MDN Weekly Update – Sept 18, 2011: Municipal Bans on Gas Drilling

Below are the results of last week’s poll on exporting shale gas to other countries. 

Poll resultsShould the U.S. allow shale gas to be exported?

Yes (54%, 119 Votes)
No (39%, 86 Votes)
Not sure (7%, 16 Votes)

Total Voters: 221

Should local municipalities have the power to ban gas drilling?

New York, as many of you know, has not allowed horizontal hydraulic fracturing (drilling for Marcellus and Utica Shale gas) to be begin. The state is in the “final” steps of issuing new drilling regulations. The best guess is that drilling will start sometime next year, likely within the first 3-6 months of 2012. In anticipation that drilling will begin, some townships in New York have decided to preemptively ban drilling within their borders. Problem is, there’s a couple of sentences in New York State law dating back to the 1980s that specifically disallows local municipalities from doing just that when it comes to the oil and gas industry. That is, state law supersedes local municipal laws, and any local law passed to ban drilling is technically illegal.

Local townships point out that they are allowed to restrict all other types of industrial business activity with zoning regulations, so oil and gas should be no different. Joe Martens, the new Commissioner of the NY Department of Environmental Conservation, the agency charged with regulating oil and gas drilling in the state, has the flippant attitude, “let the courts decide.” Now it seems they will.

Word of a new lawsuit came this week in Tompkins County. In August, the town of Dryden, NY, a rural bedroom community for Ithaca, NY, passed a law banning hydraulic fracturing. Anschutz Exploration has said they’re going to challenge it in court to have it overturned (see MDN’s coverage here). Who knows how long it will take to resolve this? Anschutz hopes it will be a slam dunk, no-brainer. Dryden hopes the court will see it their way. No matter who wins round one, there’s sure to be an appeal and this may ultimately drag out for years. Taxpayers in local municipalities will foot the bill for the legal costs—something not planned-for in their already-stretched budgets.

Pennsylvania allows more leeway with respect to local regulations. Municipalities can, in effect, ban drilling within their borders in PA.

Several municipalities in West Virginia have tried to ban gas drilling, most famously Morgantown, and have found the drilling industry giving them the cold shoulder (i.e., they take their money and jobs elsewhere). Most have reversed their previous bans, and in the case of Morgantown, a judge overturned the ban.

So MDN’s poll question this week wants to know what you think: Should local municipalities have the power to ban gas drilling? Register your vote along the right side of any page on the site.

Below are the most recent “top 5” lists and the calendar of Marcellus related events for the next two weeks.

Happy reading,
Jim Willis, Editor

Five Most Viewed Stories This Past Week (Sep 11 – Sep 17)

  1. Debunking the Myth that Fracking Causes Water Contamination (9/13/11)
  2. Ohio is Full Speed Ahead and Ready for Fracking (9/12/11)
  3. Penn Environment Lies About Flooded Drilling Rig (9/16/11)
  4. Susquehanna River Contaminated, but Not by Fracking Chemicals (9/15/11)
  5. NY Landowners Face New Threat: Floodplain Boundaries (9/14/11)

Five Most Viewed Stories Last 30 Days (Aug 18 – Sep 17)

  1. Major Discovery – Chesapeake Energy Strikes Oil (and Gas) in Ohio’s Utica Shale (7/29/11)
  2. Chesapeake, 14 Other Energy Companies Have Drilling Permits for Utica Shale in Ohio (4/18/11)
  3. List of 78 Chemicals Used in Hydraulic Fracturing Fluid in Pennsylvania (6/30/10)
  4. Fracking Creates an Oil Boom – Now More Oil than Gas Rigs (8/18/11)
  5. Noble Energy and CONSOL to Partner on Marcellus in $3.4B Deal (8/19/11)

MDN Calendar (Sep 18 – Oct 1)


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