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Legislature Affirms Official Positions on Gas Drilling

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Legislature Affirms Official Positions on Gas Drilling

Tuesday, December 6, 2011
The Tompkins County Legislature, through three coordinated resolutions adopted without dissent, took an official stand on issues related to gas drilling though horizontal drilling and high-volume hydrofracturing the Marcellus shale.

It approved comments for submission to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) on the agency's proposed gas drilling rules (known as the draft Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement, or dSGEIS), recommending that "no new shale gas extraction be allowed in Tompkins County and New York State until and unless a more benign technology is developed." Citing numerous concerns in its detailed comments--'regarding such impacts as industrialization of the landscape, effects on water resources, greenhouse gas emissions, air quality, and socioeconomic factors--'the Legislature calls the failure to address cumulative impacts on the landscape and communities a "fatal flaw" that undermines everything else in the document.

The Legislature also voiced official support of home rule authority regarding local land use and gas drilling in New York State, asking the Governor, the DEC, and the State Legislature to clarify and reaffirm that local municipalities have the authority to regulate land use through their home rule powers applying to all extractive industries, including drilling for natural gas. The measure maintains that, despite court decisions upholding the authority of local municipalities to control land use including where extractive industries are permitted, the SGEIS fails to address the home rule issue, and that the need of municipalities to pursue protracted legal challenges to assert those rights create damaging uncertainty regarding land use protections.

Citing many of the same concerns included in their comments on the SGEIS, legislators also recommended a ban on horizontal drilling and high-volume hydrofracturing in the Finger Lakes. Maintaining that the region "depends on its natural environment to sustain its people and regional economy," that is essential to preserve the area's quality of life, the measure calls for no new drilling. The initial version called for no drilling using current technology, but Legislators accepted an amendment advanced by Legislator Peter Stein advocating no drilling whatsoever.