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Does Collingswood Need to Ban Fracking?

Opponents of hydraulic fracturing asked the borough to consider formally banning the practice for the sake of sending a bigger message.

David Hodges (left) told borough commissioners why Collingswood should formally outlaw fracking. Credit: Matt Skoufalos.
David Hodges (left) told borough commissioners why Collingswood should formally outlaw fracking. Credit: Matt Skoufalos.

Collingswood borough commissioners got a local dose of national issues Monday when a small group of activists asked the body to consider a formal ban on fracking and fracking waste.

They were led by Collingswood resident and Farmers Market Director David Hodges, who presented commissioners with sample language for a formal resolution to declare such a ban.

Acknowledging that it was a token gesture, Hodges nonetheless pointed out that 27 other towns in New Jersey have taken a formal anti-fracking position.

"I’d like to find out what motivated the 27 localities to ban it if it wasn’t something they'd do either," he told commissioners.

Collingswood Mayor James Maley, who earlier in the evening had alluded to climate change as a reason to expand the 100-year-old seasonal hours of Roberts Pool, said that the issue of fracking is something for the state to decide.

“In my time we’ve never done any resolutions on issues that are at a government level that don’t affect us,” Maley said. 

"My view is not pro-, anti-," he said; "it’s simply we don’t deal in environmental regulation. It’s just not what we do.

"We catch bad guys; we pick up trash. We don’t regulate the environment. We don’t regulate mining."

Commissioner Joan Leonard said she would stand shoulder to shoulder with anti-fracking activists on a picket line, "to do anything we can to make fracking go away from the country.

"No one should be subjected to anything related to fracking," Leonard said; "it’s poison. 

"But I don’t know what our role is," she said. 

After the meeting, Celia Castellan, an organizer with Food and Water Watch of South Jersey, said that Collingswood shouldn't ban fracking because there's a necessarily a chance that it would ever come to town.

Rather, she said, enough communities going on record with a ban demonstrates a groundswell of opposition that can drive broader change.

Castellan and Hodges both pointed out that New Jersey towns like Cartaret, Elizabeth, Kearney and Deepwater are already handling fracking waste

The New Jersey of her childhood was known for being a toxic waste state, Castellan said, and she didn't want to see those days again.

As mayor of Collingswood, Maley has taken a position on national issues before.

Last year, in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, Maley signed on to a nationwide mayoral effort calling for more restrictive gun laws

He is also a signatory to Mayors for the Freedom to Marry, which advocates “to end the exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage and the protections, responsibilities, and commitment that marriage brings.”

But Maley sees the fracking issue as one above his pay grade. 

"The reason I don’t know anything about it is because it’s not in my responsibility as a commissioner in the borough of Collingswood to do it," he told Hodges during the meeting.

In the mayor's view, the borough adopting a formal resolution on fracking is distinct from him being a personal cosigner to such open letters.

