The Fox In the Henhouse
The utter absurdity of putting three current or former NRDC lawyers on Joe Martens’ Hydrofracturing Advisory Panel is made yet further apparent by an Associated Press story posted late yesterday. Here is what Kate Sindling of the radical soap-hating, lawsuit loving NRDC had to say about the job DEC has done with its SGEIS – and this is who is supposed to be providing advice on how to implement DEC recommendations and the Governor’s policies!
Kate Sinding, an attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council, said the proposal to place the watersheds off-limits to drilling doesn’t go far enough because it doesn’t include a sufficient buffer around the ancient underground tunnels that carry water to New York City from its upstate reservoirs.
“We’re very worried about that,” Sinding said. “This is a far cry from what the city’s Department of Environmental Protection has argued for.”
Tom West, an oil and gas attorney who represents operators in New York state, said the industry is unlikely to mount any court challenge to the ban on drilling in the watersheds because those areas aren’t considered as gas-rich as other areas.
The first wave of Marcellus development in New York would likely run along Interstate 86 from Binghamton through Tioga and Chemung counties, near the Millennium Pipeline, according to Penn State geologist Terry Engelder.
More likely to spur lawsuits are attempts by municipal governments to use zoning or local ordinances to regulate natural gas activities, West said. A drilling company recently filed a court challenge to such an ordinance in Morgantown, W. Va.
“We believe the environmental conservation law in New York is very clear in that it pre-empts the municipality from enacting any ordinance or law, including zoning, regulating natural gas activities,” West said.
Sinding said environmental groups have long believed that the local authority issue would have to be resolved by the courts or the state Legislature.
“It’s safe to say that very good legal minds have come up with opposing conclusions,” Sinding said. “There’s enough ambiguity in the law that one could make a persuasive argument either way.”
If local bans on gas drilling end up in court and industry wins, it could provide momentum for state lawmakers to pass home rule laws supporting the right of municipalities to enact such bans, Sinding said.
Other legal questions are whether the DEC has the statutory authority to ban drilling in certain areas, and whether such a ban amounts to an illegal taking of mineral rights, West said.
“I don’t think the industry will be inclined to go down that path,” West said. “Clearly, the government is trying to strike a balance and open up as much of the state as they can and trying to give additional protection to areas they deem warrant additional protection.”
Isn’t it interesting that Kate Sindling wants to undermine the very regulations she is supposed to help guide by encouraging communities to simply ban gas drilling? Moreover, when she talks about the issue she employs the same kind of language Joe Martens used a few days ago in saying that the courts would have to decide. Is Joe Martens getting his talking points from his former colleagues at Mountainkeeper/OSI/NRDC? It sure sounds that way!
Regardless, what in the world is going on here? Since when do members of a government advisory panel go out to effectively criticize and undermine their boss, Governor Andrew Cuomo in this case, before they have even started their work? Also, why is she sounding more like a representative of New York City than the state she serves in this capacity? There is something rotten going on between Albany and New York City (somewhere in the vicinity of Lew Beach, where all those NRDC folks have their vacation retreats and conduct their land grabs).