November 2, 2011

City Bans Fracking on Municipal Land

Print More

In a unanimous vote on Wednesday, the Common Council banned the leasing of land owned by the City of Ithaca for hydraulic fracturing, following the examples set recently by several other towns in Tompkins County.

As Gov. Andrew Cuomo seeks to repeal the state’s moratorium and permit high-volume “hydrofracking” — a controversial practice in which chemicals are injected into the ground at high pressures to extract natural gas — the resolution states that the city will not lease or in any way consent to the use of any of its land in Ithaca and Dryden for hydrofracking.

Common Council member Eric Rosario (D-2nd), vice-chair of the Economic Development and Planning Committee, said the resolution was a demonstration of city resident’s oppossition to the controversial gas-drilling practice.

“We are owners of the land and no one can tell us what they want to do on our land,” Rosario said.

Rosario also emphasized the “profound” importance of the mayor’s ability to decide on legally binding means for permanently protecting city-owned land from gas-drilling companies from future Common Council decisions, as stated in the resolution. Opponents of fracking charge that it could lead to disastrous environmental consequences, while others see it as a way to invigorate New York’s declining economy.

“No action of Common Council can ban future Common Council decisions, but if this is as important as we think it is today, then having that last resolve is at least pursing that possibility that this will be permanent,” Rosario said.

During the meeting, Common Council voted to amend the resolution — which was recently passed by the city’s Economic Development and Planning Committee — to state that hydrofracking “is likely to have severe adverse impacts on communities and the environment” by damaging the city’s drinking water resources and forest habitats. Such language replaces previous wording that stated hydrofracking “may” have these effects.

Rosario also said a resolution banning hydrofracking on all land in the City of Ithaca, regardless of its ownership, would likely be passed by Economic Development and Planning Committee in the next month.

With the passage of this resolution, the City of Ithaca has become the 52nd municipality in New York State that has either changed its zoning regulations or passed a law to ban hydrofracking. The nearby Towns of Ithaca, Danby, Dryden and Ulysses have all recently moved to ban hydrofracking.

The Town of Dryden is currently preparing to defend its own ban on natural gas drilling before the Tompkins County Supreme Court on Friday, after The Anschutz Exploration Corporation, a Denver-based gas drilling company, filed a lawsuit against the town.

The company is seeking to challenge the town’s hydraulic fracturing ban, asking the court to rule the ban “invalid, unlawful and unenforceable,” according to court documents.

Hyrofracking is a contentious issue in Upstate New York and Pennsylvania. The states lie above the Marcellus Shale, which contains largely untapped natural gas reserves.

Original Author: Liz Camuti