An attorney for a natural gas development company has warned Otego Town Board members that a drilling moratorium they are considering “will likely lead to excess and unnecessary legal costs and possibly damages that would be shouldered by local taxpayers.”
The strongly worded, seven-page letter was sent to the town officials three weeks ago by Michael P. Joy, an attorney representing Lenape Resources Inc., a natural gas company that holds gas development leases on 26 parcels in Otego, eight in Butternuts and five in Unadilla.
The letter arrived as town officials prepared to take up the proposed one-year moratorium against drilling next Wednesday.
Lenape recently filed a lawsuit against the Livingston County town of Avon after it enacted a similar moratorium.
Dozens of towns in upstate New York have enacted anti-drilling bans or moratoriums stopping drilling after the towns of Middlefield and Dryden were sued for prohibiting gas drilling. Bans enacted in Middlefield and Dryden have been upheld in lower courts but are being challenged in the state Appellate Division. The two cases are expected to wind up before New York’s highest court, the Court of Appeals.
In his letter to the Otego board members, Joy wrote: “The cost of taking Lenape’s oil and gas development rights, which are on record in the Otsego County clerk’s office, could be tens of millions of dollars.”
Joy also pointed out that the company’s lawsuit against Avon seeks “not less than $50,000,000 in compensation.”
Otego Town Supervisor Joseph Hurlburt said he had no comment about Joy’s letter. He also declined to discuss the proposed moratorium.
Dick Downey, an Otego resident who coordinates a pro-drilling landowners’ group, said he was making no predictions about the outcome of next Wednesday’s meeting. He said one board member, Dave Sheldon, has come out in support of drilling. A super majority of the board — at least four out of five members — would be needed to pass the moratorium, he said.
“The moratorium is basically a petition drive for an extremist environmental viewpoint that fossil fuels are evil,” Downey said.
Stuart Anderson of Otego, an opponent of hydrofracking, said Joy’s
letter “was intending to be intimidating.”
“I don’t think there was a whole lot in that letter the board members haven’t already heard and gone over a few times,” he added.
Like Downey, Anderson said he could not offer a prediction on the outcome of the moratorium vote.
Downey said most of the support for a moratorium is concentrated in the village of Otego. He suggested that the village enact the moratorium rather than imposing the views of its residents on the rest of the town.