Unhappy with the court rulings that New York law actually allows towns to use their Home Rule powers to prohibit shale gas industrialization – if the town votes to do that – a few disgruntled town officials are threatening to secede and form the Republic of North Fracksylvania – presumably so they can roll the dice on their own leases – at the expense of the rest of the townsfolk.
Meaning, they are deeply unhappy that the court has confirmed their ability as town officials to protect their towns – when their role as Fracking Accomplices and leaseholders enables them to use their official capacity to simply hand over their town to the frackers. What’s a Fracking Collaborator to do ?
The are not supporting Home Rule, but Frackers Rule – often by enacting Frack Us Quik resolutions. And they are miffed that many other towns – including the two largest municipal associations in the state – supported the concept of Home Rule – when it was being challenged in court – by the frackers.
So they say they are going to secede – in order to do what the frackers want them to do: Hand over their towns to be fracked – without the constraint of any local ordinances.
Steve Reilly gets the scoop on this little chapter in Cuomo’s Continuing Fracking Fiasco –
After endorsement of home rule, local leaders eye new group to serve upstate interests
Partly due to a rift over natural gas drilling, several Southern Tier municipal leaders are in discussions about breaking away from the Association of Towns of the State of New York and forming a new group to represent upstate municipalities in Albany.
Town of Windsor Supervisor Carolyn Price said a contingent of area officials who are frustrated with the association’s leadership on a variety of issues — including oil and natural gas — are planning to convene for a preliminary meeting later this month.
“We’re currently forming a steering committee to develop bylaws, and looking at forming an upstate association for towns,” she said. “There’s already been a lot of interest shown, and (we’re) trying to get wide representation — not just Broome County, but other counties too in upstate.”
The Association of Towns currently counts 904 of the 932 town governments in New York as members. The organization receives dues from the towns each year, and in return, provides legal and technical assistance, training for officials and advocacy on policy positions determined by town officials at the association’s annual meeting.
While other issues are at play, the tipping point for some local officials may have been the Association of Towns’ endorsement of “home rule” over oil and gas drilling — the concept that localities, and not the state, should decide whether drilling occurs in their borders.
Earlier this year, the Association of Towns signed on to an amicus curiae, or “friend of the court” brief filed with a state appellate court while it was deliberating two watershed legal cases over home rule in the towns of Middlefield and Dryden.
“Members (had) no knowledge that this was going to be done,” Price said of the legal brief. “The question is, did it truly represent the people that belong to that association? And no one really knows the answer to that because it came from the top down.”
(Support of Home Rule had been discussed at length at the annual meeting. And the Association of Towns had already written white papers in support of Home Rule. JLN.)
Lori Mithen-Demasi, counsel for the Association of Towns, said the brief reflects the policy platform approved by the Association’s members at its 2012 and 2013 annual meetings. The New York State Conference of Mayors, the New York State Planning Federation and 50 individual municipalities also signed onto the legal document.
“The brief is consistent with the long-standing policy of the association to support and defend home rule in courts, as well as before the legislature, the executive branch and the administrative agencies,” Mithen-Demasi wrote in a statement.
In May, the state Appellate Division ruled unanimously that towns can pass bans and moratoria on oil and gas drilling within their borders.
The potential fracture has placed Town of Binghamton Supervisor Timothy Whitesell in a difficult position. In April, he completed a one-year term as president of the Association of Towns. But he is also a geographical neighbor to the potential breakaway municipalities and an advocate of hydraulic fracturing for natural gas in New York.
“I understand these municipalities are upset,” he said. “But it’s nothing that can’t be handled by coming to the table and opening up the discussion.”
>As immediate past president of the Association of Towns, Whitesell is a member of the organization’s executive committee but is not a member of its staff. The day-to-day operations of the Association of Towns are led by its executive director, Gerry Geist, a former town official from Westchester County.
“The New York State Association of Towns provides so much for local government that you really have to take a look at the big picture,” Whitesell said. “Any time that a town needs assistance, they’re there to help. Education is absolutely a huge tool that they provide for us.”
Whitesell said by signing onto the legal brief, the association was defending its long-standing position on home rule, not advocated for or against oil and gas drilling.
“That’s why the association of towns was founded,” he said. “It’s local governments protecting our own best interests”
Which is what those Home Rule resolutions are all about.
And is what 8 New York judges have agreed with.
A town has the right to prohibit shale gas industrialization.
Having that right is a good thing for a town.
Unless you’re a crooked politician that wants to sell out the town to the frackers.