NY Towns Ban All Drilling, Not Just Horizontal Fracking

throw baby out with bathwaterResidents who live in New York townships that can’t seem to wait to ban drilling should be aware of something. These bans are bans of all gas drilling, not just horizontal hydraulic fracturing. That’s what residents in Enfield (Tompkins County), NY found out on Wednesday at a meeting with the town attorney. The Enfield town board plans to vote to enact a one-year moratorium in late April or early May, and the moratorium is on vertical as well as horizontal gas well drilling.

Residents got answers from town attorney Guy Krogh on Wednesday evening about a proposed one-year moratorium on hydraulic fracturing and a possible outright ban.

The town board voted in February to move forward with a moratorium on the drilling process used for natural gas in the Marcellus Shale rock formation so it has time to shore up the town’s legal protections.

On Wednesday, Krogh summarized the intent of the draft legislation he authored, which used other towns’ moratoriums and bans as a model.

"It’s essentially a temporary ban on three components of the gas industry — exploration, extraction and support activities like trucking yards related to drilling — and it will last for one year," he said. "This gives the town time to put in place legislation to ensure continued vitality of town resources."

Krogh agreed with Newfield Supervisor Richard Driscoll that it’s important the town have a time line for steps to protect the town at the outset of a moratorium, so that in a year actions like adopting road-use laws could be finished.

Board member Debbie Teeter said she was upset that the moratorium would temporarily ban all gas drilling, not just hydraulic fracturing. "This is not what I expected the law to be," she said.

Krogh explained that to avoid the risk that courts will view a ban on just hydraulic fracturing as an attempt to regulate the mining industry, which is reserved for the state, the law is written to ban all oil and gas mining.

"You run a different set of risks if you attempt to ban only a certain mining process," Krogh said. "But that’s an open question that should be explored: Can we just ban hydrofracking or do you have to ban all gas wells?"*

Vertical gas well drilling in upstate New York has been going on for decades. In attempt to stop horizontal fracking, towns are now “throwing the baby out with the bath water.” Such is the mindset of environmental extremists.

*Elmira Star-Gazette (Mar 1, 2012) – Enfield addresses gas drilling ban