chambers Noble, historian and longtime resident of Pinedale, Wyo.

Wyoming, Colorado and North Dakota Boomtowns

The discovery of oil and natural gas in Wyoming, Colorado and North Dakota has created a new generation of boomtowns. The explosive growth generated by the oil and gas drilling is often accompanied by an influx of new labor. The small towns near the fields wrestle to balance the economic advantages of the boom with the dramatic changes it brings to these tight-knit communities.


There’s a new generation of boom towns across the American West sparked by the explosive growth of oil and natural gas. When these industries move in, small towns near the fields change almost overnight. Once-sleepy main streets suddenly boast improved schools, libraries and community centers. Quiet rural airports expand to take corporate jets. Restaurants and motels and hardware stores all thrive.

But the infusion of cash doesn’t come without complications. Outsiders double or triple the population. Service industries include prostitution and drugs. The air and water can suffer. And then what happens when the wells run dry?

Oxford, NY: Two Competing Visions of a Village and Town

 For centuries, Oxford has been an emblem of peaceful, rural America. Imagine a Norman Rockwell illustration of a picturesque small town.  A 1950s soda fountain luncheonette sits on the corner beside a tidy town square and bandstand.  The Victorian brick former bank building, now the town hall, overlooks a bridge that straddles the Chenango River and links the village square with churches, the fire station,  the library and homes dating to the Revolutionary War.

 But drive through the countryside — pastures, cornfields and forests, centuries-old graveyards, streams, farmhouses and barns — and you can’t miss the way those two signs compete relentlessly for your attention:


 Those two slogans represent fighting words, declarations meant to disturb the serenity of country lanes.

They represent two competing visions of Oxford Village, which now prohibits fracking, and Oxford Town, which neither prohibits nor welcomes fracking. 

 You’ll spot them throughout the Town, tacked on tree trunks like No Trespassing signs. 

You’ll notice more posters than chrysanthemums.

 Some invoke patriotism: “Drill A Gas Well and Bring a Soldier Home.” As if in reply, bumper stickers proclaim: “No Drill, No Spill!”

 The signs symbolize the fiercely opposing visions of the future — slogans that pit neighbor against neighbor.  


Oxford is a dot on the map  between Cooperstown’s Baseball Hall of Fame and Binghamton’s shopping malls, a few miles from the Pennsylvania border. We’re four hours drive from New York City, and an hour or so from the Finger Lakes, wine country, and Ithaca, home of Cornell University.

 But the Town of Oxford symbolizes the issues surrounding what is happening all across the United States — Texas, Arkansas, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Ohio — and in British Columbia, Canada, where the largest gas drilling operation in the world has completely converted the landscape into a vast industrial site.

 Many Oxford Town residents treasure our farm land; our pure, well-fed drinking water, our lakes, our trout streams and rivers, our springs and aquifers; and our fresh country air.

 For centuries we’ve taken all of these natural gifts for granted.

 But no more!

 That’s because we’re located in Chenango County, one of five economically distressed counties in New York’s Southern Tier — a region which sits above the Marcellus Shale — a methane gas-rich deposit of rock extending west to Ohio and south to Tennessee.  in 2012Governor Andrew Cuomo has declared Chenango a target for fracking, and Chesapeake and Norse energy corporations hold gas leases on 68% of the land in the Town of Oxford.  Chesapeake is $19 billion in debt and Norse is bankrupt.

 New York State’s Department of Environmental Conservation will decide this year whether to allow fracking.

 Our Mission

 Our long-range mission focuses upon the urgent need for Oxford Village and Town to develop a comprehensive plan for Oxford.

We Oxford Visionaries are convinced that Oxford does not need fracking to improve the local economy or create temporary jobs for transient workers.  Oxford needs modernized, revitalized exemplary, visionary goals and objectives capable of serving as a model for other communities.

Oxford’s Plan must address critically important twenty-first century priorities — education, employment, business and industry, the economy, and the environment  that will affect the quality of life for the remainder of this decade and far beyond.


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