June 20, 2012 —
Following a heated and frequently loud exchange between residents of the Town of Delaware and Delaware town board members at the regular monthly board meeting on Wednesday night, the board passed a resolution affirming the right of landowners within the town's borders to determine how they exercise any mineral rights they own "in accordance with the laws of the State of New York and the United States of America."
The resolution has the effect of making it clear that natural gas drilling is welcome in the town so long as any residents in the town wish to lease. Given recent comments by Department of Environmental Conservation Joseph Martens and Governor Andrew Cuomo that drilling in New York is most likely to start in municipalities that welcome it, the resolution may make the town a priority destination for gas drilling, assuming there is viable gas present.
The resolution does not address how New York State's compulsory integration law, which would have the effect of co-opting properties of landowners who do not wish to lease into drilling units if 60% of the other acreage in the unit in question is leased, might affect residents’ ability to determine how they exercise their mineral rights.
The resolution was introduced by councilman Harold Roeder after a number of residents had pressed the board with questions as to whether it would be willing to at least consider reviewing the desirability of restricting gas drilling by zoning.
The board up until this point has declared that it has a neutral stance on gas drilling. In describing how this resolution compares with the previous declaration of neutrality, Roeder said at one point, "We weren’t promoting it or we were not standing against it. We were neutral. But people were pushing and pushing, and I said, this is more important, that people have the rights to their property."
The resolution passed by a vote of 4 to 0, with Cindy Herbert abstaining.
Following the passage of the resolution, townsperson Rosie DeCristofaro said to the board, "I’m not going to sign up. I hold my property rights; I’m not going to do any of that. But I’m going to hold you guys responsible if something happens to my health, and not New York State. You are responsible for the health of the residents.”
Roeder responded, "That’s bullcrap. That is so over the top. What do you want me to do, bring a doctor to you in bed to see if you are okay, tuck you in tonight?"
A transcript of the text of the resolution follows.
“Be it hereby resolved, that any landowner or entity that owns the rights to minerals within the corporate bounds of the Town of Delaware, has the right to determine how they exercise and protect their mineral rights in accordance with the laws of the State of New York and the United States of America.
“Be it further resolved, that if gas drilling does come to the Town of Delaware, that those who are involved in the process of gas drilling, and those who regulate the gas drilling process, see to it that the entire process of gas drilling be made in a responsible and a safe manner.”