Delaware residents argue against home rule
Noel van Swol, a tireless leader in supporting gas drilling in New York State, gathered with a phalanx of local supporters to oppose proposed legislation that could give towns certain limited powers over gas drilling.
Van Swol is the leader of the Sullivan-Delaware Property Owner’s Association, a pro-drilling group representing landowners owning 70,000+ acres who are interested in entering into an environmentally responsible and financially beneficial leasing arrangement for natural gas extraction.
The agenda of the town meeting focused on proposed legislation in the senate and the assembly that gives some limited control through zoning over aspects of gas drilling, such as where drilling could or could not be done. The senate bill is co-sponsored by Senator John Bonacic and the assembly bill is co-sponsored by Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther.
Gunther said that the legislation passed the Environmental Conservation Committee during the last session and was expected to pass in this one. “It would probably move to the local government committee before it goes to the floor,” she said.
Senator Susan Oppenhiemer, a Democrat who is the sponsor of the legislation, no longer has the power to move the legislation since Democrats are not in the majority.
“I think this legislation is an excellent idea,” Bonacic said. “I have always believed in local control. People in their own community with their local board should control their own destiny. I believe in home rule.”
“This legislation is a Trojan horse,” van Swol said. “It is a hidden attempt to stop gas drilling in New York and in our town. The Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has total control over gas drilling in the state. This legislation, if adopted, could cause a situation across the state where you would have a hodgepodge of laws. It would amount to total anarchy. I would advise that the Sullivan-Delaware Property Owners Association would oppose this legislation. You should at
the very least table this until you have time to study it.”
“I depend on the state agency to say ‘You can’t put that rig next to this church,’” said council member Harold Roeder, who represents the town on the Upper Delaware Council. “But when you get down to the local level of this, you now have problems. I can see where it’s heading. Those who want drilling should have the right to have it. A lot people here are against drilling.”
If these should pass, the town would have a raft of legal suits against it by citizens who wanted drilling on their land and were prohibited from doing so. Court costs would be very expensive, he said.
Several members of the audience explained that the legislation was not against gas drilling but aimed to give the town the right to control where drilling is done. Their attempts to explain their position were dismissed by many who viewed the law as a veiled attempt to stop drilling altogether.
Council member John Gain moved that the question should be tabled until more information could be obtained about the legislation. The rest of the board agreed.