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August 30, 2016
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Tusten committee recommends drilling ban

He spent a good deal of time explaining why it was imperative that if the town wanted to pass a ban it do so before the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) finalized the Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement and began issuing permits in the town.

Slottje said as a matter of law, if the town waits to pass a ban until after a permit is issued, the possibility increases that the town will lose a “regulatory takings” lawsuit brought by someone who wants to drill.

He said that the outcomes of the two cases before the courts would likely not be known for two years, and he said it is quite likely that the DEC will begin issuing permits before then. DEC commissioner Joe Martens had said the previous day that it was difficult to say when permits would be issued, but, said Slottje, “DEC is doing everything possible to fast track this.”

As to the possible cost of litigation, Slottje indicated that it might be limited. He noted that in the Dryden and Middleton cases, no damages were claimed or sought, and the only question being pursued was whether or not the towns have the authority to pass the bans.

Therefore, it is likely the only cost to the town with any possible litigation is the cost of legal representation, and he used a figure of $200,000 as a possibility. Like Sweeney before him, he then mentioned the possibility of pro bono work and referenced a letter to the town that he had been given before the meeting began. He said it was from a partner in a law firm in Manhattan who has been practicing litigation for 30 years, who offered to defend the town pro bono if a case arose because of the ban.

After the presentations, and a round of questions from the numerous residents in attendance, the eight members of the committee in attendance voted unanimously to recommend to the town board that it adopt Article 14, with some minor revisions. The yes votes included committee members Peg Harrison, the town supervisor, and Lisa Dowling, a member of the town board.
The board will consider the entire zoning update at the next town meeting on November 14.


Fritz Mayer lays out the issues well, but he not only avoids the heat that was generated between the two lawyers, but the reasons for the heat.

To compliment Mr. Mayer, the lawyers did agree that they agreed with each other at least 90% of the time on the subject, but the heat was generated by the emphasis put forth by Mr. Sweeney that litigation would likely ensue, and that it would be expensive. Let's not split hairs here, Mr. Sweeney most likely did not say that litigation "would" ensue, but he repeated, repeatedly, that the extraction companies have billions, and that a lawsuit could most certainly result. He stressed this over and over, and implied, can the town afford it? It seemed as if he was saying that even though the Town really really wanted to ban heavy industry, they ought to think ten times before standing up for what they believe in.

Mr. Slottje attacked that strongly, and simply from the financial angle. He laid out his case, and while doing so, took some leading, insinuating shots at Mr. Sweeney.

In the end though, I was more offended by Mr. Sweeney's over the top repitition, than I was by Mr. Slottje's characterization of Mr. Sweeney, and excited presentation. Mr. Sweeney was sufficiently offended to make up for all of us, as it should have been. He responded to Mr. Slottje, and Mr. Slottje apologized.

In the end, they both served their purpose, and the audience got what it wanted, unless it wanted high volume, slick water, multi-stage hydraulic fracturing and drilling into shale, on the ballfield off of Bridge Street.

I do wonder how much Mr. Sweeney's company was paid for their services, and how much, if any, David Slottje was paid. Was Mr. Slottje paid at all, or, is he just the passionate defender of local zoning rights that he seems to be?