November 30, 2011 —
The Town of Tusten joined a handful of municipalities in the state, and became the first town in Sullivan County to ban gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing when the town board voted on November 28 to adopt an updated zoning code.
The code includes a section called Article 14 which prohibits the establishment of “high impact industrial activity” in the town, which includes gas drilling. The three board members present for the vote, Carol Wingert, Lisa Dowling and supervisor Peg Harrison, all voted in favor of adopting the zoning.
After months of discussion and hearings that were filled with often impassioned arguments, mostly supporting the ban but with a few opposing it, the actual vote was surprisingly uneventful.
The measure was introduced and passed within a few minutes, and after being assured that Article 14 was included in the measure, someone in the audience of perhaps 40 people said, “I guess we can applaud,” and so they did.
Wingert, who will become the supervisor of the town in January 2012, called the vote historic, and said she had not doubted that the measure would pass. “I thought everybody worked so hard on it and after working through everything, I didn’t think there was a doubt it would pass.”
Critics have said the law could open the town up to a lawsuit as similar bans have in the towns of Dryden and Middlefield in other parts of the state. Asked if that was a concern, Wingert said, “It gives me concern to a degree, because there are certain individuals that may pursue that avenue, but I think we have resources available … Some attorneys have offered their services, and there is a network that has funding in place, so I think we’ll be OK.”
Three other towns in Sullivan are moving toward a similar ban: Bethel, Highland and Lumberland.