More than a hundred citizens of Dryden packed the town hall Wednesday April 20 to present officials with a petition to ban high-volume slickwater hydrofracturing (“fracking”), a process used to extract natural gas, within the town’s borders. Members of the Dryden Resource Awareness Coalition have been going door to door since January, talking to their neighbors. Their petition drive has so far netted 1594 signatures.
An impassioned public comment period, in which dozens of Dryden residents took the podium to explain their reasons for wanting the ban, was followed by the passage of a resolution by the town board. The resolution, drafted by town board member and attorney Jason Leifer, authorizes Leifer to draft a zoning amendment that would ban “heavy industrial land uses” and prohibit “the imposition of burdens, costs, and negative impacts on citizens and property owners that would likely… result from such heavy industrial land uses.”
Helen and David Slottje, attorneys with the Community Defense Council, advised DRAC on the legal basis for the petition, which falls under local municipalities’ rights to put zoning in place and regulate business activities within their borders. A dissenting voice among the dozens who spoke in favor of the ban came from counsel to the Tompkins County Republican Party, Henry Kramer.
“You do not have the jurisdiction,” Kramer told the town board. “Has the State given us any legal authority to overwrite or impede State policy?” Kramer also warned that the town would be exposing itself to lawsuits by enacting the ban: “If we are among the first to do so you can expect a major assault from the gas companies.”
However, petitioners were not daunted. “If you get a lawsuit,” said Peter Davies, a resident of Snyder Hill Road for over forty years, “We will back you up.”
In spite of efforts by Town Supervisor Mary Ann Sumner to keep order, when the resolution was passed the crowd broke into jubilant applause.