Public issues are important emerging matters that involve multiple and sometimes conflicting interests; they often have widespread consequences. Cornell Cooperative Extension has long been recognized as a reputable source of sound information. CCE capitalizes on strong relationships with multiple stakeholders, and on a wide range of both campus and community-based resources. It presents programs which increase the level of public knowledge, thus enhancing effective citizen participation in decision-making processes. According to Rod Howe, assistant director of Cornell Cooperative Extension, “When concerned parties are proactively engaged in education and dialogue, they are better prepared to anticipate, shape, and respond to changes and the more likely it is that negative impacts will be minimized and positive aspects realized.”
Natural gas development in the Marcellus Shale region of New York State provides an example of an emerging issue in which CCE has played an important public education role. Over the past year, a group of Cornell faculty and Extension staff led by Dr. Howe has been working to ensure that all people potentially affected by natural gas development are provided equal access to relevant information, as well as the opportunity to participate in civil dialogue on both the gas development process itself, and on its potential impacts on communities.
To accomplish this, CCE maintains an online Natural Gas Development Resource Center (http://gasleasing.cce.cornell.edu) and over the summer conducted a series of public information meetings in communities across the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes regions.
On November 30, 2009, in collaboration with a number of local and statewide partners, CCE hosted the NY Marcellus Shale Natural Gas Summit: Challenges and Opportunities in Owego, NY. Over 340 land owners, local government officials, and interested citizens participated in the day-long event which was designed to address two key questions: Where do communities go from here to address the myriad issues associated with gas drilling? What strategies can be implemented to protect the environment and help the regional economy?
Cornell faculty, Extension educators and other professionals presented workshops on the following topics: geology of the shale; NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation’s draft supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (sGEIS); issues affecting local municipalities such as infrastructure, revenues, property values; environmental impacts, workforce development and the national energy policy. The summit closed with a panel discussion of future strategies with perspectives representing municipalities, landowner coalitions, environmental groups, industry, educators and researchers.
If you would like more information on this public issue, visit the Natural Gas Development Resource Center http://gasleasing.cce.cornell.edu. .