City of Binghamton Gets Sued Over Fracking Ban

Matt RyanBinghamton Mayor Matt Ryan’s folly, a symbolic ban on hydraulic fracturing within the city, has now come back to bite him in the rear end. His folly will cost Binghamton City taxpayers a lot of money as the city has now been sued over their illegal ban, passed at the eleventh hour last December before Ryan was about to lose a majority of support from the Binghamton City Council in January (voters tossing out some of the all-Democrat council members in the last election).

The Binghamton law firm Hinman, Howard & Kattell filed a lawsuit on Wednesday in state Supreme Court on behalf of five plaintiffs to overturn the Binghamton ban.

According to the lawsuit filed Wednesday, New York State municipal law requires local governments to ask for an opinion from the county before enacting any zoning or land use law that may have an impact within 500 feet of the municipal boundary.

However, the city did not refer the law to the Broome County Department of Planning and Economic Development for an opinion prior to enacting it.

"This mayor has always talked about transparency and public participation," Kamlet said. "But this is kind of like a stick in the eye of folks outside the city who have the same rights the city does, and should have had an opportunity to be involved in the process."

"Although there may be 90 to 100 localities around the state that have passed gas drilling bans or moratoria, the City of Binghamton is really the first one in the midst of the productive Marcellus Shale area," Kamlet said. "The actions by the others are kind of sour grapes."

If Broome County planning department reviews the moratorium and rules against it, it would then take a supermajority vote within Binghamton City Council — five of its seven members — to keep it in effect.

Five new members were elected to Binghamton City Council in January 2012, drastically altering the political complexion of the body that approved the moratorium in the first place.

Binghamton spokesman Andrew Block said on Wednesday the city has no comment on the lawsuit "per city policy to refrain from commenting on pending litigation."*

The legal wrangling will center on whether or not the city’s ban was a land use law or a police action meant to protect the city’s drinking water supply. Ryan and company will have to prove the ban was a police action and not a land use law—a very dicey proposition and not one that’s likely to hold up in court. Meanwhile, the legal bills will start piling up for city taxpayers. Thanks Matt!

*Binghamton (NY) Press & Sun-Bulletin (May 31, 2012) – Landowners go to court over Binghamton drilling ban