One Town's Fight over Fracking

By Matt Markham

December 7, 2011 Updated Dec 7, 2011 at 7:38 PM EDT

Town of Tusten, NY (WBNG Binghamton) Another town has re-written its zoning laws to ban high-impact hydraulic fracturing, but this case is unique. New York State and the Delaware River Basin commission both have jurisdiction over drilling issues in the area.

Add Tusten to the list of towns prohibiting hydrofracking through zoning laws -- a decision town board member Carol Wingert stands by.

"When you're a town board member you're charged with certain duties," Wingert said. "One of those is protecting the health, welfare, and safety of the citizens."

Tusten is on the Delaware River just across from Pennsylvania.

Ned Lang supports natural gas drilling and says the town is overreaching.

"If the gas companies do come here, and we are not able to lease the land, they don't have to worry about the gas companies suing them," Lang said. "We'll be suing them."

The Tusten board has considered active lawsuits against other towns.

"We've been assured by several law firms that we've got a solid piece of legislation," Wingert said.

Though the town board supports the plan, some people in the community say they wish the decision had gone to a public vote.

"That's what it's all about. This is a democracy," Lang said.

Lang is one of the town's largest landowners and owns a solid waste facility with a fleet of nearly one hundred trucks for what he calls a necessary industry.

He says banning heavy industry sends the wrong social and economic message.

"A township could say it no longer wanted farmers or development," Lang said. "They can say there would be no more development in our township."

Industry insiders are skeptical about how productive shale gas could be here. The town says it's being pro-active.

"I think Tusten is ahead of the curve because the DEC regs require any driller to take into consideration the local zoning in place already," Wingert said.

The DEC's regulations are expected to be finalized in the coming months.

Lang resigned from the Zoning Board this week. Wingert begins serving as Town Supervisor after the New Year.