Gaming With Our Health

Prisoners dilemma

Prisoners dilemma (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

At some point in your college career one of your professors, probably a philosophy instructor but perhaps a member of the international relations department, will introduce you to the prisoners dilemma. The idea being that two suspects, each separated from the other, are given the offer to testify against their fellow. If you are the lone person to speak up you get no punishment while the other gets a severe one. If both give testimony than they both get a punishment in the middle. If neither does, they both get a very minor sentence. In the end, each wishing to avoid prison all together throws the other under the bus and they both head off to jail. This is exactly what is going on with compulsory integration in New York.

This law, written almost word for word by the Independent Oil and Gas Association, is a direct attack on the property rights of landowners across the state. It allows drilling companies to grab the mineral rights of people who do not want to see drilling on their land. When sixty percent of the landowners in a spacing unit, which defines the minimum distance between well pads, sign a lease with the company, the remaining forty percent are then forced into leases on the industry’s terms. Many get royalty agreements far below the average. Usually the only way to get a truly fair price for your land is to become a full partner, like those who signed the lease willingly, making you liable for damages in the case of an industrial or environmental disaster.

Just as the prisoners hope for the best deal for themselves landowners end up signing these leases to avoid the less favorable deal. The drilling interests use fear of being left in the cold to get people on board. It does not take much: a willing participant here, a frightened farmer there, and the next thing you know the rest are forced to accept their fate. In some cases the land men are not even shy about it, letting landowners know that their neighbors will sign leases and leave them to deal with the consequences. They bully, lie, cheat and ultimately, legally steal.

The men in the board rooms count on our complicity, on our tacit consent, on our inability to stand up for ourselves and each other. It does not have to be that way however. Spread the word, let your family, especially those in the Southern Tier know. Do not let them forget that their best weapon is being well-informed and connected to their community. Remind them that in order to keep from being pushed into a rash decision they need to organize with their neighbors to get everyone on the same page.

These slick, sick land men cannot convince you that the person a mile down the road will sign a lease if you and that person have already spoken about it. They need your ignorance, they need your unenlightened self-interest. Do not give either of those to them and do not give your health away. Wherever they go people get sick and we can no longer afford to let them rig the game in their favor.


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