Barbara Thomas August 07, 2013 at 06:39 AM
Seriously? Not my job--pass the buck? How can we not care enough to take a stand? Instead we stand apathetically by as the state fills up with toxic waste? What kind of example is that for the young people who will have to live with the mess being created?
MJT530 August 07, 2013 at 07:50 AM
What's wrong Shawn? Do you have a personal vendetta against the Mayor? Your comments seem like you do. Is it because you couldn't "save" Camden like you wanted to? You are a Camden tax payer. Do you pay taxes in Collingswood? Do you bash Camden's city council and mayor about the same issues? Joan had more to say about the fracking issue. Nothing to say about her or her comments?
Anne Carroll August 07, 2013 at 08:45 AM
Mayor Maley: Big time fail. Fracking has already poisoned many wells: people's homes cannot be sold and have completely lost their value because their water supply is poisoned. If fracking is not banned, it will eventually poison all water sources. If not stopped, it will kill us sooner than global warming. Yes, even people in Collingswood. Do you know where our water comes from? Surely you must know this but you won't take a stand. "Leave it up to the state" you say. Yours is a big time cop-out. We need our leaders to take a stand on environmental issues, and since you are our leader here in Collingswood, please educate yourself about the dangers of fracking and then take a strong stand against it. Commissioner Leonard, thank you for understanding the deadly danger posed by fracking. Now, perhaps, just perhaps, you could try to talk some sense into our mayor.
Matt Skoufalos (Editor) August 07, 2013 at 08:51 AM
Shawn, feel free to repost without the blue language. Our terms of service prohibit c*rsing.
Matt Skoufalos (Editor) August 07, 2013 at 09:18 AM
Folks, I feel there's an important technical distinction here that my initial draft doesn't appropriately define. The mayor's position more clearly is that a draft resolution would put Collingswood as a town on the record on the issue of fracking, which he described in the meeting as something the borough doesn't do on such issues. My remarks make the point that he's already personally on the record on other social issues. Does that mean that Collingswood effectively is? Formally no; by my analysis, perhaps it does, in practice. But as we're seeing a lot of reactions, it's important not to misconstrue his argument in reporting this.
Suzanne Cloud August 07, 2013 at 09:43 AM
I don't see a problem with a town having a collective voice and I believe that if a mayor, any mayor, weighs in on a national issue (like gun regulation), that choice reflects on a town, good or bad. A mayor cannot run away from issues that people in the town want addressed with excuses like it's above his pay grade or he doesn't know a thing about it. The rule is: If a significant number of people the mayor presides over feel an issue is important, it should be important to the mayor. There are many things Collingswood can do to show solidarity with the environmental movement (I brought up light pollution in an earlier article that Matt wrote) - I've always been VERY proud of what the elected officials in this town (especially Joan Leonard) have done to make us an environment-friendly town. Don't stop now. I'm fully behind the no-fracking statement.
CINZANA August 07, 2013 at 11:15 AM
But is the collective voice of the town people unanimous. Was their a vote taken from the entire town that the majority of the citizens of the town agree on an "issue". I think that towns have much more important things to deal with on the local level as opposed to taking a stand on national issues. Education, policing and local business growth should be on the forefront of the town's mayor and other elected officials. I have no opinon either way on fracking since I do not have enough information from either side to make an informed decision. I would not want my mayor or local elected to decide for me whether I agree or disagree to a national political issue.
Shawn Burke August 07, 2013 at 11:48 AM
@Matt - My apologies. @MJT530 - I have no idea who you are because you choose to hide behind a screen name instead of your real name. For starters, it's no secret that Mayor Maley is a bully, and he rules by his personal opinions and beliefs, not those of the borough residents. He enjoys supporting the non-controversial "Mayberry" side of Collingswood - he'll be at your restaurant opening, but don't expect him to engage with you on real issues that he personally opposes. As for Joan - there isn't anything to say. I don't know her true personal feelings on fracking, but her words seemed like good ole fashion posturing. As others have already stated, this administration rarely, if ever, takes up issues that they personally oppose. And as someone has already said, a government is supposed to be for the people, by the people. Politicians countrywide believe that once voted into office they have the right and power to do whatever the please. As for your ridiculous and irrelevant personal jabs about my work in Camden, etc - it's quite