Buffalo first in state to ban fracking

Feb 8, 2011

In a unanimous vote, the Buffalo Common Council has banned hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, within the city’s borders.

The law’s supporters hope the move sways other communities in New York to follow suit.

New York is currently under an executive order banning horizontal natural gas drilling through June. In the absence of word from Cuomo administration, the legislature and environmental commission about the future of the controversial practice, the Buffalo Common Council filled the void.

Critics contend the state is missing out on thousands of drilling jobs. But they weren’t around Tuesday. Just minutes after the vote, a handful of council members and supporters played to an enthusiastic crowd.

“Buffalo, New York: where we just passed the first ban on hydrofracking in New York State,” said Rita Yelda, to uproarious cheers.  

Yelda lobbied the council for the vote on behalf of Frack Action, a group trying to convince local legislatures to proactively paint their books with homegrown regulations.

“We have no choice but to pass laws to protect ourselves and that’s what I urge every municipality in New York State to do,” Yelda says.

The new law bans horizontal and vertical fracking. The latter is still legal in New York.

"Symbolic but needed"

Fracking is usually carried out in Marcellus Shale formations thousands of feet underground. Studies have shown scant to no traces of the rock under Buffalo and no fracking projects were planned for the area.

Still, Councilman Joe Golombek says the vote was needed, even if it was partly symbolic.

"In a worst case scenario maybe it’s really only the Teddy Roosevelt big-stick policy, we’re using our bully pulpit, but I do think it’s the right thing to do,” Golumbek says.

Next week the council will debate banning the treatment of fracking fluid by the Buffalo Sewer Authority. This comes after allegations surfaced that the BSA had already started doing so.