City of Oneonta votes to ban gas drilling

The Oneonta Common Council voted yesterday to ban gas drilling within city limits, with little opposition. From today's Daily Star:

The vote was not unanimous. With Third Ward Alderman Erik Miller absent, Seventh Ward Alderman Liz Shannon abstained.

After the meeting, she said she supports the concept of banning natural gas drilling, but said the draft ordinance was poorly written.

The measure bans any new gas wells of any kind from operating within the city, and violators will be subject to a $250-a-day fine.

A little more background from Channel 34, which goes into more detail about the new law and its supporters:

The draft law states, “It shall be unlawful for any person or corporation to engage in the extraction of natural gas within the City of Oneonta, with the exception of gas wells installed and operating at the time of enactment of this Ordinance.”

The law prefaces the prohibition on drilling with a statement of “findings and intent,” in which it asserts, “The Common Council believes that the protection of residents, neighborhoods, and the natural environment constitutes the highest and best use of the police powers that this municipality.”

It also includes a statement of the “rights of the city of Oneonta residents and the natural environment,” which include the right to water, the right of natural communities, and the right to self-government.

An earlier Daily Star story said the law was "mostly symbolic," since gas rigs were unlikely to pop up on the city's Main Street. But the city is looking for other ways to protect its watershed, which extends far beyond city limits:

The ordinance also includes a statement indicated the city's watershed should be protected in the same manner as the watersheds of New York City and Syracuse, which require a full State Environmental Quality Review Act review for every gas well propped in the watershed.

Because the watershed includes parts of the towns of Oneonta, Laurens and Milford, the city cannot act unilaterally on a gas drilling ban in that area.

But [Oneonta mayor Dick] Miller said the city is working with the town on ways to protect the watershed.

In seeking to use municipal law to block gas drilling and large-scale industrial activity, the city of Oneonta joins the town of Otsego, whose town board voted 4-1 to pass a gas drilling ban last month.

In an e-mail received by The Daily Star, town resident Adrian Kuzminski, moderator of Sustainable Otsego, wrote: "It is the first rural town in New York state to explicitly invoke its home rule authority to block gas drilling as a type of undesirable heavy industry incompatible with the town's comprehensive plan."