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Rochester, NY, Extends Mostly Symbolic Drilling Moratorium

In what is considered a symbolic gesture, Rochester, NY's city council voted unanimously on Tuesday to extend by one year a moratorium on natural gas exploration and extraction activities, and in particular, hydraulic fracturing (fracking).

The city council voted 9-0 to extend ordinance No. 2012-269, now in effect, to June 30, 2014, which specifically calls for a moratorium on accepting gas drilling applications and approving gas drilling permits, zoning certificates and variances.

At-Large Councilwoman Loretta Scott called for the board to extend the moratorium on the grounds that an appellate court in New York ruled last month in favor of two local bans on oil and gas activities (see Shale Daily, May 6). In a letter last month to colleagues, Scott said the Appellate Division Third Department in Albany had ruled in two cases that "bans [and] moratoriums on [fracking] through zoning are allowable" (Norse Energy Corp. USA v. Town of Dryden, No. 515227; Cooperstown Holstein Corp. v. Town of Middlefield, No. 515498).

Independent Oil & Gas Association of New York (IOGA) spokesman Jim Smith said the organization believes the city council's actions are illegal. However, the area is not necessarily ideal for exploration.

"These bans go against what we believe is clear state law that gives the DEC [Department of Environmental Conservation] the authority to regulate oil and gas development," Smith told NGI's Shale Daily on Wednesday. "These communities are going around that law in passing these bans. Their actions are based on a set of faulty information being provided by extremists opposed to drilling."

Smith added that Monroe County, which includes the City of Rochester, is not prospective to the Marcellus Shale. Portions of the Utica Shale formation are in the area, but it is only about 100 feet thick and lies at a depth of about 2,200 feet. "These are not great numbers for ideal development."

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