Pin It
13th Anniversary Issue - Lansing Star Online

You are reading the 13th Anniversary issue of the Lansing Star Online.  The actual anniversary is on Sunday, but we publish Fridays, so this is close enough!  I usually take the opportunity to reflect over the years in the anniversary issue, but this time I want to think about Lansing's future, and how hard it is to actually have one.

Will the natural gas moratorium hurt Lansing's growth?  Yes and no.  Aristotle reportedly said, "Nature abhors a vacuum."  So where there is land to develop, developers will be there.  But less so when obstacles are put in their path.  So, the absence of natural gas isn't a deal-breaker, but it makes development just that much less desirable for many project planners.  And it presents other obstacles as well.

Exacerbating the issue of natural gas delivery is the intense politicization of the issue.  Theoretically New York State Electric & Gas (NYSE&G) is supposed to deliver electricity and gas to customers within the area they have a monopoly in.  It's right there in their name.  Electric.  And Gas.

That seems to have gotten lost in the political quagmire in which Lansing officials such as Town Supervisor Ed LaVigne and County Legislator (Lansing) Mike Sigler say that people outside of Lansing are trying to sabotage the town's prospects for development, while reaping the benefits of unlimited natural gas themselves.  They have proposed that the moratorium be extended to the entire county, but neither surrounding towns nor the county officials, nor NYSEG has exhibited any inclination to make that happen.

To make things worse, Sigler and LaVigne have maintained that proponents of the moratorium outside of Lansing have excluded voices that disagree with their contention that natural gas is not necessary in Lansing.  The county delegation that went to Albany Wednesday included, according to Sigler,  "only people of like minds."  That also seemed to be the case when the Tompkins County Energy and Economic Development Task Force (EEDTF) held a press conference announcing its plan to support the NYSE&G proposal to build compressors to make current levels of natural gas delivery reliable, while placing a moratorium on new natural gas customers.

Whether excluding people with other opinions -- who happen to be the representatives of the one community that is impacted by the moratorium -- is the motivator or not, the way it is being handled politically certainly makes it appear to be the case.  Veiling it in the argument that on the one hand the environment needs to be protected from the threats presented by fossil fuels right now versus the argument that while that is the goal a reasonable transition (natural gas) is the only way to reach the goal without hurting people -- especially Lansing people.

Making matters worse is that NYSE&G doesn't even want to build the compressors any more, even though the low gas pressure threatens to be dangerous to Lansing school children.  County Legislator Debra Dawson noted this week that NYSE&G's modeling allows natural gas pressure to  safely go as low as 30psi, but it has recently fallen below that to about 27psi.  After determining that what NYSE&G originally thought would be a $3.956 project  will actually cost $5.1 million, it is interesting that they have now concluded that 25psi is a safe lower limit for the Lansing schools.

That's our children.  In the dead of winter.  With barely enough, if enough gas pressure to heat their schools.

In a discussion Monday at a Village of Lansing Board of Trustees meeting LaVigne was asked whether the schools have an emergency plan in case the heat gives out.  He said 'send them home' and went on to point out that presents a hardship for the children as well as working parents.

So on the one hand a monopoly who is supposed to safely provide electricity and gas to customers, and on the other hand politics and money.  I am sure that there is one person in the world who is naive enough to believe in good intentions with no ulterior motives whatsoever and that cold fusion will burst upon the scene to provide cheap, unlimited energy some time in the next five years.  It would be refreshing to know that person.  But given all of this political muck, locally, nationally, and world-wide it is not hard to understand why fantasy games have become so incredibly popular as more and more people find the need to escape the reality our world has become.

Aristotle wasn't wrong.  No matter how big a closet you have you will fill it up.  No matter how big a house you buy it will be full of stuff before long.  Fill a huge plate at an 'all you can eat' buffet and you will eat everything on it.  And where there is land to be developed it will be built upon.  So does all of this hurt Lansing really?  Well, yes.  With mainly the same people determined to close or severely wound Lansing's two biggest industries -- the power plant and the salt mine -- the tax base has been badly hurt, and individual property taxpayers have been burdened with making up the difference.  The mall lost $10 million in value.  The power plant well over $100 million.  Who pays the difference?  Hint: look in the mirror.

Here are examples related to the Milton Meadows project.  The developers were willing to accept that there is no natural gas, responding by planning to heat and cool their project with heat pumps.  But it turned out that NYSEG doesn't have the capacity to provide enough electricity to the property.  The utility signed off on upgrading their system to be able to provide the power, but it was a hoop for the developer to jump through.

Example two: waste water.  There have been many earnest but failed attempts to provide sewer to South Lansing, and while Lansing officials officially created a major new sewer district Wednesday, it will not service the town land that Milton Meadows will purchase for its project.  The developer considered building a package plant, essentially a small, private sewer treatment plant, but the capital cost of building it and ongoing maintenance costs forced them to rework the project so it will used shared septic systems.  That changed the design of the project, and may impact a possible phase two.

The lack of infrastructure and utility capacity limitations made developing this project more difficult, and that's only one project.  In a community that needs new development to make up for the lost assessed tax base as soon as possible, delaying new development that could make up the difference is not reasonable.  That is not to say we should let developers build willy-nilly whatever and wherever they want.  We have a comprehensive plan.  But is seems that there have been many developers who would have been happy to adhere to that plan if they could get sewer or gas.

Congressman Tom Reed likes to say that he may disagree with you, but let's get together and make good things happen on the things he and you do agree on.  Many of his opponents would argue he doesn't really do that, but he would argue that his co-chairing the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus with Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ) is an example of doing that.  You don't have to like Reed to love that idea.

It seems to me that whether the county folk are purposely excluding Lansing representatives who are not on the gas moratorium bandwagon is purposeful or not, those reps should be invited to the table.  In fact, like-minded folks who disagree with Sigler and LaVigne should insist they participate partly because they do have a different viewpoint (and don't those folks insist diversity is a good thing in our society?), and especially because they represent the only community that is directly impacted by this problem.

That is less pleasant than preaching to the choir, so to speak, but we don't elect leaders because it is easy. Maybe if Lansing is included in a meaningful way there will turn out to be points everyone can agree to that may lead to a more satisfactory conclusion than the train wreck we're witnessing now.  One lobbying group advocating a mutual solution will certainly be less confusing to PSC commissioners attempting to render a decision than two opposing lobbying groups from the same county.

And representatives who want to call me to complain that I have it ll wrong and it was the other side that chose to participate or not participate (you can't please allatha people allatha time) -- please just can it.  You can make it happen if you want it to.

To sum this all up in five words: Politicians have gas.  Lansing doesn't.

Well, I'm about ranted out -- now I'm going to find a gin and tonic and celebrate the 13th anniversary of the Lansing Star Online.

I like to tell people that for everybody else 'no news is good news' is true, but for a newspaper it's really, really bad.  And that for most people 'having issues' is a bad thing, but for me it's bad if I don't have issues -- one each week.

That said, it's good for the Star that all this is happening, because, well... no news is no news.  So here's to local news and the wonderful community we share.  And to another year of 'All The news From Home'.

Pin It