One natural gas drilling operation in New York is putting pressure on state regulators to act against localized bans and moratoriums on hydraulic fracturing (fracking) drilling.
According to a CBS News report, the president of Lenape Resources, which operates numerous fracking sites across New York and other areas, has been lobbying the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation to lift or supercede bans on fracking drilling scattered across the state.
After the statewide moratorium on fracking drilling was lifted by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a number of local municipalities sought to extend those bans on fracking by passing their own restrictions on the activity. Many of these bans and moratoriums have stood the test of initial lawsuits filed by drilling companies looking for loopholes that would allow them to frack the shale about two miles below the surface.
So fracking companies like Lenape Resources have begun seeking another way around those rules by going to a seemingly higher power. Even though the once statewide moratorium has been lifted, fracking activity in New York hasn’t experienced the boom it has in other places. Due to the victories the local municipalities have enjoyed so far, many drillers are hesitant to try and drill New York for natural gas among its share of the Marcellus shale formation.
Cuomo has said he would not allow wanton drilling in New York and only recently allowed select regions to allow fracking. That decision came ahead of the release of a state safety review comparing the benefits and risks of fracking drilling. Cuomo had promised to wait until the review was complete before allowing any fracking drilling in New York but because he bent on that stance, the natural gas, oil, and fracking drilling industries figure his administration may be as flexible.
Lenape says localized bans violate a 1981 law that makes all state laws superseding local laws. The company says a localized moratorium in the Town of Avon has forced the company to close several wells and move operations elsewhere, costing them millions.
The Town of Dryden in New York has a similar ban in place on fracking drilling but a court ruled that the rule was not a regulation and therefore it was not under the auspices of that 1981 law and a state law would not necessarily supercede localized bans. Drillers have backed out of Dryden as they are doing in Avon.
According to CBS, that stance is being taken by state courts in Pennsylvania and West Virginia, where some municipalities have looked to block fracking drilling. In Ohio, a 2004 does give state law power over localized bans on fracking drilling.
Many municipalities believe fracking drilling has put a strain on infrastructure and natural resources and is driving people away even though it promises to be an economic boon to generally depressed areas of the Mid Atlantic.
These localized laws have drawn great skepticism to fracking’s future viability and in turn, the industry has countered with aggressive public relations and advertising campaigns trying to sway a skeptical public.