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October 25, 2016
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Towns pass pro-drilling resolutions; expert weighs in on open meetings laws compliance

There was also a complaint that the meeting was changed without posting the change on the website. The COOG website says, “If a meeting is scheduled at least a week in advance, notice must be given to the public and the news media not less than 72 hours prior to the meeting. When a meeting is scheduled less than a week in advance, notice must be given to the public and the news media ‘to the extent practicable’ at a reasonable time prior to the meeting. Notice to the public must be accomplished by posting in one or more designated public locations, and posting online.”

At the meeting in the Town of Fremont, in which a similar resolution was passed on July 12, again the resolution was not made available to members of the public before the vote was taken, but was handed to some people on the board afterward.
Resident Kate Bowers said that, in her view, some residents in favor of drilling were informed of the vote in advance, while those opposed were not.

She said in a statement, “No matter how anyone feels about drilling, this was not the way to bring forth a resolution or conduct the business of a town meeting. Obviously, many knew about this resolution besides Paul Kellam (the council member who introduced it). Otherwise, why did they attend this particular meeting and never any others? I am truly disappointed that they used our town meeting to put forth their own agenda. When other towns in Sullivan County worked on their bans, they held many open comment periods, collected several comments, and the public was heard. Even if you disagreed with it, you had your chance to air your opinions and facts. We, in Fremont, had that taken from us.”

Supervisor George Conklin could not immediately be reached for comment.

Some 40 municipalities in the state have passed or are considering preemptive laws that essentially favor gas drilling. Some of them are based on the premise that passing any sort of ban on high-impact hydraulic fracturing would be a premature use of a town’s resources given that the final rules covering the process have not yet been released by the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, though that is expected to happen soon.

On the other side of the ledger, about 110 municipalities have passed bans or moratoria on drilling, while there are movements for bans in about 70 other communities.