Binghamton Fracking Ban Will Stay; The Real Impact

Homer Simpson Woo HooIt now looks as though the fracking ban in Binghamton, NY will stay in place for the next two years. Binghamton City Council voted to pass the legislation Wednesday night (see MDN’s coverage here). Yesterday, Binghamton Mayor Matt Ryan signed the legislation into law. Interviews with several of the incoming new Council members, including Republicans, show there is no appetite to attempt a repeal of the new law.

The ban is unlikely to face serious opposition from an incoming Binghamton City Council that will include five new members next year, and only two returning incumbents.

Any modification or repeal of the local law by city council could be vetoed by Ryan, and it would take the consent of six of the seven council members to override his veto.

Incoming Republican Chris Papastrat expressed concern the ban might make the city appear unfriendly to the gas industry, but said he would put his focus elsewhere when he takes office.

"Things my constituents talk about are street lights, the streets themselves, crime and economic growth," he said. "Those are the things that we’re going to try to concentrate on rather than things that are symbolic."

The two city council members who will retain their seats in 2012 — Teri Rennia, D-3rd District, and Lea Webb, 4th District — both voted in favor of the ban Wednesday night.

Incoming council members John Matzo, a Republican, and William Berg, a Democrat, both said they had more research to do before forming opinions on the drilling ban.

Neither Papastrat nor Matzo said action related to the ban would be on the top of their list upon taking office.

"It’s kind of a back-burner type of thing," Matzo said. "There’s still people that aren’t back in their homes yet (following the flood)."*

As MDN previously reported, Councilman Martin Gerchman, who voted against the ban, said that at least one other council member inferred he knew a majority of residents were against the ban but felt it was OK to vote for it (that is, it’s OK to govern against their will) because he felt it was “right.” MDN believes Mayor Ryan also knew a majority of Binghamton residents do not support the legislation and therefore had to ram it through before losing support from an all-Democrat City Council. He as much as admitted it to the local newspaper:

The composition of the city council, Ryan said in an interview afterward, was "one of the reasons I wanted to get it done before the end of the year."*

Looks like the only way the ban will end will is to wait for the two years to expire, or for a lawsuit to overturn it. No one actually wants to drill in Binghamton, making a lawsuit unlikely. The ban is nothing more than a political statement on the part of Democrat Mayor Matt Ryan and the all-Democrat City Council. So it’s likely the ban will remain in place for the next two years.

The real consequence and impact of this ban will be when drilling finally begins in New York—perhaps in 2012, certainly by 2013. At that point, look for drilling companies and those who support them to avoid doing business in Binghamton. Way to go Matt. You’re a real genius. Woo hoo.

*Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin (Dec 23, 2011) – Binghamton mayor signs law banning gas drilling