The Real Story Behind Binghamton’s Fracking Ban

MDN recently covered the vote to enact a two-year moratorium on hydraulic fracturing in the City of Binghamton (see MDN stories here). It took some time, but we finally received a copy of the actual legislation that was enacted. The legislation is embedded below, along with all of the associated paperwork that goes with it.

Tom Shepstone, head of Energy in Depth’s Northeast Marcellus Initiative, was also at the Binghamton City Council public hearing and the vote that followed. Tom has written an excellent article titled, “Pulling the Curtain Back on the Binghamton Ban Vote.” MDN recommends you read it for a proper understanding of just what went on behind the scenes.

Among Tom’s points:

  • The New York State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA), requires a Full Environmental Assessment Form (EAF) be filed when allowable uses in zoning in any district change. It’s called a Type I action under SEQRA law. There is no doubt entire classes of uses in zoning were affected by the new law banning fracking, yet Binghamton’s SEQRA declaration says there is no substantial affects throughout the city and instead of properly filing as Type I, they instead ticked the box “Unlisted” on their SEQRA statement, stating there are no material affects throughout the city. That is, they improperly skirted New York State law in their haste to pass the ban.
  • Under Section 239 of the New York State General Municipal Law, the city is required to submit their proposed legislation to the county (Broome County in this case), so the county can do it’s own review prior to the new legislation being adopted. That didn’t happen.
  • The Binghamton fracking ban was written by Helen and Davis Slottje, lawyers for the Park Foundation-funded Community Environmental Defense Council (CEDC). The Slottje’s and the CEDC target municipalities where they can get bans enacted that are otherwise meaningless (no one will ever try to drill inside of Binghamton, everyone knows it). Why go for “empty” wins like Binghamton? So they can build momentum to go after other municipalities, like townships, where it will matter.

Tom’s conclusion:

Where does this leave things? Well, about where they were, except the Binghamton City Council and Mayor Ryan (contrary to Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings, who wisely vetoed a ban) have now managed to tell an industry using their hotels, hiring their residents and supporting their community causes to, quite simply, drop dead.  It won’t affect the industry inself in any real, meaningful way — but it could have serious repercussions on Binghamton. Meanwhile it suffers and Williamsport revives.*

*Energy in Depth NMI (Dec 26, 2011) – Pulling the Curtain Back on the Binghamton Ban Vote