Town of Olive passes hydrofracking moratorium

The Ulster County town of Olive has a new law on the books: A one-year moratorium on all gas drilling activity, including the transportation of fracking waste, within town borders.

The law was approved unanimously by the town board at their regular meeting on Tuesday, May 8. Olive's moratorium was enacted a month after the town board formally declared their intention to pass a local law on gas drilling, in a resolution passed on April 10.

At just a page long, the law is brief and to the point: The moratorium applies to the "exploration, extraction, transportation, disposal and storage of shale gas, waste products from extraction of shale gas, and infrastructure supporting extraction of shale gas within the Town of Olive."

But it does have a provision for a company involved in gas drilling to get a waiver, if the company applies to the town board and puts up $10,000 in escrow:

In the event that the enforcement of this Moratorium should result in undue hardship or practical difficulties, the Town Board, in its sole discretion, may waive or vary any provision of this local law consistent with the health, safety and welfare of the community.

Town attorney Peter Graham, who drafted the law, confirmed that the moratorium is intended to apply to the trucking of waste on county and state roads in the town.

"Town laws apply to geographical areas of the town, the entire town," he said.

Several towns in New York State, in areas where the effort to drill is more intense, are currently embroiled in lawsuits over their recently-passed gas drilling bans. But Graham said he isn't worried about that prospect for Olive, because the law includes a provision for waiving the prohibition on drilling activity.

"They could apply for the Town Board to give them permission," he said. "They can get a waiver. That's all the difference in the world."

Below: The full text of the moratorium, and the resolution to pass it.

Town of Olive fracking moratorium