Sunday, July 24, 2011

Advocates for Springfield Ban on Heavy Industry


P.O. Box 25

Springfield Center, New York 13468

Update #57

July 23, 2011

Otsego Lake Towns Act to Protect Area from Heavy Industry

Since our last Update, Springfield has enacted a local law that forbids heavy industry (which by definition in the law includes gas drilling). This new law, based upon the police powers of a town to protect the health, safety and welfare of its citizens, clearly states that heavy industry is in conflict with the Town’s Comprehensive Plan. The law goes on to note that the town’s geology of limestone bedrock is fragile and heavy industry may create serious risks to our water supplies. Our unconsolidated aquifers are susceptible to contamination, and the rural character of the town (including its reliance on agriculture) should be protected. The presence of heavy industry will put at risk our roads and our historic landscapes. For these and other reasons, the Town Board enacted this new law which states that “it shall be unlawful for any person to conduct any new “Heavy Industry” …within the Town of Springfield.”

By enacting this local law, Springfield joins a growing list of towns in the Marcellus shale region that are taking the initiative to protect their areas. In Otsego County, the towns of Otsego and Middlefield have amended their zoning ordinances to exclude heavy industry. Cherry Valley recently adopted a new zoning law with a similar provision. Other towns are considering taking action too.

These laws may be challenged by the gas industry or by property owners who have leased their land to drillers. In New York State, land use decisions are typically left in the hands of municipalities and under the State’s constitution, Home Rule is a protected right. However, under the State’s Environmental Conservation Law, NYS has exercised a preemptive power to supersede local laws in order to allow for development of certain natural resources such as gas and oil.

Those towns that have enacted local laws forbidding heavy industry can anticipate legal challenges. It is our belief, however, that such challenges will not prevail. A parallel challenge of the State’s Mine Reclamation Law was unsuccessful about fifteen years ago, and the MRL was changed based upon the courts’ ruling.

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