Horseheads, NY Still Considering a Ban on Fracking

As MDN previously reported, the Town of Horseheads (NY) continues to flirt with the idea of enacting a fracking ban (see this MDN story). What makes Horseheads different from the other 90 or so towns that have enacted bans in New York different is that it’s located in prime Marcellus and Utica Shale development territory—in Chemung County, just across the border from the super-hot drilling area of Bradford County, PA. If Horseheads does ban fracking, it would be the second such municipality in the Marcellus “zone” to do so, after the City of Binghamton in nearby Broome County.

Town Supervisor Michael Edwards floated the idea of a fracking ban at a recent Town Board meeting—and he’s still pursuing it:

"I wanted to set a moratorium, so we can check to make sure our current rules handle that," Edwards said. "All I’m doing is checking our rules and regulations on it right now. I’m not even sure the board will go the moratorium route. I want to make sure if it starts that we’ve got rules in there. I believe they are there, but I want to make sure."

Edwards said he wants to be certain current town rules prevent wells from being located too close to roads or homes.

He’s also concerned about truck traffic, especially along school bus routes.

The earliest the Town Board will vote on the issue is June, and it will probably be later in the summer, Edwards said.*

But Chemung County Executive Tom Santulli, who is pro-drilling, along with other elected officials are pushing back:

"I reminded Mike we have a county committee working on a roads agreement. We hired a consultant called Delta and made Southport the pilot town," Santulli said. "We’ll have the same program for the entire county. I hope we all have same goal. Horseheads wants more time to prepare for what’s coming. That’s what everybody wants. Let’s not forget fracking still is not permitted in New York state yet." The issue isn’t even on the radar yet in other municipalities around Chemung County, said Southport Town Supervisor David Sheen, who chairs the Rural Association of Mayors and Supervisors.

"It hasn’t come up at our meetings. There’s been no dialogue," Sheen said. "We’re pleased with the county approach. A joint task force is the way to go."*

Mr. Edwards would do well to remember the comments by DEC Commissioner Joe Martens, who recently said, in essence, if you don’t want it, you won’t get it (when it comes to drilling). That is, communities that enact bans are likely to not get permits to allow drilling, when and if it ever arrives in New York (see this MDN story).

*Binghamton (NY) Press & Sun-Bulletin (May 31, 2012) – Horseheads debates moratorium on drilling technique