Albany Council Moves to Restrict Fracking

The Common Council of Albany, New York has voted 8-5 to approve an ordinance that would ban natural gas drilling in the city limits. According to a report from the Albany Times Union, the natural gas ban is aimed at keeping <"">hydraulic fracturing out of Albany.

In addition to the drilling ban, the Common Council unanimously approved a bill that would prohibit Albany’s Rapp Road landfill from accepting fracking waste.

The ordinance is not yet law, as it still has to be signed by Albany Mayor, Jerry Jennings, who has not said whether or not he will veto the ordinance. According to the Times Union, he has 10 days to do so.

If it becomes law, Albany would join roughly 50 other New York communities who have instituted anti-fracking ordinances. As we’ve reported previously, energy companies have already filed suit against two upstate New York towns – Middlefield in Otsego County and Dryden in Tompkins County – challenging drilling bans. The lawsuits claim such ordinances are preempted by state law, which only allows the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to regulate drilling.

As we’ve reported previously, New York state is poised to lift a years-long ban on high-volume, horizontal hydraulic fracturing. A recent moratorium expired on July 1, and Governor Andrew Cuomo is expected to allow fracking to commence at some point in the near future. The same day the ban expired, the state DEC issued a report recommending that fracking be allowed on most private lands in the state. If the DEC’s recommendations are adopted, as appears likely, 85 percent of the Marcellus Shale in New York would be accessible to natural gas extraction via fracking.

According to The Times-Union, opponents of the Albany drilling ban point out that it is largely symbolic, as Albany is not located in the Marcellus shale, where fracking in the state would be concentrated. However, proponents say the ordinance is needed to protect Albany’s water and environment.

While it might be symbolic, Albany’s drilling ban is likely to get noticed. As the Times-Union points out, Albany is the state capital. For that reason alone, drillers might decide to mount a legal challenge if the ordinance becomes law, even if it’s unlikely that they will ever drill in Albany. But that possibility did not deter supporters of the ban.

“I don’t think they’re all shaking in their boots that they might get sued,” Dominick Calsolaro, the bills chief sponsor, told the Times Union regarding the New York communities that have already restricted fracking. “And I don’t think that’s a good excuse not to pass something.”

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