The City Council of Binghamton, NY, voted 6-1 Wednesday night in favor of enacting a two-year ban on hydraulic fracturing (fracking) within the city limits.
Local Law 11-7 in effect prohibits "natural gas and petroleum exploration and extraction activities, underground storage of natural gas, and disposal of natural gas or petroleum extraction, exploration and production wastes."
City Councilman Martin Gerchman, who cast the dissenting vote, told NGI's Shale Daily the council's action sent the wrong message to energy companies offering jobs and opportunity as they look to develop New York's portion of the Marcellus Shale. He said the vote followed a three-hour public hearing on the measure in which about 70 people spoke. Opponents of fracking outnumbered supporters 60-40%.
"I look at it less as a ban on drilling within the city and more as a ban on the natural gas industry in our community," Gerchman said Thursday. "I think that's very short sighted. There are great many economic benefits that could be derived in this community from the natural gas industry. It's going to come to Broome County anyway, so it doesn't make a lot of sense for the city not to be prepared and participate in the process."
The Independent Oil & Gas Association of New York (IOGA) had urged the city council not to enact a ban. "[We] called on the council to not follow the path of other misinformed communities and act in the best interests of Binghamton, its residents, the local economy and the unemployed," IOGA said in a written statement Wednesday before the vote.
IOGA Executive Director Brad Gill added that a moratorium would "ignore the reality of our industry's work and history in New York [and] have no basis in fact. There is no hazard or risk facing Binghamton, but rather hope and opportunity waiting at the door. The council has the opportunity to get this right, to create a new prosperity for a great city."
Gerchman said the city doesn't have large tracts of open space, but could have accommodated shale gas drilling in public parks or on the municipal golf course. He said the ban was also structured with a "sunset clause," meaning that it would expire after two years if not specifically renewed by the city council.
"I hope it doesn't give impetus for the other towns in the area [to enact similar bans]," Gerchman said. "But some of the other areas that are being contested right now are not really right in the middle of the Marcellus, they're really tourist areas."
Binghamton Mayor Matthew Ryan angered some of his constituents and touched off a debate between fracking supporters and opponents when he offered potable water supplies to some residents of nearby Dimock Township, PA (see Shale Daily, Dec. 7). Dimock officials unanimously declined the offer, citing their reluctance to sign a mutual aid agreement with the city.