The Daily St ar

The town of New Lisbon has become the sixth municipality in Otsego County to ban hydraulic fracturing for natural gas -- and the first in the Butternut Valley. “We now have a local law to protect the rural character of the town,” New Lisbon town Councilman Robert Eklund told The Daily Star on Wednesday.

Eklund said the town board members were convinced that the vast majority of the roughly 1,700 residents in the town wanted protections to zone out heavy industries, including gas drilling. The measure passed unanimously at the Tuesday night board meeting.

“This isn’t a knee-jerk reaction,” he said. “We’ve been examining this issue for the last 3½ years.”

Had no action been taken to update local laws, he said the town could have potentially faced lawsuits for “not exercising due diligence in protecting the town” if water supplies ended up being contaminated by gas drilling.

The adoption of the law came on the same day a hearing was held in a Madison County courtroom on a lawsuit Cooperstown Holstein Corp. has filed to overturn a similar ban on gas drilling implemented by the Otsego County town of Middlefield.

Lawyers involved in the case expect no decision will be made by Judge Donald Cerio Jr. for at least another two months.

Cerio also made no decision on whether to grant friend of the court status to Brewery Ommegang, the village of Cooperstown and several environmental groups. They all support Middlefield’s contention that it has the right to zone out gas drilling and other heavy industry. Cerio set Jan. 20 as the deadline for the two sides to submit legal briefs backing their positions.

George Rodenhausen, an attorney representing the town, and Michael Wright, an attorney who represents Cooperstown Holstein, which has leased land to a drilling company, both said the outcome hinges on how state environmental law is interpreted.

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