September 15, 2011

Why sue Dryden? Why now?

While I suspected that the gas companies would eventually sue to try to overturn Dryden's drilling ban through a zoning clarification, I'd also thought such jousting would wait until after the DEC finished the review of the sGEIS, came up with regulations, and actually began issuing permits. Instead, they announced a lawsuit yesterday.

Dryden, however, seemed like a plausible target for the gas companies from the beginning:

  • Dryden is at an interesting geological location, with Trenton Black River, Marcellus Shale, and Utica Shale drilling all possible though not necessarily ideal.

  • They have a local surrogate happy to handle their public relations and cheer on the lawsuit.

  • Unlike Middlefield, we don't have the Baseball Hall of Fame to make it a potentially national issue.*

  • The Town, though trending more and more Democratic, is still definitely a place where elections can shift policy drastically. Lawsuits can certainly be election issues.

In particular, Anschutz has had an application in for a Trenton Black River well for a while, sometimes called the Cook Well, off Irish Settlement near Ferguson Road. It was poorly written and poorly handled by the DEC, leading to a complaint by the Town. It's basically sat on hold through the DEC Marcellus process - though Anschutz claimed at the time that they "weren't sure that well would even be drilled", those delays are oddly coincidental with the Marcellus process.

I wouldn't have thought - though I am not a lawyer - that they would actually have legal standing to sue before the DEC actually issued them a permit. Perhaps they can do it in advance, but we'll see. It's not clear to me how they've actually been damaged at this point, but I suspect they'll use the prior Trenton Black River portion of the application to claim that they're an innocent victim of the charge against hydrofracking.

If they do have standing, I'm guessing this is largely a "might as well sue before other towns get the idea this is a good thing." Whether or not they have standing, announcing the lawsuit just as election time is gearing up seems like they hope the legal process will influence the election process.

It may well do that - just not necessarily in the direction they hoped.

* - Update: There's a different kind of lawsuit, without the gas companies' obvious involvement, in Middlefield.

Posted by simon at September 15, 2011 7:41 AM in , ,
Note on photos


But surely they knew the town is the home of the Living in Dryden blog? Thanks for sharing this, it's a helpful reminder of the local being the national being the local. There's certainly a growing awareness in the issue among the activist types I know in the Philadelphia area.

Hilary Lambert said:

Are these bullies and thugs appropriate allies for Dryden town supervisor candidate Bruno Schickel?

KAZ said:

I think the choice of Dryden AND the choice of September are carefully calculated. Why choose Ithaca when the election there won't change anything? Ditto Ulysses.

Claire Perez said:


this is a great post, keen insight into could We get
this story in the nation's eye, how can we get people to use the democracy created for the people, by the people?

Keep on blogging... Claire

Beefbuger said:

Please direct us to a URL, link or .pdf when you are receipt of Anshutz's lawsuit brief against the Town of Dryden.

Thank you.

Krys Cail said:

I hope you are right about the bullying ham-handed move having a positive effect on the election. It sure seems timed, to me, to cow the voters into voting out the current board and in a majority that would "settle" with the gas drillers, leaving other towns the impression that the case could not be defended.

The point about Bruno Schickel is well-taken, too-- it is very easy to imagine how he might be seen to have a personal profit motive for playing the town into the gas company hands, given that he runs a construction company...

Tim Lillard said:

You really should read Thomas S. West's web page, at

This lawyer has been setting the laws and courts against us for a long time, with a lot of success.

Whether energy is generated by fossil fuels or by renewables, there will always be jobs coming from the energy industry. Fossil fuels are ruining the earth's climate and acidifying the oceans, switching to renewables would change that.

The big local issue is whether we want to ruin our area just because West's clients are invested in warming the planet and diminishing ocean life. They think they own the place and can do what they want, the world be damned.

The key to protecting ourselves may be in getting those laws repealed, something that should be part and parcel of every political debate, and committed to by every candidate who wants the people, instead of the fossil fuel industry, to vote for them.