hydraulic fracturing

Ulster County executive bans spread of frac fluid on county roads

Mike Hein announces an executive order banning the use of frac fluid by any county department. Photo courtesy of the Office of the Ulster County Executive.

Ulster County executive Mike Hein issued an executive order today to prevent the spreading of brine from hydraulic fracturing on any county-maintained roads.

The executive order bans "the purchase of any liquid waste product from hydraulic fracturing operations (fracking waste brine) or the use of such fracking brine by any part of Ulster County government." The ban does not apply to town or state roads in the county.

The frac fluid spreading ban is Hein's second executive order since taking office in 2009. Hein's first executive order, in 2010, was an official ban on nepotism in hiring for county jobs.  Read more

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Town of Olive resolves to pass drilling moratorium

Gas drillers aren't exactly clamoring to set up rigs in the Ulster County town of Olive, well north and east of the more gas-rich parts of the Marcellus Shale in New York State. But town officials are worried enough about the prospect of hydraulic fracturing that they've voted to draft a sweeping moratorium on all gas-related activity in the town.

At a town meeting on April 10, YNN reports, the town board unanimously passed a resolution to place a one-year moratorium on the exploration, extraction, disposal and storage of natural gas.

The law itself has not yet been drafted. But in a resolution (embedded below), the town board calls for a local law to be drafted that will place a moratorium not only on hydraulic fracturing, but also on "the transportation of any by-product of hydro-fracking on any roads that traverse the Town of Olive."

Route 28, a state highway that is one of the major transportation arteries in the region, runs through the town of Olive.  Read more

Olive to hold meeting on gas drilling

On Monday, April 2, the Olive town board will hold a special public meeting to discuss hydraulic fracturing and the prospect of passing local legislation to ban it in the town.

Supervisor Berndt Leifeld said that there is broad agreement on the town board that the town should take some kind of action on the issue soon. The purpose of the meeting, he said, is to discuss ideas with local residents.

"It's just to get everybody's opinion as to what they think should be in it, and then we'll draw something up," he said.

Leifeld also said that at the most recent monthly meeting of the Ulster County Association of Town Supervisors, on March 20, he asked Ulster County executive Mike Hein if the county would consider drafting model legislation to ban gas drilling that any town in the county could adopt.

"I made a suggestion that the county come up with a model resolution so that the towns could all be on the same page," Leifeld said. "He seemed to be in favor -- he kind of was in favor of the fact that we should all be talking about it."  Read more

Otsego County planning department weighs in against Milford drilling ban

Earlier this week, we reported that the Delaware County Planning Board is seeking to prevent a proposed gas ban in the town of Sidney from being enacted.

The Daily Star reports that another local conflict between a town and a county planning department is unfolding in the Otsego County town of Milford.

The Otsego County Planning Department told town officials that their proposed gas drilling ban conflicts with the town's own comprehensive plan:

When Milford sent its paperwork on the proposed drilling ban for review, the planning department noticed that the document was at odds with what the agency believed was the town's comprehensive plan, Otsego County Planner Terry Bliss said.

"The thing that troubled us was that the comprehensive plan was open-minded towards heavy industry, and the law before us was not consistent with that," Bliss said.  Read more

Delaware County Planning Board seeks to squash local gas moratoriums

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So far, the "home rule" legal debate over whether towns have the authority to ban gas drilling has focused on two levels of government: The town and the state.

But county governments are increasingly concerned with the issue. A standoff between Delaware County and the town of Sidney is raising questions about how much authority counties have over gas drilling and over the local bans more and more New York State towns are seeking to pass.

On March 7, the Delaware County Planning Board voted to recommend disapproval of a local gas drilling moratorium from the town of Sidney, which has not been passed by the town and is still in its draft form. In a letter to the town (embedded below) the planning board cited four reasons for disapproval, writing that the law was not timely, was "cumbersome and difficult to read or understand," would have negative regional economic impacts, and could impose costs on town taxpayers.

The planning board also wrote that Sidney cannot pass the moratorium without a supermajority, or at least four votes from the town council.  Read more

Delaware County to NYC: We want $81.3 billion for gas rights

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Above: Mike Myers as Dr. Evil in "Austin Powers," demanding one million dollars -- no, scratch that, 100 billion dollars -- from the governments of the world.

$81.3 billion. That's how much Delaware County officials are demanding in reparations for the loss of potential revenue from gas leasing, if a ban on drilling in and around the New York City watershed holds.

If that sounds like a shocking number, it's supposed to, says Dean Frazier, the county's commissioner on watershed affairs. Delaware County officials know full well the city isn't going to pay up.

"Let's be realistic. The city of New York is not going to capitulate to $80 billion," said Frazier. "The point was to show that there's a large impact."

On Feb. 22, the county Board of Supervisors passed a resolution demanding that New York State and New York City pay out $81.3 billion over 60 years to Delaware County landowners in exchange for their mineral rights. The resolution, which passed 12-4, is embedded below.  Read more

Big Fracas uses music, clever wordplay, to grab attention

Some people sign petitions, stage protests, write congress, when they're unhappy about something. Big Fracas Productions has chosen the time-honored tradition of using music to gather attention and support for their anti-hydraulic-fracturing position (Get it? Fracking?  Fracas?).  The Oneonta Theatre will host the event, which is scheduled for this Friday; doors open at 7 pm.  Area musicians from towns at risk for fracking are donating their time to make the event happen, and representatives from antifracking groups will be on hand for information sessions before the musicians, including Diane Ducey and Measured Mile, The Mountebank Brothers, Little Slice and The Good Things, and Hagalicious With Sage, take the stage at 8. For more information, see the listing in our calendar. -- Andrea Girolamo

 

Home rule prevails again: Middlefield's gas drilling ban upheld in court

The legality of town bans on gas drilling in New York State is being tested in court -- and so far, the bans are holding up. Today, a state judge upheld a gas drilling ban in the Otsego County town of Middlefield, which was challenged by a local dairy farming company.

The New York Times reports:

...an acting State Supreme Court justice, Donald F. Cerio Jr., found that New York law did not prohibit municipalities from enacting legislation pertaining to land use. He said that while the state had regulatory powers over “the method and manner of drilling and the like” so that the gas industry operated under uniform standards statewide, local governments could decide whether they wanted drilling at all.  Read more

Dryden's drilling ban holds water in court (so far)

Yesterday, advocates of town "home rule" won a key legal battle in the ongoing statewide debate about hydraulic fracturing. A Tompkins County state Supreme Court judge ruled that a gas drilling ban passed by the town of Dryden could stand.

Jon Campbell, a Gannett reporter who has been following the gas drilling issue closely, has the story, along with the full text of judge Phillip Rumsey's decision.

Campbell writes that Rumsey based his decision on older case law involving mining:

Judge Phillip Rumsey found that a clause in the state’s oil and gas law that gives regulatory power to the state does not prohibit municipalities from banning gas drilling or using its zoning laws to prohibit it. He cited case law that allowed a town to issue zoning regulations for the mining industry, and said the “supercedure clauses” in the state laws governing the mining and gas industries serve the same purpose.  Read more

Delaware County IDA chief calls watershed drilling ban "property rights theft"

Map of area showing a proposed ban on gas drilling in or near NYC watershed land and infrastructure.

Above: A map of areas that the New York City Department of Environmental Protection is seeking to place off-limits to gas drilling, in upcoming regulations by the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

Last week's member email from the Delaware County Chamber of Commerce included a link to a fiery op-ed from Jim Thomson, who chairs the county's Industrial Development Agency.  Read more


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