Yesterday, a group named the Joint Landowners Coalition of New York held an event at the state capitol in Albany to present a “Declaration of Rights” to drill for natural gas on their land. Joined by Republican state senators who are against the state’s current moratorium on hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” the press conference addressed what some upstate landowners decry as the “movement to deny people the right to develop their land.” The state legislature in now mulling an outright ban on fracking, and energy companies have already begun to consider waterless methods to skirt the state’s moratorium.
The group’s grievances demonstrate the tensions in Albany as landowners seek financial opportunities in areas of upstate New York that have long been economically stagnant. The controversy has also pitted towns that have banned the practice against counties that allow fracking. One dairy farmer from Middlefield, Jennifer Huntington, is suing the town after a lease she signed to allow fracking on her land was nulled by the local ban. Huntington made the claim that revenues from fracking would have allowed her to ramp up biofuel production from soybeans on her land, update an anaerobic digester used to break down waste from her cattle, and invest in her employees. Other landowners, however, focus solely on property rights behind their push to overturn any ban on fracking.
Opponents of fracking say the practice may cause health problems and air pollution, as well as the poisoning of groundwater supplies in the long run. They also point out that the practice, which involves high pressure injection of chemically treated water into drilled wells to extract natural gas from shale deposits, can impinge on the rights of a landowner’s neighbors. Those neighbors in turn could be affected by traffic, noise and of course, the risk of groundwater contamination of their land. As the debate rages on, environmental and industry groups are intensifying their lobbying efforts in Albany, while the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation moves to a final decision on fracking after four years of study.
Via Huffington Post.