April 18, 2012 —
As the question of the authority that local governments have relative to gas drilling plays out in the state court, officials of the Town of Delaware have concluded that they do not have the authority to make any zoning regulation related to drilling.
At a meeting on April 11 to discuss proposed changes to the zoning code, Gerald Euker, chairman of the planning board, said repeatedly that the town does not have the authority to make any regulation related to zoning.
Resident Kate Kennedy said, “It’s your responsibility to protect the health, safety and well-being of the residents.” She said other towns such as Tusten had banned drilling and implied that Delaware could do the same.
Euker responded, “We’ve taken a different position; the Town of Delaware’s position is to wait and see.”
Two lower courts have ruled that towns do have the authority to ban gas drilling through zoning, and those cases are now working their way through the appellate court, a process that is expected to take a couple of years.
New York State has about 1600 municipalities; 22 have adopted drilling bans, 66 have adopted moratoria, and an additional 66 have groups working for a ban.
On a related topic, town officials believe they do have the authority to regulate compressor stations as long as those regulations are reasonable. The proposed zoning changes would limit the amount of noise that a compressor station could emit, which would be five decibels above the ambient sound. Additionally, the regulations would not allow a compressor station within 1000 feet of a home, or 500 feet of a property line.
In a discussion about compressor stations, planning consultant Tom Shepstone, who said he does not advise the town on gas-drilling issues because of his involvement in the industry, explained the various authorities regarding pipelines and compressor stations.
He said the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has authority over big interstate projects, such as the Millennium Pipeline, which runs through the town. He continued, “Then there are others that are regulated by the Public Service Commission (PSC) in New York, and then there are some that are
like gathering lines that are not regulated by either. So to the extent that there are some that are not regulated at all by FERC or PSC, presumably the town would have some ability to regulate them.”
Resident Stephan Lundgren asked if there had been any consideration given to an outright ban of compressor stations, which is one of the provisions of the Town of Dryden zoning code, which was upheld in the Supreme Court of New York.
Euker replied that FERC would have the power to ignore such zoning, and pointed out that FERC had granted approval of a compressor station in the Town of Minisink over the objections of many residents of the town.