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Moratorium or Not, Binghamton, NY, Mayor Vows No Unconventional Drilling

Binghamton, NY, officials won't pursue a court fight over the city’s ban on unconventional drilling, but the mayor vowed Tuesday that no natural gas drilling would ever be allowed within the city limits.

Mayor Richard C. David announced that Binghamton last week decided to end its appeal of a state appellate court that had invalidated Local Law 11-006. The city council enacted the law in late 2011, which had placed a moratorium on drilling and exploration through Dec. 31, 2013 (see Shale Daily, Dec. 23, 2011).

First, the local law expired at the end of 2013, said David. Second, because the state of New York has yet to issue its decision on whether to allow unconventional drilling to move forward, what's the point?

"To ban an action that has not even been approved in New York was premature," David said. And even if the state were to allow drilling using hydraulic fracturing, "there will never be drilling within city limits for a variety of reasons.

"There is no point moving forward with a ban or appeal until the governor receives the findings from the Department of Environmental Conservation and Department of Health and renders a decision."

The local law had been challenged in May 2012, and the following October, the Broome County Supreme Court held that the law was invalid for failing to follow the proper procedures to enact a drilling ban. Binghamton appealed in November 2012. Oral arguments were to be heard in February.

Meanwhile, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and staff have given no signal that they plan to issue anything regarding natural gas drilling. Cuomo's state-of-the-state speech earlier this month offered no insight into anything about oil and gas drilling (see Shale Daily, Jan. 10). Also this month, the state's Energy Planning Board released a draft energy plan for 2014 that, like the governor's speech, made no mention of unconventional drilling.

Two legal challenges to local drilling bans are now before the state’s Court of Appeals.

Cooperstown Holstein Corp. is suing Middlefield in Otsego County, and Norse Energy Corp., now bankrupt, is protesting a ban in Dryden, which is in Tompkins County (Norse Energy Corp. USA v. Town of Dryden, No. 515227, and Cooperstown Holstein Corp. v. Town of Middlefield, No. 515498). The high court accepted both cases last August after a lower appellate court had ruled in favor of the towns (see Shale Daily, Aug. 30, 2013; May 6, 2013).

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