Erie County legislators voted in a bipartisan manner Thursday to ban natural gas drilling using hydraulic fracturing in the county, commonly known as fracking.
Despite Legislator Joseph Lorigo saying the legislation is legally defective and predicting a suit from National Fuel against the bill, legislators approved the proposal by a 9-2 vote. Republican Ed Rath III provided the only other 'no' vote.
The bill would ban fracking on county land, bar spraying fracking waste on county roads, and ban transportation of fracking waste to county-owned sewage treatment plants.
Majority Leader Thomas Mazur says the ban is needed.
"If this is a political statement, I'm proud to make this political statement," Mazur said. "It's going to protect our citizens. It's going to be embedded in their consciousness that fracking is not good."
Proponents of fracking say the drilling technique provides jobs and domestic energy.
The meeting was stalled several times to allow lawyers to discuss the proposal from Chair Betty Jean Grant. Eventually, several lawmakers decided to go around a variety of different legal views and approve it.
"Erie County can't idle until the state and federal government decide they want to act," said Grant. "I've had not one call or e-mail saying 'Don't vote for this law.' Not one."
The Legislature chamber was filled with supporters of the controls who waited through a series of recesses and commented loudly during the debate and cheered as it was approved.
"Erie County residents have gotten what they expect and deserve: protection of their fundamental rights of health and safety from the dangers of fracking and fracking waste. They've seen the air, land and water contamination that fracking causes and are thankful that this legislature is on the side of the people," said Rita Yelda of Food & Water Watch and Western NY Drilling Defense, in a statement.
The proposed local law still requires another public hearing and a decision by County Executive Mark Poloncarz.
Rep. Chris Collins (NY-27) issued the following statement on the vote:
“Today's vote by the Erie County Legislature to irresponsibly ban fracking ensures that Western New York will continue to wallow in the status quo while jobs flee our region for pro-growth areas that embrace new technologies and common-sense job policies. By voting in favor of this ban today, county legislators have aligned themselves with President Obama and Governor Cuomo's fringe, anti-business interests that have sabotaged New York's economy and jobs for our citizens.”