Kappel also noted that the question of whether drilling will come to Sullivan County at all is still up in the air. He repeated Terry Engelder’s theory about a “line of death,” running somewhat parallel to the line between Delaware and Sullivan counties in New York. Engelder, a professor of geophysics and acknowledged expert on the Marcellus Shale formation, predicts that on the Delaware side of the line, gas will exist in recoverable amounts, but not on the Sullivan side.
Kappel said there have been no wells drilled to confirm that.
The Town of Dryden in Tompkins County adopted zoning regulations earlier this year that specifically prohibited gas drilling. On September 16, the Anschutz Exploration Corporation filed a lawsuit against the town challenging the zoning, claiming that local zoning in the case of drilling is pre-empted by the NYS Environmental Conservation Law.
In an email, the supervisor of the town, Mary Ann Sumner, responded to a couple of questions from The River Reporter.
TRR: Were you prepared for the lawsuit, and can the town afford to fight this legal battle?
Sumner: We thought it was quite likely that some oil/gas company would sue some municipality. We didn’t know for sure that it would be us. And we didn’t expect it to be so soon. We have no choice but to “afford” it. And we knew that when we passed the legislation. It will mean deferring some other projects that are more helpful to the town. But we don’t roll over to the playground bully just because standing up is expensive. Land use authority versus regulating the industry can only be decided in court and the sooner the better.
TRR: Do most of the residents of Dryden agree with the zoning change to prevent drilling, and is it a matter that split the community?
Sumner: Yes. And yes. We received a petition with about 1,600 signatures asking us to ban hydrofracking. Since we are enjoined by the state from regulating the drilling industry, we acted by affirming our “permissive zoning” (if a land use is not specifically permitted, it’s prohibited) rather than address hydrofracking alone. At subsequent public meetings, we received more than 100 comments, about 4 to 1 supporting our action. Still, it’s been quite divisive. The most passionate people on both sides are—well—passionate.