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A Genesee County gas driller seeking to short-circuit a Livingston County town’s hydraulic fracturing moratorium has sued the state and the Avon town board.
Alexander-based Lenape Resources Inc. sued to strike down the Avon moratorium in a Nov. 15 state Supreme Court action filed in Livingston County, naming the state Department of Environmental Conservation along with the town board.
The local ban is not enforceable, Lenape maintains in court papers. Avon and other local governments do not have the authority to regulate the natural gas industries. In trying to do so, they usurp a prerogative of the DEC. If a court rules the town’s ban is enforceable, the driller wants at least $50 million for the value of the land the town would be, in effect, taking.
Lenape’s court action came as the DEC, which has yet to weigh in on a fracking rule, is considering the issue. It recently sought a 90-day extension of a deadline for coming up with statewide fracking policy, pushing any ruling into next year.
Avon officials put off a statement on the lawsuit until after the town board has a chance to meet and discuss it. A DEC official said the agency would wait to see what the court has to say.
Popularly called fracking, hydraulic fracturing is a gas and oil drilling technique that has long been used. With the promise of widespread use to extract gas from buried shale in New York and Pennsylvania, however, it recently has come under heavy fire from environmentalists and local residents fearful of water contamination and other ill effects.
Fracking proponents maintain the injections of water laced with toxic chemicals and carcinogens used to extract gas are done far beneath water tables and thus pose few, if any, risks. Opponents say such reassurance is only as good as drillers’ ability and willingness to stick to safety regulations.
Citing a need to protect the watershed that feeds New York City’s reservoirs, Gov. Andrew Cuomo enacted a moratorium on fracking in eastern parts of the state but left the matter open in other upstate precincts. Avon is one of several New York towns that have taken preemptive actions against would-be drillers.
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