The legislature of Tompkins County -- which is in west-central New York in the midst of the state's Marcellus Shale area -- has approved a resolution prohibiting the leasing of county-owned land for natural gas drilling that involves hydraulic fracturing (fracking) well stimulation.

By a 14-1 vote, the county legislature approved a motion placing a prohibition on leasing "any county-owned lands, including but not limited to county forest lands, for high-volume, slickwater hydraulic fracturing to extract natural gas." Tompkins has 556 acres of county forest land.

"It is increasingly clear that drilling for natural gas using [fracking] may have severe adverse impacts on communities and the environment," said the resolution, which cited potential damage to forest lands, water resources, plants and animal habitat as reasons to block fracking on county lands.

"Any economic boost to the state's economy from development and sale of natural gas from the Marcellus Shale is short term (30-40 years?) at best, and will foreclose the long-term economic benefit to the county of tourism and agriculture," the resolution said.

Tompkins County has established a goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at least 80% by 2050 and "believes that development of the Marcellus Shale will likely have a net adverse impact on reducing greenhouse gas emissions," the resolution said.

Tompkins has also been considering a proposed law to protect county roads from "high-frequency, high-impact truck traffic" to or from a single project site. Among other things, the regulation calls for bonding to ensure that the condition of county roads is not adversely affected by temporary projects generating more than ten large truck trips per day, as could occur with activities such as natural gas drilling, mining and timber harvesting.

Another proposal being considered would urge the New York State Legislature to clarify environmental conservation law regarding municipal authorization to protect roads from damage as a result of gas drilling operations.

Tompkins was one of several New York counties that earlier this year called for a hold on drilling in the state pending a review of fracking operations and technology (see Daily GPI, June 24).