Monday, May 7, 2012

SCLOC thanks Charles M. Franklin for great letter

May 7, 2012 To the editor:THE LEADER You can read in recent news reports that New York State Department of Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Joe Martens has stated that, after the department issues final regulations governing drilling for natural gas using high volume hydraulic fracturing, permits will be issued initially only in those locales which do not oppose such drilling. What does this mean for those of us locally who support drilling? It means that, if we live in a township which has not passed a ban on drilling, we could be first in line. However, if a local township enacts a ban on drilling, yet you have a gas lease, you are out of luck. So is the company which leased your land. This points to the real crux of the entire issue. Who has the authority to allow or ban drilling for natural gas using high volume hydraulic fracturing? More and more NY townships are being approached by out-of-town lawyers affiliated with or hired by anti-drilling organizations. These lawyers attempt to persuade town boards to pass a ban on gas drilling without telling them what could happen if they did. Several have already done so. Others are considering it. More and more landowners are being left out of this debate, especially those who have signed gas leases. When a township passes a ban on drilling, it is saying that they have the right to decide what happens on a land owner’s property, not the landowner. Most of the acreage in a township could be leased, but if the town board passes a ban, then all of the property owners who leased their land lose out. Gas companies could possibly seek to recoup the money already paid to the landowners, perhaps from the townships. Some gas companies have already sued the townships. Some landowners have sued the townships. After the town of Middlefield NY passed a ban, a local dairy farmer with a gas lease on 400 acres sued the town. Dryden, NY, passed a ban and was sued by the gas company who had leased over 22,000 acres within the township. A state Supreme Court judge has ruled in favor of the townships—so far. Both cases are slated to be appealed to the Supreme Court Appellate Division. Both townships are having to pay the substantial legal costs involved to defend their bans in court. If the bans are eventually upheld, the townships and schools are big losers. On top of the local tax money spent on legal costs, they will lose all the potential tax money a gas company would pay once wells were drilled,. We’re talking about hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars over the next few years, depending on the number of wells drilled. So if your school or town has budget woes, think about it. The landowners who have gas leases are also big losers--in spite of the fact they decided for themselves whether or not they wanted drilling on their land. So, since the DEC has apparently decided to permit wells only where there are no local land-use agreements banning it, what can we do to make sure they know we are in favor of drilling? I would propose that townships who think they would benefit from such drilling could pass a resolution clearly stating that they support responsible drilling which is carefully regulated and monitored by the DEC. This puts them on the record. If desired, county landowners’ coalitions can help with the wording and assist in sending a copy of the resolution to the DEC. Such a resolution would also indicate to gas companies where it is safe for them to lease land without the fear of having a ban on drilling enacted after they have already signed and paid for leases. We must do something and do it soon. I, for one, am willing to stand up for my individual rights as a landowner. I do not want someone else making decisions which concern my land. Local governments, and all other levels as well, already govern too much and too often. I encourage all local landowners who either have or want a gas lease, to go to their town boards and request they pass such a resolution. If we do not stand up for our rights, they will be taken away from us. Charles M. Franklin Woodhull, NY

No comments:

Post a Comment