April 24, 2013 —
SANFORD, NY — The board members of the Town of Sanford were so sick of hearing residents complain about gas drilling and fracking that in September 2012, the board passed a resolution forbidding residents from talking about it during public comment.
That sparked a federal lawsuit from local residents who were joined by the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Catskill Citizens for Safe Energy (CCSE). The lawsuit argued that the resolution was a violation of the free speech rights of town residents.
On April 9, the town board passed another resolution rescinding the order, but they reserved the right to hold residents to a three-minute time limit during public comment,
NRDC and CCSE withdrew their lawsuit, and claimed a victory for freedom of speech. Kate Sinding, director of the Community Fracking Defense Project at NRDC, said, “This is a vindication of the right to free speech. And it sends a message to communities everywhere. As Americans, we have the right to speak up when we feel threatened. And it is our government’s responsibility to listen.”
Tom Wilinsky of CCSE said, “We are gratified that Sanford dropped its unconstitutional ban on free speech. It’s unfortunate that it required litigation to re-establish this fundamental right for the citizens of Sanford, but by rescinding the ban now, the Town Board at least spared the taxpayers the expense of a protracted and costly lawsuit.”