Yesterday, what happened in an Albany, NY courtroom was very important for all New York landowners. Four judges from the New York State Court Appellate Division heard the appeal of one driller and one landowner against two New York towns—Dryden and Middlefield—that have voted to permanently ban fracking within their borders, exercising what they call “home rule” (see Important Developments in NY Fracking Ban Court Cases for background on the two cases). According to a 1981 state law, towns are specifically prohibited from regulating oil and gas activities. The two cases hinge on whether or not “to ban” is “to regulate.”
Lawyers for the towns argued that precedent allows them to determine land use in their borders—they’re not trying to say how drilling should be done, they’re saying whether it should be done, so that’s not regulating. Lawyers for Norse Energy (suing Dryden) and dairy farmer Jennifer Huntington (suing Middlefield) argued the ban violates state law and the land use case cited as precedent by the town’s lawyers (allowing towns to prohibit gravel mining) is vastly different from mining natural gas and oil.
How did it go? Whose arguments seemed to prevail? Depends on whom you ask…
Big, late-breaking news as we go to press: Pennsylvania Dept. of Environmental Protection Secretary, Michael Krancer, is resigning his post effective April 15. The press release announcing his resignation states Krancer will return to private law practice and offers no further explanation. This is a surprising (to us) development…
Apparently the announcement that there’s a new kid in town when it comes to “regulating” Marcellus Shale drilling—The Center for Sustainable Shale Development (CSSD)—has prompted another group to stand up and say, “Me too! Me too! Look at me!”
MDN told you about the launch of the CSSD yesterday (see Important: Drillers & Enviros Form New Group, Launch Cert Program). In today’s Pittsburgh Business Times, we learn of yet another group that until now has met in secret, attempting (like CSSD) to craft new guidelines (let’s call them what they really are, regulations) for Marcellus Shale drilling. This new group is being run by the University of Pittsburgh’s Institute on Politics and includes some of the same participants powering the CSSD as well as Gov. Corbett’s energy executive and a representative from the state DEP. They call their group the “Shale Gas Roundtable.”
Perhaps feeling as though their work may have been upstaged by the CSSD’s announcement, the Shale Gas Roundtable came out of the shadows today…
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Washington Observer-Reporter last year sued to have a sealed court case involving a settlement between Range Resources and a landowner unsealed (see Pittsburgh Newspapers Sue to Unseal Drilling Court Case). As MDN said at the time, the newspapers and anti-drillers wanted to go on a fishing expedition to see if they might find evidence that “big, bad Range” had contaminated the landowner’s water and air with fracking activities.
On Wednesday, a judge unsealed last year’s settlement decision. The newspapers and anti-drillers were disappointed. No smoking guns in the court documents—just a big payout from Range ($750,000) to settle what was essentially a case of landowners who didn’t like drilling activities going on next door…
More fallout from the launch of The Center for Sustainable Shale Development (CSSD), a new group aimed at slapping restrictive new rules on Marcellus Shale drillers (see Important: Drillers & Enviros Form New Group, Launch Cert Program). It seems MDN is not the only one to distrust the new group. On the other side of the drilling debate isle, the Sierra Club came out swinging yesterday—saying this new group will legitimize “dirty, dangerous fossil fuels, like natural gas” (they are a whacky bunch, aren’t they?).
John Hanger, former Secretary of the PA Dept. of Environmental Protection (now running for governor in PA), endorses the CSSD’s bullying approach of “get a certification from us or screw you” (our words, not his):
Apparently Karen Moreau, executive director of the New York State Petroleum Council (and a very nice, soft-spoken person—we’ve met her), has gotten under the skin of NY Gov. Ditherer (aka Andrew Cuomo). Moreau has repeatedly made public statements that it’s time for Cuomo to make up his mind about fracking. On Wednesday when asked about it, Cuomo testily fired back:
The “best of the rest” – stories that caught MDN’s eye that you may be interested in reading: