JLCNY In the News

July 20, 2012


Town of Sanford resident Diana Vanderbilt, who favors a local moratorium on natural gas drilling, said she was surprised to learn recently that her town board had already adopted an official stance on the issue in May.

The town's resolution, which declared a moratorium "irresponsible and premature", did not require a public hearing.

"It was just adopted with no warning and no input," she said. "The resolution gives the impression that the whole community is for the drilling, and that's not the case."

In the wake of Gov. Andrew Cuomo's recent signals that local views on fracking may carry weight in the state's decision-making process, tensions are beginning to flare along the sharp divides within some Southern Tier municipalities.

Since April, nine of Broome County's 16 town boards -- Barker, Binghamton, Coleville, Conklin, Kirkwood, Lisle, Maine, Sanford and Windsor -- have passed the same resolution, adopting identical statements as their official stances on hydraulic fracturing.

The resolution expresses support for the state Department of Environmental Conservation's review of fracking, which has been ongoing since 2008, and notes that the town board members reject the idea of banning the technique before DEC finalizes its regulations.

"We ...find pursuit of a ban or moratorium to be an irresponsible and premature misallocation of town resources ..." the resolution states. " ...We have confidence the state will develop a program that allows development of our natural gas resources to proceed in a safe, responsible, and competitive manner."

The resolution was written and distributed to town leaders by the Joint Landowners Coalition of New York after reports emerged that local opinions on natural gas drilling may be taken into account when the state begins issuing permits for wells that would be fracked.

Since April, the resolution has been approved by more than two dozen municipalities across the Southern Tier.

"We said, if that's where the (Cuomo) administration is going to go with this, we know that towns across the state are very supportive and would like to see the opportunities come to their towns," JLCNY attorney Scott Kurkoski said. "It just made perfect sense ask these towns to sign these resolutions to basically support what's happening at the state level."

Cuomo bolstered those sentiments in statements this week, stating that home rule -- the concept that local governments can control the issue within their borders -- will be "relevant," but not necessarily determinative, in the discussion of where drilling permits are issued.

"Home rule is one of the basic, essential elements of our democracy," he said on Tuesday.

However, many residents of municipalities where the resolution was passed have begun to express concerns that their voices weren't heard.

Windsor resident Scott Clarke said he was the only resident in town hall who knew what was happening when the town board approved the resolution on May 2.

"New York State has taken several years to examine the environmental ethics of this issue," he said. "Assessing the will of the people should be done with equal care."

Windsor Supervisor Randy Williams said the board followed standard procedure, posting the meeting agenda on its website prior to the meeting.

"They can cry, complain, carry on all they want about the way things were handled," Williams said. "But I would guarantee you they were handled in accordance with the law."

Clarke said he and other residents will ask the town board at tonight's meeting to rescind the resolution and put the issue to a town-wide referendum. The meeting location has been moved from the town hall to Windsor High School.

"This is far too important an issue to be decided by a resolution," he said. "This is the biggest issue this town has faced in decades."

Residents of other municipalities are concerned as well.

"If you're representing the people, the people need to weigh in," said Sanford resident Doug Vitarius.

Dan Fitzsimmons, president of the JLCNY, noted that the resolution is not a formal law -- unlike the drilling bans and moratoria that have been approved by dozens of municipalities in the state.

"Every one of these towns that have (passed the resolution) put out a statement, as they always do, of what was going to be in their town meeting," Fitzsimmons said. "Do I get a personal invitation when they're going to do a ban or a moratorium? No, I don't."

The resolution reflects a "neutral" stance toward drilling, he said, and merely states that the town is accepting DEC's leadership over the issue.

"Really all they're stating is that they don't have the ability to handle gas drilling and monitor it," Fitzsimmons said, "and they'll let the state decide."

JLCNY Calendar

No events

Recent Stories

Newsletter Signup!

Signup and stay informed.

View Past Newsletters
Joomla Extensions powered by Joobi

Stay in Touch and get updates