Evolving zoning laws to ban drilling subject to supercedure by state law

NORWICH – Attempts by government officials to zone the natural gas industry, beyond creating road use ordinances and determining real property taxes, is superseded by New York State Oil, Gas, and Solution Mining Law, says a former director of mineral resources for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

Gregory H. Sovas, president of XRM, LLC, and the primary author of amendments that were made to the law, was on hand in Norwich earlier this month to clarify that point for government officials attending a Chenango, Otsego, Delaware, Madison Regional Natural Gas Collaborative meeting.

Members of the Chenango County Natural Gas Advisory reviewed Sovas’ presentation this week and discussed moves in Otsego and Tompkins counties’ towns to ban the controversial hydraulic fracturing means of extraction. Most have forged ahead to regulate on their own while waiting more than three years for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to complete its regulations, which it began to do just yesterday.

Chenango County’s ad hoc advisory committee has been monitoring the Norwegian company, Norse Energy, Inc., since 2008 on behalf of the county. Though Norse has not employed the high water volume hydraulic fracturing that is in dispute today, they have leased property, conducted seismic testing, been permitted to drill, built pipeline and extracted natural gas from standstone in three northern towns.

To release gas from shale formations, such as the abundant Marcellus and Utica, millions of gallons of highly pressurized water mixed with sand and chemicals are pumped underground. Those against the practice fear drinking water contamination at the expense of monetary rewards – from both the fracturing fluids and formation water and tailings that come back up with unknown levels of radioactivity – and have suggested that current law gives them municipal zoning authority.

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