Fracking: It’s in Your Hands

watching a well leakLast week Home Rule was upheld in New York Appellate Court. The fracking bans in the towns of Dryden and Middlefield were found to be legal. Both those for and against fracking see positives in this.

Those AGAINST are happy that bans work. Those FOR are happy because they think they control the local council people. And so the battle is drawn for the hearts and minds of those civic minded people who serve on town boards.

Thursday at the Triangle Town Board meeting members of the Joint Landowners Coalition, many of them not people who actually live in the town but who have speculated on land in the town, showed up with their lawyer to threaten the town board with legal suits if they should dare pass a moratorium on gas drilling. The DEC regulations will be just fine to protect the town’s residents from the small risks of gas drilling, they said over and over. Any little problems that crop up can be mitigated (Love that word – it means lessened, NOT fixed)

Hydrofracking has never contaminated anyone’s water, they said. They did not mention cracked well casings, noise, light, and air pollution, radioactivity, the fact that the lovely grass covered mounds left at well sites after they are fracked will be refracked every five years or so, and that the FRACKING FLUID has contaminated wells. Nor did they mention the generators or pipelines. Why would they? All they want is the money $$$$.

The town board members behaved exemplarily in the face of this onslaught. They were not intimidated, but listened respectfully, asked intelligent questions, and kept open-minds. They deserve a great deal of admiration.

However, we need to remind all New York town boards that the DEC regulations do not protect the people living next to industrial gas operations as the below list of town obligations shows.

A Town Board’s Obligations

Town boards are obligated to protect town roads, houses, and water.

  • The DEC cannot protect any roads
  • The DEC is not empowered to protect town roads, county roads, or state roads.
  • The protection of town roads is totally up to the town, not the county, not the state.
  • The DEC will not protect homes, businesses or water supplies.
  • The DEC’s set backs of a gas well from structures and water supplies is the worst in the United States – 500 feet.
  • The DEC’s regulatory set backs for shale gas wells virtually guarantee that water wells will be contaminated and homeowners will lose their mortgages and insurance.
  • The DEC is notoriously lax in enforcing its own regulations.
  • No town can rely on the DEC to protect water supplies or the built environment; that is not the DEC’s job, it’s the town’s responsibility to do so.
  • The DEC, in fact, is mandated by Article 23 of the NYS Environmental Conservation Law to ‘maximize the efficiency with which oil and gas are extracted.”
  • As interpreted by the DEC, this leaves the protection of land uses and drinking water up to the town.
  • The town board is obligated to protect roads and land uses.
  • It is not only the town’s right to protect its roads, if the town board reasonably believes that the roads will be damaged by frack trucks, it is the town board’s obligation to do something about it. The same obligation  applies to protecting land uses and water supplies.

So what should we do? It’s home rule. Get out there to town board meetings. Voice your opinion, talk to your neighbors, and don’t be afraid to go door to door. Run for office. The majority of people in the Southern Tier don’t want fracking gas wells in their backyards.

And don’t miss our upcoming events. See the side bar.


About joan koster

Joan Koster writes historical fiction about forgotten women. She is currently working on a novel about abolition and woman's rights during the Civil War.
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