Otsego Town Board Asserts Local Control of Land Use


Fly Creek, NY, 11 May 2010–The Otsego Town Board voted 4-1 tonight to
clarify a long-standing prohibition against heavy industry, including
fracking for natural gas, in the town’s land use law. By this vote the town,
which includes most of the Village of Cooperstown, reaffirmed its home rule
right to prohibit uses not permitted by local ordinances.

Though many towns in New York State have similar limitations on permitted
uses on the books, pro-drilling advocates, pointing out that the gas
industry is exempt from local regulation, have argued that towns have no
authority at all over natural gas extraction.

The Town of Otsego action leaves it to the state’s DEC to regulate gas
drilling when and where it may occur, but reserves the home rule right to
determine in the first place whether such a use should be allowed or
prohibited in the town. In this case the answer was a resounding NO.

It is the first rural town in New York State to explicitly invoke its home
rule authority to block gas drilling as a type of undesirable heavy industry
incompatible with the town’s comprehensive plan. The town acted in response
to the overwhelming sentiment of the enrolled voters in the town opposed to
gas drilling and heavy industry, documented through petitions and surveys as
well as testimony at privilege of the floor and at a public hearing.

A number of other towns in Otsego county and across the state are
contemplating taking similar steps. This grassroots resistance to natural
gas extraction is a remarkable phenomenon. Local citizens are saying no to
fracking for natural gas directly in their communities as too dangerous and
costly and destructive to be tolerated. It is time for state and federal
officials to take notice.



From Jim Endicott