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Home Rule: How Communities Can Stand Up to Polluting Industries and Decide the Future of Their Towns

If you think that nothing can be done on the local level to combat big polluters like gas fracking companies, think again.

The following is from Sabrina Artel's Trailer Talk: The Frack Talk Marcellus Shale Water Project.

In New York the debate about whether or not to allow gas drilling rages. Many strategies for controlling if, how, when and where this will happen is occurring throughout the state. In Sullivan County New York in the Catskill and Delaware River Valley Region, town boards and councils are brainstorming, debating and taking control of their municipalities. The Highland and Lumberland Committees on Energy and the Environment formed last year to decide the fate of their towns. They sponsored a forum on February 19th that was held at the Eldred High School to talk about the options that municipalities have to protect themselves from being industrialized and how the power of Home Rule can be preserved. The speakers were Helen Slottje, an attorney with the Community Environmental Defense Council based in Ithaca, NY and Ben Price, the Projects Director from the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund located in Chambersburg, PA.  

A gas drilling moratorium was passed in the town of Highland on May 10th. The towns of Lumberland and Tusten are in the same Delaware River Region and are working together to inform themselves, resulting in the town boards revision of their comprehensive plans, including the revision of zoning ordinances that would state that it is inappropriate to have High Impact Land Use. The Moratorium Bill has just passed in the New York State Assembly and it's currently in the New York State Senate awaiting their decision, along with that of governor Cuomo.  

Carol Roig, a 14 year resident of Highland and one of the organizers of the Highland Concerned Citizens group, said, "We've been hearing that there's nothing we could do on the local level because the state had approved natural gas drilling for all zones but we started to find out that there are many legal opinions including from the New York Association of Towns that said, in fact, the Environmental Conservation Plan that governs gas drilling does not preclude towns from using their land use powers to decide whether or not they want gas drilling or any high impact industrial use on their towns."  

This is a story of individuals speaking up when the gas corporations are attempting to control their hometowns and of individual becoming increasingly involved in their local government, collaborating with each other as they face drilling throughout the area.
The following is from Helen Slottje speaking to those in attendance at the forum on February 19th in Eldred, NY.  To hear the whole program, visit Trailer Talk.

Sabrina Artel: We're exploring the impact of natural gas drilling on New York's water resources and the issues being debated in our neighborhoods throughout the country and globally. What is guiding people's decisions about whether or not to lease their land for gas drilling? And at what point do the rights of the individual diminish in the face of the health of an entire area? What impact is this having not only on the communities in the shale regions, but also on the national dialogue and policy-making decisions around energy extraction?

What defines the American Dream, and how does it impact the decisions being made in our communities? Local culture, generations of history, and beloved homes can be lost when the oil and gas companies, intent on fossil fuel extraction, move into a new region. We're facing a complete shift in our region as the largest-ever concentration of gas lies in wait beneath our feet.

The Highland and Lumberland Concerned Citizen groups hosted a forum about the legal rights municipalities have in regulating drilling for natural gas. A couple hundred people were at the forum on February 19, which was held at the Eldred High School, and this audio is from Helen Slottje, who is the managing attorney of the Community Environmental Defense Council in Ithaca. She was followed by Ben Price, who is the Project Director of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fun in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, so representatives from both New York and Pennsylvania shared what communities can do to regulate what happens in their community looking at home rule.

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