Wednesday, March 16, 2011

If you can't Regulate Fracking, Can you Ban It?

By Rusty Keeler; used with permission
Can towns ban fracking? That's the question residents in Dryden, NY are hoping to answer soon. Since December, members of the Dryden Resource Awareness Coalition (DRAC) have been knocking on doors and asking their neighbors to sign a petition that would ban slick-water hydro-fracking in the town.

The petition is short and to the point. Weighing in at just under 100 words the frack-ban petition opens with residents expressing concern that high volume, slick-water hydro-fracking for gas extraction threatens their water and air. It continues, “Allowing this practice in our community will significantly endanger our health and well-being.”

After explaining how the heavily industrialized drilling practice has impacted communities in other states – snarling traffic, damaging roads and bridges, and hurting tourism, agriculture and hunting – the residents petition the Town Board to ban slick-water hydro-fracking in the Town of Dryden. You can read the whole thing here.

So far, DRAC members report that people are eager to sign the petition, and many residents are asking for more information about drilling and hydro-fracking.

Can towns ban fracking? Buffalo has. Now the move to ban fracking seems to be spreading across the state. Ulysses and Caroline, also in Tompkins County, are considering a frack ban. And earlier this month three towns in Otsego County – Middlefield, Otsego and Springfield – announced that they are moving to ban or restrict natural gas drilling and high-volume hydraulic fracturing.

While state environmental laws prohibit towns from regulating drilling and mining practices, they do allow towns to zone. And that, says McRae, is what towns are doing. Banning is not regulation, she says. It’s like zoning – you’re just keeping it out.

Recent articles in the New York Times about radioactivity found in Pennsylvania rivers caught people’s attention, said McRae. She’s hoping the increased awareness of potential drilling problems will translate into more support for the town’s frack ban.


  1. The Ulysses Concerned Citizens were the first group in the region to begin working toward a ban on heavy industry as a way to exclude hydraulic fracturing from the town. The petition has been going around since summer 2010 and now has well over 1000 signatures. They, along with the Ulysses Gas Drilling Advisory Board (led by planning board chair Ken Zeserson) engaged David and Helen Slottje to write the ordinance. The Slottjes are presently at work on a stand-alone ordinance for towns that do not have zoning.

  2. There is a growing list of towns and counties in NY who are working towards banning "heavy industrial uses" (including fracking) via their zoning regulations. web site compiled the list on their fracking resource and info page: .
    Most of these towns have moratoria in place, on their way to bans. We are trying to go straight to the ban in Ulysses, as they did in Buffalo.