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Massa discusses drilling, economy

BENTON—From local to international issues, freshman Congressman Eric Massa fielded questions in the Benton Town hall for an hour and a half April 16.
One of the first questions raised was about proposed drilling for gas in Marcellus Shale. Massa outlined the process in general, noting, “We need that cleaner energy, but if we continue on that path this area will be uninhabitable and well water undrinkable. To the extent we can do something, we will. Now there is no pipeline to take the gas to New York City, when the Millennium and Empire pipeline is finished there will be. Applying the Clean Water Clean Air Act is certainly within our purview. We can’t place our entire water table at risk. When water comes back up from the drilling it’s brine and full of chemicals. It’s a threat to every winery, farm, home and water supply.” Audience member Steve Coffman said, “I marvel at your independence, spunk and knowledgeability. I came to speak about Marcellus shale. It’s obvious you are on top of that.”
Wind energy has been a topic of interest in the area in recent years and this was another topic brought up. Massa said, “They must be able to produce electricity. The wind has to blow strong enough one third of the time. If it created jobs it would be good, but it doesn’t; most components are made overseas.” Massa also took issue with the amount of noise produced and the impact on wildlife. He said, “I’m not against production of electricity other than from fossil fuels. As an engineer I ask a lot of questions regarding what is feasible and not.”
The banking crisis was discussed with Massa noting, “It was one of the most highly regulated businesses in the country. We have gotten so far away from that. You can over regulate but it has swung the other way. Fundamentally poor decisions were made. I think as the year progresses banks are saying there is a need for certain regulations.”
Immigration issues have touched this area and that situation was raised. Massa said, “It incites a great emotion over a wide spectrum. The issue is very much front and center from a legislative point of view. Our agriculture system cannot exist without them. It’s not unskilled labor.” That being said, Massa said he is in favor of enforcing the law.
The North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was also discussed. Massa outlined the background of the agreement, noting, “We should have learned from the European Union regarding requirements that the participants must have the same economy, socioeconomic standards and Rule of Law.” A free trade agreement with Canada that works has been in place for years. Countries such as China do not have the same elements.
Massa’s office receives about 350 contacts a day and he outlined the process for letters. First answered are life threatening situations, second those with no job and no insurance and the third, the rest of the contacts. One person who was responsible for nearly 200 contacts to Massa’s office was Keuka Comfort Care president Bill McEvily who told the audience about the daughter of a nurse associated with the facility who was diagnosed with Stage Four cancer. Her health insurance company refused to pay for treatment unless it was provided at a New York City facility. McEvily said, “To think we live in a country where this can happen, it’s upside down. We e-mailed many officials. The only one who responded was Massa and he straightened it out. The point of my story is that we’re small people in this area. The power of people doing what they did showed we got action. Our representative really cares for us. There are dozens of others in the same position. “
Other topics during the meeting included Seneca Lake levels, Argentina’s default, the problem of pirates off the coast of Somalia and whether Massa would run for President. He responded to the last question stating, “No. My wife would walk away from me. I did not get into this to go up the ladder of politics.”
Massa said the best place to send letters is to his local offices. When letters are sent to the Washington office, they must go through an examination process to make sure they are safe. He said he tries to get everyone on the staff from this district, introducing district director Dave Marion, who is originally from Penn Yan.
Massa invited constituents to visit him in Washington, offering a private tour of the Capital at 7 a.m. Tuesday or Thursday mornings. He said, “There is nothing as reassuring as going down the steps of the Capital Rotunda when no one else is there.”

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