funny! I've been very successful in Camden. I've worked on many projects and initiatives since 2006. While nothing has come easy, I take great pride in what I've accomplished and I'm happy to look back and see the changes that I've made. I'm a Camden taxpayer, which is no secret. But I'm also a taxpayer in Collingswood. Sorry that you are misinformed/your snooping didn't turn up proof of that. Once again, I don't care what you or others like you have to say, and I don't care what you think. People like you are toxic detractors. I am part of a shrinking demographic that looks to hold local leaders and politicians accountable. To remind them that they work in the best interests of their community. But more importantly, I also belong to another small population of people: people who ACT. I contribute to my community in many ways, and I have nothing to hide. I'm proud of who I am and what I accomplish, as an individual or with others. All in all, as others have pointed out, the Mayor is very contradictory. In one sentence he explains that this issue is above his pay grade, yet he has involved himself in other controversial or statewide issues. Besides, he and his administration champion Collingswood as the "coolest/most hip" town in the area. Well guess what comes with that reputation and title? Supporting issues and concerns that are shared by the "cool" "hip" "liberal" people that make up Collingswood. Collingswood is a trendy, cool, borderline-hipster town. People and the administration need to embrace that for what it is, not cherry pick the events, issues, and people who support their version of Collingswood.
Shawn Burke August 07, 2013 at 12:01 PM
Since Matt took down my first comment, I just wanted to restate one of my original points: THIS ISSUE IS IMPORTANT AND RELEVANT TO COLLINGSWOOD. As Anne clearly pointed out, our water doesn't come from a magical watering hole where unicorns frolic freely and politicians tell the truth. No. Unfortunately, millions of people on the east coast get their drinking water from sources that are partially or wholly fed by rivers and other bodies of water in Pennsylvania and New York. I hope I don't have to paint the picture about what happens to the people "downstream", should something bad happen at the source. Unfortunately, people are more concerned with their $6 lattes and yuppie lifestyle. The poorest of poor have something in common with the dual income/yuppie population: too concerned with their position in life to care about what goes on around them. The town could be on fire, but people wouldn't care until it reached their front door. The alarms are already sounding. Is anyone listening?
Sean Andrew August 07, 2013 at 01:21 PM
@Shawn, while your points all seem reasonable, your constant attacks on others, many of whom you don't know, undermine your credibility. I was following your arguments perfectly until you began the attacks on anyone who is not like you. You feel strongly about your positions on this topic, but just because someone disagrees with you doesn't make him/her a bad person or ultimately wrong. I know little about fracking, but it seems to be an option to our dependence on foreign oil/energy. So, if we can "perfect" the fracking process and protect water and soil, might it be an answer? And, for the record, I've never paid $6 for a latte and think hipsters are a little odd. But, they probably think I'm odd too. P.S. Can we get back to talking about the important issues, like chickens??
Shawn Burke August 07, 2013 at 01:47 PM
@Sean Andrew - I must confess: I'm not a raging "Anti-fracking" person. I'm not like the people who have the lawn signs, and I must admit that fracking barely makes my top ten list of "activist concerns". Having said that, I recognize it as an important issue, and I gladly support those who hold this issue closer and more dear than I. I try not to speak on a topic unless I truly have some facts and knowledge. I've followed this issue over the years, and I'm definitely against it, so I just spoke from that angle. As for the other comments you referenced, try to understand that I'm not attacking anyone. Outside of Mayor Maley et al, who even then I try to keep my quips on point and factual, I don't attack anyone. Perhaps you mistook my disgust as an attack. I don't blame you. I may have made the same assumption, had roles been reversed. Regardless of where I live or what town I call home, I will forever be disgusted by Americans' lack of interest in important issues, politics, etc. I HOPE that we can agree on that. It drives me batty to see people so uninterested in issues, especially those that do affect them. As Matt S. pointed out in one of his comments, the Colls commissioner meetings are like a ghost town. In my opinion, that is disgraceful. One, because it implies that there are NO issues in Collingswood. Perhaps we DO live in Mayberry, and I just havent noticed. That absence of voices, as Matt also pointed out, gives the impression that "everything is okay, nothing to see here". And I'm pretty certain that Maley and company derive their "mandate" from this apparent lack of interaction. I hope this makes more sense to you. I shoot from the hip, and sometimes I put 10 holes in the wall as I aim for my target. I wont apologize for who I am, but I will try to refine the rough edges. Cheers.
