MAP – Tompkins

The Marcellus Accountability Project
for Tompkins County

How Towns Can Prepare:

Advice to Towns
Home Rule

Advice to Towns:

Legal Guidelines for Local Governments, by Kimberly Shaw Rea, Esq
"A Legal and Practical Guide to Protecting Your Citizens and the Environment in the Face of Marcellus Shale Natural Gas Drilling," prepared by an attorney from near New York City, discusses gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale and its potential profound effects on communities, the legal exemptions and current regulations, and problems other areas have experienced. Tons of good information here for local action and preparedness. Gives lots of advice to towns on what they can and cannot do to regulate gas drilling, and discusses the SEQR process. Also includes examples of local ordinances restricting gas drilling in the Barnett Shale of Texas (although most of these would not be allowed in NY) and an ordinance from the Town of Bethel, NY, regulating seismic surveys on Town highways.

Audio & Video of Kimberly Shaw Rea, Esq, Presentation to TCCOG on 3/30/09
Audio and Video Versions of Presentation by Kimberly Shaw Rea, Esq, and Mark P. Millspaugh, P.E., to the Tompkins County Council of Governments on March 30, 2009. See above listing for content.

The Role of Local Governments in Marcellus Shale Gas Exploration
2008 Technical Paper by the Southern Tier East Regional Planning Development Board on the role of local governments with respect to Marcellus Shale drilling. Includes information on the Marcellus Shale from an economic perspective, discusses current regulations in great detail, and recommends actions that local governments can take to regulate the industry.

What Local Governments Can Do to Minimize the Negative Impacts of Gas Drilling
This two-page document by Mary Jo Long, Esq, gives the specific impacts town governments and services may experience, general strategies towns may use to protect their citizens, and specific suggestions for ordinances and protections towns should put in place in preparation for gas drilling.

Video (1 hr. 51 min.): Impacts on Rural Towns: Geisler/Barber Presentation in Enfield, 1/27/10
Charles Geisler, professor of Development Sociology at Cornell University and Don Barber, Caroline Town Supervisor and Chairperson of the Tompkins County Council of Governments, presented information on gas drilling to Enfield residents and Town Board members at the Enfield Grange. Prof. Geisler spoke about water management, protection of land and other natural resources, and the cumulative impacts of hydraulic fracturing. Don Barber spoke about his work over the past two years searching for ways for towns to reclaim some control over regulating and monitoring industrial drilling operations within their jurisdictions and ways to protect tax payers from shouldering the costs from damage to their roadways. The video is broken into 5 segments, each approximately 20 min. long. You can access the menu of all the segments from the above link by clicking on the "Guide and Details" icon below the video screen (looks like an open book), choose the "Episodes" tab, and hit the "more" button until you reach the videos titled Towns & The Environment.

Creating Water Protection Plans for Community Water Supplies (1/2/10)
"Can Towns Protect their Aquifers from Gas Drilling Impacts?" Sue Heavenrich, The Marcellus Effect Blog, 1/2/10
Sue Heavenrich reports on a presentation to Candor residents and officials by Steve Winkley of the New York Rural Water Association. "Source Water Protection Plans" are used to protect community water supplies from potential contamination threats, to ensure long-term sustainability of the water system, to minimize impacts from external sources (such as gas drilling) on the water supply, and to plan for contingencies in the event of an emergency. Many helpful tips in here are relevant to all towns.


Case Law Review of Municipalities’ Rights to Zone Gas Drilling and Restrict Road Use, Oct. 2009
Whiteman, Osterman, and Hanna, LLP (a large Albany law firm) discuss the case law on whether or not local municipalities may write ordinances to exclude gas drilling from some areas. They also look at the ability of local municipalities to establish “heavy haul routes” or prohibit heavy trucks from using some roads. They conclude that “it remains unsettled whether municipalities may subject the natural gas well drilling industry to local zoning and land use controls, but there is support for a degree of local control in the  analogous New York and Pennsylvania court decisions. It is clear, however, that municipalities may restrict the use of roadways. As a result, it is advantageous for the industry and municipalities to work together on the use of roadways to avoid unnecessary damage, expenses and delays to operations.”

How the NY Environmental Conservation Law 23-0303 Came to be Amended in 1982.
Attorney and Afton Town Board member Mary Jo Long describes how Environmental Conservation Law 23-0303 (ECL 23-0303) was changed to dictate that DEC's regulations of the oil and gas industry supersede all local laws except those pertaining to local roads and real property taxes. In response to a court case in 1981 upholding a Town of Westfield law regulating the oil and gas industry, the gas corporations worked with the DEC to get ECL 23-0303 amended so that towns could no longer regulate them.

New Mexico Environmental Law Center: Drilling Ordinances
Legal successes of a group dedicated to protecting New Mexico's water, land, and air from toxic pollution; successful in regulating gas drilling through local ordinances-may provide an example for NY, if local municipalities can get back the right to regulate within their boundaries.

Local Ordinance Regulating Gas Industry in Fort Worth, Texas
Very long ordinance regulating the gas industry with respect to permits, set-backs, noise, pipelines, bonding, insurance, water use, and many other aspects. Covers topics regulated by the DEC in NY.

Home Rule:

Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF)
Edited from their website: CELDF was formed to provide free and affordable legal services to community-based groups and local governments working to protect their quality of life and the natural environment through building sustainable communities. Increasingly, that means teaming up with people and their municipal representatives to mount campaigns that challenge the legal clout of corporations to overrule decisions made by citizens for their communities. Our Democracy School teaches a new organizing strategy for communities. Building on these lessons, the Legal Defense Fund has assisted many communities to draft and adopt local laws that do more than “regulate” the amount of harm that is permitted by state and federal regulatory agencies.  For some communities, safeguarding their future means creating local constitutions, or home rule charters, that enumerate rights of local citizens, and of ecosystems -- and backing up those rights with enforceable law. Our Home Rule program area is tailored to offer assistance to communities that are ready to take this bold step in local self-governance.

Spokane, Washington Voters Consider “Community Bill of Rights” (11/5/09)
Thousands of people in Spokane, Washington voted for a “Community Bill of Rights” in November 2009, despite intense opposition from business interests, who outspent supporters 4 to 1. Although the measure didn’t pass, it got 25% of the vote. The proposition would have amended the city’s Home Rule Charter to recognize nine basic rights, ranging from the right of the environment to exist and flourish to the rights of residents to have a locally based economy and to determine the future of their neighborhoods. The people who developed the Community Bill of Rights had attended a Democracy School workshop. The article describes the nine basic rights and the history of development of the bill.

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