Fracking took a beating yesterday, when New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, on the heels of a stern recommendation from the state’s acting health commissioner, announced his intention to ban the unconventional drilling method.
But even if he’d failed to do so, frackers would’ve been effectively barred from a large number of the state’s communities, anyway. That’s because, during the excruciatingly long years that the state spent weighing the issue, a team of lawyers quietly helped individual towns use zoning ordinances to keep the industry out, regardless of what state and federal law says. When Salon spoke with one of those lawyers, Helen Slottje, in April, she and her husband, David, had successfully passed such laws in 172 towns. In June, the state’s highest court affirmed their right to do so.
Now that New York state has said it won’t allow fracking within its borders, their fight’s become redundant — at least so far as fracking goes. Speaking with Salon Wednesday night, Slottje was thrilled about the decision, but said that she’s by no means ready to stop fighting. There are still a lot of other infrastructure projects to take on, after all: pipelines and gas storage facilities, for example, that are “equally if not more devastating” to communities. And they’re already going national: “There are communities across the country that are looking to emulate New York’s model of home rule and local control over gas drilling decisions,” Slottje said, with an enthusiasm that has been building since the June Court of Appeals decision.
“I think with New York affirmatively taking a stand against fracking, that’s going to empower and generate even more interest across the country,” Slottje told Salon. “Even in states where the state won’t be as bold as what New York has done here, communities will feel that they’re not out on a limb, that this isn’t a radical decision.” MORE
By Lisa Abrams
Photo courtesy of Bryan Thomas/Getty Images