MJT530 August 07, 2013 at 02:30 PM
@CINZANA – I couldn’t agree more with your posting. Well said. (And I’m okay with you hiding behind your screen name) @ Shawn – Thanks for the War & Peace version of a response to my questions. I obviously struck a nerve with my questions. You never answered my question about whether or not you have a vendetta against Mayor Maley. Your response of calling him a bully, etc. I can only assume that you do have one. (What are we in grade school here?) My QUESTION, repeat, QUESTION as to whether or not you are a Collingswood tax payer could’ve been answered with “Yes I am” and not a rant about me being misinformed/snooping for proof, and as you put it ”a toxic detractor”. Really? For asking a question Shawn? (I’m feeling bullied) My question about whether or not you bash Camden’s mayor and council went unanswered. So I will assume that you do not. I find it interesting, being you are a Camden tax payer, that you are so concerned about the fracking issue in Collingswood but not Camden. Below is an excerpt of a Philly.com article of 2/11/13 which is about the plight of Camden in which Shawn was quoted. I have included the link for the entire article as well. “Five years later, discouraged by an unsuccessful run for City Council in which he encountered what he called poor government choices and hopeless residents, Burke gave up.” I wonder if your fellow Camden taxpayers/residents appreciate being called hopeless. Is that your definition of pride in what you have accomplished in Camden? You said that Joan’s comments were “good ole posturing”. I might as well throw this out there. By your responses, it seems that you are posturing to run for commissioner in Collingwood. http://articles.philly.com/2013-02-11/news/37022119_1_poorest-city-woodland-avenue-presbyterian-church-camden-fights
Suzanne Cloud August 07, 2013 at 03:11 PM
@CINZANA I hear what you say, but I thought it would be taken as a given that to speak with a collective voice, the town would have to vote on the issue. And your responsibility would be to educate yourself on the issue so that you could vote from a well-informed place. No one should ever use the excuse that because they don't know anything about an issue, the issue should be shelved - you or the mayor.
Shawn Burke August 07, 2013 at 03:12 PM
@MJT530 - I appreciate your effort to undermine everything that I say. Reading your other comments on different posts, it appears to be par for the course. Again, it would seem as though YOU have something to prove, as you continue to quote articles and posts. For someone who is "only asking questions", you certainly have no problems pretending to know it all. Do I have a "vendetta" against Mayor Maley? Oh, MJT530...you're so dramatic! Which is funny, considering that you constantly call other posters dramatic. No, I do not have a secret cloak-and-dagger vendetta against the administration. I'm pretty sure that I've already made my position clear in previous posts. Secondly - I rarely pass off my personal opinions as fact, however, I think "bully" is a fair description of Mayor Maley. Ever step foot in a commissioner meeting? You claim to attend those meetings, so that means you have in fact witnessed the arrogant wrath of Mayor Maley on at least ONE occassion...maybe two! As for your other QUESTION - Yes, I do criticize the Camden administration. I find it funny that you make the assumption that I not only have a "vendetta" against Mayor Maley, but I don't engage or criticize the Camden administration. A strong assumption, too. As you quietly assuming that I am a person or color? Interesting, indeed... As for fracking in Camden, I find it laughable and silly that you would even make a correlation, simply based on the fact that I own property in Camden. Camden is a fiscal, political, and social MESS. It would be a tad silly to discuss fracking, even on principle, in Camden. I still stand by what I have said. Your attempt to derail or expose me (for god only knows what), seems to have failed. Yes, I referred to the majority of residents of Camden as hopeless. It's both my opinion, and a borderline fact. If you ask the average camden resident how they feel, "hopeless" is usually in their explanation. I was referencing a factual state of mind, not a jab, as you interpreted it. And finally, you think I am posturing for an election??? Are you on drugs? I never ran for office in Collingswood. I never said that I was. I never even alluded to such a run. I ran for Ward 4 City Council in Camden in 2010. I publicly and privately made it clear in 2010 that my run for office was more philosophical than anything else. Camden has deplorable voter turnout. Running for council was an amazing social experiment that taught me a great deal about the political system and the people in the city. It obviously worked, because the same politicians who were threatening me and harassing me prior to the election were the same politicians who glad-handled me after they saw me take over 20% of the votes. I upset the apple cart, and I helped shed a little light on Camden's political plight and poor voter turnout. In my mind, it was mission accomplished. Even so, that was just one chapter in my 7 years in Camden. Claudia Vargas and I are on great terms, but I am upset by her choice of words in the article. Oh, well. That's journalism. Sorry for the long post, I wanted to make sure I answered all of your "questions". I can't wait to see what you take issue with next! How exciting!
