NEW YORK (September 19, 2012) – The Natural Resources Defense Council today announced the creation of its Community Fracking Defense Project, which will provide legal and policy assistance to towns and local governments seeking added control or protections from hydraulic fracturing in their communities.
Most natural gas extraction today involves hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, an extraction technique requiring a mix of toxic chemicals and linked to a range of air and water pollution issues across the country.
“For too long, communities around the country have had little defense against the oil and gas companies that sweep into their neighborhoods and start fracking without regard for the impacts on the people who live there,” said Kate Sinding, a senior attorney in NRDC’s New York office. “If a city or town decides it doesn’t want fracking, or wants to restrict it, their voice should be heard and respected.”
The new NRDC project will launch in five states—New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois, and North Carolina—and will focus on protecting communities’ abilities to protect themselves against the risks of fracking within their borders. The project’s activities will vary from state to state, reflecting the significant difference in fracking activities and regulatory protections.
Some examples of project activities include:
- Assisting in drafting local laws and land use plans that control the extent of fracking within their borders and/or limit the harmful effects of fracking.
- Working to re-assert communities’ rights to protect themselves under state law.
- Defending relevant zoning provisions and other local laws that are challenged in court.
The project’s activities grow out of NRDC’s existing work in New York, Pennsylvania and Ohio, which includes:
- New York – Advising towns, including that of Meredith, on the creation of a fracking ban within its borders that is designed to withstand legal challenges. Assisting residents of several upstate towns in challenging industry-sponsored pro-fracking resolutions that have been improperly adopted. Representing environmental and conservation groups on an amicus, or “friend of the court,” brief as industry appeals two court decisions that uphold the rights of the Towns of Dryden and Middlefield to ban fracking within their borders.
- Pennsylvania – Representing a group of Pennsylvania municipalities in several counties—including the townships of Bethlehem, Murrysville, Monroeville, Tinnicum, Wilkins, East Finley and Bell Acres—in the filing yesterday of an amicus brief supporting a recent lower court decision that struck down a law that had severely limited the rights of municipalities to determine whether and where fracking can occur within their boundaries. Pending the outcome of that litigation, assisting municipalities to enact and defend laws to protect against fracking impacts.
- Ohio – Advocating for a significant upgrade of the state decision-making rules and practices to secure a genuine role for citizen participation in the process, including: access to information, ability to comment on rules and regulations, right of appeal on the issuance of permits, and the capacity of local government to advance land use and zoning protection relating to oil and gas extraction in their jurisdictions.
Through the creation of the Community Fracking Defense Project, NRDC will be both expanding upon current work in New York, Pennsylvania and Ohio and also reaching out to communities in Illinois and North Carolina in order to provide similar kinds of assistance to protect public health and environmental quality in advance of fracking drills breaking ground.
“As the rush to extract natural gas from our communities expands dramatically into the Midwest, it is essential to protect the ability of citizens to assure that those activities do not foul our water, air, community health and safety,” said Henry Henderson, NRDC’s Midwest Director. “NRDC has from its inception been committed to the rule of law, principles of sound science and role of citizens in defending their communities against environmental despoliation. Our Community Fracking Defense Project is committed to making that goal a reality and helping communities re-assert their rights when it comes to fracking.”
The new Community Fracking Defense Project is an outgrowth of advocacy that NRDC has been engaged in for decades. Since the early 1970’s, NRDC has worked at local, state and federal levels to protect communities, their natural resources and the health of their residents from threats associated with the gas and oil industries, including fracking. The project will also build on the ongoing work of local groups around the country. NRDC will be partnering with locally-based grassroots organizations in each state, including the Catskill Mountainkeeper and Catskill Citizens for Clean Energy in New York State, among others.