Tonawanda News — Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz Friday signed into law legislation banning the natural gas drilling method hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, on all publicly owned land in the county.
The measure passed the Erie County Legislature late last year on a 9-2 bipartisan vote. A public comment session on the legislation drew a large crowd supporting the ban. Environmental groups have harshly opposed the practice, which is legal in other states, arguing it represents a serious hazard to watersheds in areas where the drilling takes place.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has instituted a moratorium on the practice statewide as his administration studies the matter. Cuomo had promised a final decision would be made months ago but his administration has yet to act.
Poloncarz said Erie County’s measure would not ban fracking here entirely — it only limits the practice to privately owned land. It also prohibits county-owned wastewater treatment plants from accepting the liquid byproducts from the process for processing. Municipalities with wastewater treatment plants of their own would be free to decide whether to accept the fracking waste.
Niagara County lawmakers have not taken a stance on fracking within the county.
North Tonawanda’s water treatment plant has the capability to accept the waste. Though it presently does not, city leaders have not expressly banned the prospect.
In Erie County, Poloncarz lauded the measure being signed into law.
“Protecting our land and water resources is important to preserving our heritage, and while this law is limited in scope and partially overlaps the Erie County Parks Protection Law that has been on the books since 1993, the overwhelming and vocal public support for such a ban cannot be ignored,” he said.