Matt Skoufalos (Editor) August 07, 2013 at 03:32 PM
Shawn, I don't think I've ever characterized meetings as a ghost town, and although they are often sparingly attended, Collingswood leaders have started streaming them live for people who don't make the room. The early part of the meeting, which featured the promotion of a fire captain, was packed, for example. While I can appreciate the passion of your opinions, I don't think it
Matt Skoufalos (Editor) August 07, 2013 at 03:33 PM
Got cut off...I don't think it's right to namecall. Please see if you can make your points without personal attacks, everyone. This is a subject worth discussing, so let's have a civil talk, please.
Joseph Russell August 07, 2013 at 03:42 PM
Contentious stuff aside, I wouldn't particularly be bothered if they voted to ban fracking. The things that are coming out about this practice are entirely frightening, and it's sickening that the dollar signs in politicians' (the ones in PA, basically) and corporate executives' eyes threaten the ruin the long-term health of an entire region.
Shawn Burke August 07, 2013 at 04:40 PM
@Matt - I apologize for using "ghost town". I was trying to paraphrase your observation that most commissioner meetings are "sparse", unless there's some special topic at hand. On another note, I would implore patch to reign-in or ban users that purposefully provoke/incite/harass other users. I may take issue with public policy or the mayor directly, but I do not start fights with other users. Defending my character and having to play a game of semantics with the likes of MJT350 is tiring and pointless. People like this just troll the blogs to start fights with other users who are trying to have honest dialogue, even if the dialogue gets heated at times. It's fine to disagree on policy or opinions, but people shouldn't have to defend their character against nameless bloggers. Blatant disrespect and baiting is so childish, and I would be grateful if patch addressed this.
Matt Skoufalos (Editor) August 07, 2013 at 04:44 PM
Agree, I spend far too much time cleaning this up. It's a general policy here that if you want to have a conversation, you should be respectful of the people you're talking to. Most of the time, Collingswood is good about remembering that the people who post here are the same ones they see out and about in town and keeping a civil tongue.
MJT530 August 07, 2013 at 08:58 PM
Agreed Matt, name calling and personal attacks are disrespectful and have no place here. If asking simple questions is construed as disrespectful, baiting, harassment, or childish I would apologize. In this case, I was NOT the party cursing, name calling, mischaracterizing your journalism and don't feel the need to apologize. If a topic can not be debated or discussed in a civil manner then the party doing the aforementioned examples should be censored. Keep up the good work Matt, it's greatly appreciated.
notworthreading August 07, 2013 at 10:08 PM
Personally, I find asking the borough to take a stand against fracking to be a meaninglessly empty gesture. We must go further. We should ask the borough to eschew the cheap natural gas that has flooded the market. We can't be hypocrites, people, and we can't stop at RESOLUTIONS when there is a REVOLUTION to be had! If collectively we must bear the burden of higher energy costs to, albeit not stop the practice of hydraulic fracturing, but at least send the natural gas to other parts of the country and world, well, at least our collective conscious will be clean even if our wallets will be lighter and our overall impact will be little to none. I want to thank the advocates for this cause for their very well-thought out plan and I ask them to push further for meaningful change not chump change.
Veritas August 12, 2013 at 11:13 AM
What the frack? I think I actually agree with the mayor on this one.
Seth August 14, 2013 at 10:31 AM
Clearly these so-called activists have too much time on their hands if they're pestering borough commissioners about this. The commissioners don't have any power over this issue, so its inappropriate for them to legislate. If the environmental activists want to make a difference, they should be working at the state level on this issue. This is just a waste of everyone's time except for Matt, for whom it provided a ready-made story.
Matt Skoufalos (Editor) August 14, 2013 at 09:20 PM
Seth, that's a bit of a reductionist attitude, especially because I'm reporting on the events of a public meeting.

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