Residents of N.Y. Town Free to Express Worries About Fracking Again
Back in February I wrote about a town in upstate New York that wanted its residents to just shut up about the potential hazards of fracking in their community. The details:
I had never heard of a town that actually imposed a gag order on its own citizens, until the Natural Resources Defense Council (which publishes OnEarth) received complaints about a town board in Sanford, New York (population: 2,400), that told its residents they could no longer bring up concerns about fracking at town meetings.
NRDC and a local partner, Catskill Citizens for Safe Energy, sued the Sanford town board this morning, claiming that the ban on fracking discussions violates the First Amendment rights of the town’s residents, some of whom are NRDC members. In a complaint to the U.S. District Court, the organizations say the town violated the U.S. and New York State constitutions by restricting residents’ right to free speech during the public participation portion of town meetings, which remains open to all other topics -- just not fracking.
In the face of the citizens’ lawsuit (and one would hope, just plain common sense), the Sanford town board has now repealed its gag order, and its residents once again have the right to speak up during public comment sessions about the potential threat that hydraulic fracturing poses to their land, air, water, and health. In response, today NRDC and Catskill Citizens for Safe Energy dropped their lawsuit.
I expect the board members are going to get quite an earful at the next meeting. Hope they take notes!
Image: Brandi Korte