Gas Industry Lawsuit Drills Into New York Fracking Opponents

| September 29, 2011 6:00 AM video

State Sen. James Seward. Seward is co-sponsoring a bill which would give communities the right to veto plans for fracking. Photo courtesy of nysenate.gov.

On Sept. 28, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) released its formalized draft regulations for hydraulic fracking in the Marcellus Shale.

Since the Department released a preliminary draft of these rules in July, towns across the state have been passing bans on fracking, the controversial drilling method that involves injecting a mixture of water and chemicals deep into the Earth’s surface in order to extract natural gas.

In opposition to a state law, many municipalities in New York State have passed local laws banning fracking, according to the environmental advocacy group Food and Water Watch.

Now the gas industry has filed a lawsuit against one town.

Fracking has the possibility of creating large amounts of wealth for towns across New York state, but its opponents say it also carries the risk of socially and environmentally ruinous, or at least landscape-altering, industrialization. Despite the potential for profit, many towns believe the risks of fracking outweigh the pros, leading to the local laws banning fracking.


The Capitol Report’s Susan Arbetter looks at a gas company’s lawsuit against the town of Dryden, New York. Video courtesy of WCNY.

The problem is that these local bans violate the DEC’s mining law, which denies municipalities the ability to regulate state industry laws, according to Susan Arbetter of Capitol Report. The towns know full well that they’re violating a state law, but the local bans are essentially protest laws. On Sept. 16, the gas industry fought back.

Denver based oil and gas company Anschutz Explorations sued the upstate New York town of Dryden in a County Supreme Court.

“We picked Dryden because Anschutz has 22,000 acres under lease in the town, so they were directly affected by the ban,” Tom West, attorney for Anschultz Explorations, told Arbetter in an interview.

According to West, the fracking process can only work efficiently and be as environmentally sustainable as possible if the regulations on fracking are the same for every town in the state.

Since New York State passed a ban on fracking three years ago, giving the Department of Environmental Conservation time to explore its environmental impact, the drilling practice has become increasingly bigger news. A Siena poll released on Sept. 27 shows that nearly half of New Yorkers are paying attention to the issue, and that a slightly higher percentage of voters are more inclined to trust fracking’s opponents than its proponents.

Map showing the where frackable shale is (located in pink), and legal status of the towns that have passed bans against fracking. Map courtesy of Food and Water Watch.

A public comment period, which was extended until Dec. 12, will give New Yorkers a chance to voice their opinions about the new drilling regulations, which opponents like the Natural Resources Defense Council say don’t do enough to protect the environment, reported WNYC.

Because many New Yorkers are wary of fracking, and many towns simply don’t want heavy industry moving into their communities, State Sen. James Seward (R) is co-sponsoring a home rule bill that lets individual communities veto state fracking regulations.

“The state clearly regulates gas drilling — certainly local government don’t have that ability. But communities should be representative of what their local citizens say about what the character should look like,” Seward told Arbetter.

Seward’s bill has fracking supporters worried that too much regulation will cause has companies to shy away from New York in favor of less-regulated states like Ohio. As for Dryden, arguments are scheduled for Nov. 4 in the Tomkins County Supreme Court.

Once the public comment period ends in December, the DEC will create a final regulations plan for fracking. When they finish, the plan will go to the New York State Assembly, which will decide whether to pass it and allow fracking in the state.

  • John G. Vett III

    No fracking in New York State!

  • jeanne d. shaw

    Looks like citizens need to start Occupying their own home towns to keep Gas Fracking out. Only the state can ban it for good. The state had better do just that. We do not have the water to waste on anything like this. Ban Fracking, close Nuclear Plants, and support clean, renewable, sustainable Wind, Solar, Hydroelectric, and Geothermal energy instead. Why can’t New York State become a leader in this endeavor?

    • http://www.facebook.com/randa.morris.3 Randa Morris

      You apparently only own the surface of your own land. Wouldn’t matter  anyways, as recent evidence suggests that natural gas and fracking fluid stored underground can travel for miles undetected. See the sky is pink. It’s not it’s blue. Don’t drink the water.

  • franz

    It looks inevitable. The only way to stop this is to make them carry the real economic burden. Drillers must be made to pay ALL costs associated with their activities. An enviromental remidation fund equal to 30% of the gross revenues. Permit costs equal to bringing every local residents property tax bill in line with the loss of value fracking will result in. If you have fracking on your land the property tax on YOUR land should equal the value of the take out. If gas companies take out $6 million in gas thats your assessment. That might slow this down. With global warming coming much much faster than predicted NY state could be a haven with its water and climate but not if we allow greed to kill the environment.

    • http://www.facebook.com/randa.morris.3 Randa Morris

      The only way to stop it is to stop it- totally. People have to realize that this is a life or death struggle. This is a battle for our water supply. If they get that, we are doomed. Already far too many people have lost their water, and now depend on the gas and oil industry to provide it for them. Think about the implications. The target is the Great lakes- one fifth of the worlds water supply and 95 percent of the fresh water supply in the United States. The effort to get their hands on this part of the country, here and in Canada as well, is massive. We have to beat them back right now. Michigan is about to hand over all state land- 5.3 million acres. Wake up-this is life or death right now.

  • Pandra

    Water makes life possible. Poison the water and you poison people’s lives and long term livelihoods. What is the long term economic impact of poisoning the watershed?

  • jeff

    Why does the paranoid left not think that frackers would be responsible enough to care for the environment while extracting the earth’s plentiful bounties. I’m sick of them, and the media, painting the picture of Pittsburg in the 1970’s, with the intention of villification for every endeavor entrepeneurs pursue. Why don’t they state all the facts: what is the percentage of improperly drilled and secured wells compared to the percentage of properly drilled and secured wells? The fact is, capitalism works, and is the only system that can work in a Democracy, and there is no shame in using the resources that the earth provides. Those days are gone when companies don’t consider their environmental impact; a properly installed well is more profitable anyway, so why would you left wing FUCKs think we wouldn’t do the right thing. Lose the negative vibes and and be part of the solutions, not the problems.

    • http://www.facebook.com/randa.morris.3 Randa Morris

      Sorry Jeff,  the sky is not pink. Leaked documents prove that they have known all along and did not give a hoot. Sorry if the water supply and the earth and the air are more important to some people than the bs jobs and made up “facts” shoved down our throats. Depending on the age of the well, more than 7 percent for brand new wells, and up to 45 percent for older ones. And that’s just from the facts we’ve been allowed to uncover- facts that you ough to be more concerned about yourself, if you are human and live on planet earth. Now, please explain to me how you believe that it is perfectly safe to inject chemicals into the earth, when YOU don’t even know what they are? There is NO WAY that “logic” holds either water, or fracking fluid. Ten years down the road, will you even give a frack to learn how many kids died, how many people lost their homes, how many rivers and streams and lakes were totally contaminated- forever- because you believed the gas industry had everyones best interest at heart? Capitalism works? Where? When? For who? If the companies are so concerned about the environmental impact, why were they willing to spend billions to get rid of regulations? Why are there already more 3,300 documented cases of violations? Why, above all other things, are there water tanks in so many peoples yards, courtesy of your friendly neighborhood gas company- just sign this gag order and we’ll hook you right up. Wake up Jeff- we have massive problems right now. The entire water supply of this country is threatened by this industry- and oops, sorry about that, isn’t going to help anyone after it is contaminated.

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