“Judges don’t like to overturn decisions by legislative bodies, and now you have this whole political movement — and to slap it down becomes a lot more difficult for the judicial system,” he said.
Former state DEC Commissioner Mike Zagata, a Davenport resident, said the region needs to begin to reflect on the symptoms of a local economy in decline — with Otsego County poised to privatize the Otsego Manor nursing home, local school districts shedding teachers and cutting programs and young people migrating out of the area.
Allowing drilling, he said, would yield hundreds of thousands of dollars in ad valorem taxes for local governments.
“We have some issues here we have to confront, and unless we do that we’re going to continue in a downward spiral,” Zagata said. “Is anybody connecting the dots?”
So far, since Middlefield and Dryden became among the first communities to keep out drillers, an estimated 150 towns have either passed bans or moratoriums against gas excavation. Ellen Pope, director of the environmental group Otsego 2000, said she believes a majority of residents in many towns favor bans but have been stymied by “intransigent” town board members.
In the wake of last week’s ruling, Pope said, “I have a feeling that we will see another surge of towns move forward” and pass bans. “There are towns now that are breathing a sigh of relief that they can move forward without worrying about lawsuits.”
She said Otsego 2000 stands ready to assist town boards in updating their zoning laws.