Lawsuit threat stalls gas drilling moratorium in Oxford

OXFORD – The Oxford Village Board of Trustees has tabled a decision to adopt a nine-month moratorium on natural gas drilling after the Central New York Landowner’s Coalition threatened to sue them and the municipality if they did.

Oxford Mayor Terry Stark said notice of the potential legal action forced the board to set aside a vote pending review of the implications of such a lawsuit as well as the village’s current zoning code language for gas exploration, extraction and disposal.

“We need to make sure we are on solid legal grounds. It doesn’t kill anything; just allows time,” the mayor said after emerging with the board and the village’s attorney from a 30-minute executive session. The session was called during a special meeting held last night to take a vote on the proposed local law.

About 80 people attended the meeting in the Oxford Academy Middle School. The mayor changed the venue from the village hall Wednesday afternoon in order to accommodate the anticipated crowd. Police were present, and while the board met in executive session, an officer quieted one member of the audience after several people began speaking at once during an impromptu debate led by a moratorium supporter and village resident, Irving Wesley Hall.

Based on prior votes – to draft the new law (3 to 2) and to propose it (4 to 1) – and considering the mostly pro-moratorium sentiments expressed by residents who attended a public hearing on Nov. 13, trustees were expected to adopt the new legislation.

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