SUMMERHILL — A proposed law banning natural gas drilling in Summerhill was praised by some as a tool for protecting the community while others berated it as a violation of landowner rights and fiscally irresponsible.

During an hour-long public hearing Tuesday, more residents spoke in favor of the proposed land use law prohibiting natural gas or oil drilling within town limits than against it. Proponents of the law said it rightfully protects the community from noise, water and dust pollution and protects the town’s roads and infrastructure while opponents said it will result in a legal war the town cannot afford while also infringing on land owners’ rights.

Resident Shannon Caldwell said she did not move to Summerhill to live in an industrial area, and urged the board to pass the resolution, which was not voted on Tuesday.

Board members said they want time to consider the public comments that came from many of the 40 residents in attendance before they vote. No time frame for a decision was announced.

Caldwell added that she is concerned that allowing the natural gas industry to conduct high volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing, also known as hydrofracking, could significantly depress property values.

“I don’t have stocks, I don’t have bonds — I have my property,” Caldwell said. “That’s what I’ve invested in. If I don’t have that, I don’t have anything.”

Ted Norman, a member of the town’s planning board, spoke against the law not because he is pro-hydrofracking, but because he believes it will infringe on property owners’ land rights and because it could result in the town getting sued by the gas industry.

The town of Dryden is being sued by Denver-based natural gas company Anschutz Exploration because of the municipality’s zoning law banning gas drilling. According to the lawsuit filed last month, the company contends that New York amended its environmental conservation law in 1981 giving the state the power to regulate the oil and gas industries while leaving towns to regulate the use of roads.

“This is going to put a tax burden on all of us if we get sued,” Norman said, as several in the audience applauded. “The town doesn’t have the money to put into this.”

According to Summerhill’s proposed law, the town is not relying on the state’s environmental regulations to prevent drilling and is instead relying on land use law, which falls within the town’s jurisdiction.

Deputy Town Supervisor Chris Ryan said the fear of a lawsuit is not a reason to back down from protecting the town’s resources, its residence or its infrastructure, a stance that drew applause from several in attendance.

“Big land owners are the ones that get hurt by this law,” Ryan said, referring to those who will not be able to lease or sell their land for hydrofracking. “It’s the small people that don’t want this. We’re not in this for the money — we’re in this for my kids, we’re in this for your kids. If we get sued, we get sued. Are we going to want our way of life or the monetary value?”

Resident Linda Plunkett said she believes the law is to broad and added that the board is neglecting residents who do not agree with the ban.

Plunkett also said it is too early to pass judgment on hydrofracking since too much biased information has been perpetuated by both sides, a sentiment echoed by several in attendance.

“We need unbiased information. Not from the gas companies or people with agendas against them,” Plunkett said. “We need information before we get a law. We don’t need to pass this just because other towns have.”

Staff writer Nate Robson can be reached at 282-2248 or nathan.robson@lee.net. Follow him on  Twitter at CitizenRobson.

(3) comments

liberal karl
liberal karl

Once again, as always happens in these debates, it's SICKENING to see the self-serving, greedy SoB's coming out in support of their "right" to sell out their friends, neighbors, and future generations by allowing the hydrofracking polluters and poisoners rape their land and contaminate the groundwater so that they can sell their trailer and move away from it all to Florida or somewhere. (good riddance!)

It's sickening to see how far some people will go for money. They'll birch and whine and complain about the banks getting millions in profits or bailouts, and then turn around and sell out their neighbors to line their own dirty, greasy pockets.

DISGUSTING.

doffer2
doffer2

I do not feel anyone should vote for Fracking until they have seen the documentary "Gasland the Movie". I feel this would help them come to a more informed decision. Maybe the township could get a copy of the movie and show it publicly. There is also a website they could visit. One cannot help but wonder if these people watch the news at all. Have they not seen the destruction going on in the state of PA. The contaminated water and destroyed land. How can anyone want to destroy the beautiful town of Summerhill???

Farmer's Gal
Farmer's Gal

People get desperate for money and will believe any money-making scheme that's waved before their eyes. Because they want the money, they won't believe the most well-documented proof that the scheme is a bad one -- they will believe it is all a plot to keep them from laying hands on the money. There's greed involved as well as financial desolation in a lot of these small towns -- and people are foolishly willing to throw away not just the good but the life-necessary (like safe, healthy drinking water!) to chase a few promised bucks wafting away on a breeze....

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