The New York Times reported today that the state is considering allowing industrial gas development to proceed in some parts of the state—including Broome, Chemung, Chenango, Steuben and Tioga Counties. According to the report, drilling would occur only in communities that agree to it.
Currently, more than 100 towns in New York state have enacted local bans or moratoriums on gas drilling, including the controversial process known as hydraulic fracturing or fracking—in which drillers blast millions of gallons of chemically treated water into the ground to force out gas.
Among those municipalities is the Town of Dryden, which was sued by the privately-held Anschutz Exploration Corporation after approving a change to its zoning ordinance. In February, a state Supreme Court ruled in favor of the town. Anschutz appealed the decision. The case now heads to an appellate court where the town is being represented by the nonprofit environmental law firm Earthjustice.
The following is a statement from Dryden Town Supervisor Mary Ann Sumner:
“The Town Board and residents of the Town of Dryden are encouraged that Governor Cuomo recognizes the right of communities to decide for themselves how they develop. The town of Dryden, like more than 100 other municipalities in New York, has acted on that right and implemented limits on proposed drilling.
“While recognizing local control and home rule in the DEC's gas exploration permitting process is a step in the right direction, Governor Cuomo must go one step further. Governor Cuomo must now ask the Senate and Assembly to pass Assemblywoman Lifton's bill clarifying the home rule issue. This will save communities enormous amounts of money because we will no longer need to defend ourselves from the gas industry's frivolous lawsuits.
“Furthermore, we all know that impacts from gas drilling do not end at county lines, just as they don’t end at property lines. Our town borders Tioga County, one of the counties where drilling is reportedly being considered. We intend to continue to exert our right to protect the people in our town from the impacts of nearby gas development. The people of Dryden want to preserve the special character of our town and make sure it continues to be a healthy place for generations to come.”
The following is a statement from Earthjustice Managing Attorney Deborah Goldberg:
“The Governor and state courts appear to be in agreement: localities retain their longstanding power to regulate land use, including by prohibiting industrial activities such as gas development in their communities.
“But the Governor’s reported proposal is not enough. Under no circumstances should gas development proceed in New York until we can be sure that all New Yorkers will be protected from the environmental and health impacts of fracking.”