There is general feeling in air that the American Dream is a thing of the past, unattainable due to an economy riddled with stagnation and strangling regulations. Environmentalists have striven to produce this nightmare in their relentless aim to handicap all industrial progress in this country that might have any element of risk to a “clean” environmental way of life. They want you to give up the dream. I am here to share with you that the story of America as the Land of Opportunity is still alive, but is at stake.
The Empire State Divide is a documentary film produced by my mother that uncovers the human tragedy created in Upstate NY by the environmentalist NIMBY movement. This movement claimed success in the Hudson River Valley, where my mother grew up on our family mushroom farm. In the 1990s, the green movement dismantled and eradicated the thriving cement plant industry because of the unappealing look of industrial “inconveniences” among the scenic Catskills. This movement pushed many people whose lifeblood was the cement industry out of the area. These cement plants were what gave my family its start in America. My great grandfather found opportunity there when he immigrated to America from Croatia, as did many of the Croatian immigrants who settled near the Catskills. This industry provided a sustainable income for many. The industry allowed him to work hard and save up enough money to buy his first parcel of land and eventually be one of the 40 established mushroom farms in the area. He handed the business down to my grandfather, Frank Bulich, who turned the farm into a successful business with the purchase of a new steam-generating technology he found in Pennsylvania. This new technology is what brought prosperity to my family. I have personally been able to save money with the opportunity given to me by selling my family’s mushrooms at farmers markets throughout NYS. My uncles now run Bulich Mushroom Company, the only mushroom farm left standing in NY after the environmental ambush pushed out many farmers who also relied on their cement plant jobs.
Today, a revolution in drilling technology, known as hydraulic fracturing, has made possible the extraction of huge quantities of natural gas in the Marcellus Shale formation beneath New York, but the environmental movement is trying to choke the opportunities that the return of industry would promise to the impoverished. Unfortunately, the greens have met with success: There is now a ban on hydraulic fracturing in the State.
In the documentary, you will hear the personal stories of hope lost by local property owners and farmers who stand to benefit by leasing their land to gas companies if the moratorium was lifted. Julie Lewis, a mother of 5 who has 3 jobs, has been attacked on both ends: her taxes doubled due to speculation of shale gas development, but with the ban in place, she cannot tap into the gas reserves. Her tax payments now exceed her mortgage payments. Hank Ferris is a farmer who, like most farmers, only hope to pass the opportunity to farm down to the children. He had to shut down operations due to the poor economy and is now employed by the gas companies, trucking water to Pennsylvania that is used in the process of fracking.
Enter the anti-industry hypocrite: James Northrup, a former profiteer of the Texas oil and gas industry who now tours NY to warn how hydraulic fracturing will not only drive out clean energy, but will also drive out “good people.” This man who has made his lifestyle secure and comfortable through oil and gas owns a summer home in Cooperstown, NY. This attitude is the spreading threat to the American Dream that is plaguing small towns all around this country.
The documentary then brings us across the state line to northern Pennsylvania, a state that also shares the Marcellus Shale. This state has no ban on the new fracking technology and their unemployment rate has been cut in half. Young men hired to work on the drilling rigs are now able to pay off their college debt at a rapid pace. Farmers are able to lease their land to gas companies and invest that capital into preserving the “family” in the “family farm.” This improved technology has provided not only jobs and security, but the resurgence of hope in the American Dream. The Empire State Divide will officially be released on Monday, January 23, 2012 on The Foundation for Land and Liberty website.