NY DEC Chief Says Supportive Towns More Likely to be Drilled

coin tossMDN reported earlier this week that certain key New York State senators (and others) were signaling that if/when hydraulic fracturing is allowed to go forward in the state, it may only happen in communities that support it (see this MDN story). We now have further confirmation that indeed that will likely be the case from none other than Joe Martens, the Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).

The head of the New York Department of Environmental Conservation signaled Thursday that a community’s support or opposition to hydraulic fracturing will be considered if the gas-extraction process is ultimately allowed.

DEC Commissioner Joe Martens said local land-use rules will "continue to be a consideration" in the permitting process for gas drilling. So far, 95 municipalities in New York have issued a ban or moratorium on hydrofracking, according to New Yorkers Against Fracking.

Conversely, it would be "easier" to issue a permit in a community that’s supportive of gas drilling, Martens said following a news conference.

"I think logically where there is less resistance and less opposition and there is not a local land-use plan in place, I think those will be easier to permit than in other places," Martens said. "That’s not to say that we’re going to prohibit them in other places, but it’s a consideration we have to carefully view."*

So what, exactly, constitutes “community support”? Lack of zoning against drilling? Lack of a ban? In every community there will be those who support and those who don’t. It may come down to a single vote on a town board whether or not that town votes to zone or ban drilling. If the majority of citizens in that town support it, but the town board does not, what will the DEC do then? Toss a coin?

If a relative few in a community make a fuss and grab headlines, will the DEC declare that community “unsupportive” and deny a permit? And what about the rights of property owners—the minority in this case? Will those rights simply get thrown under the “unsupportive” bus by the mob majority?

There’s a great deal for New York landowners to be concerned about with these statements by Martens and others with respect to their capricious attitude toward drilling. That is, if drilling happens at all.

*Ithaca Journal (Apr 27, 2012) – Local opposition to fracking will be considered, DEC chief says