New Paltz Town Approves Anti-Fracking Legislation

The Town of New Paltz isn’t fracking around.

In mid-November, the Town of New Paltz approved three laws concerning hydrofracking in New Paltz. The town board approved bans on hydrofracking, the use of hydrofracking brine and the disposal of waste from hydrofracking practices into the New Paltz sewer system.

The laws went into effect immediately after they were approved by the board. Town Supervisor Susan Zimet said despite the public hearing being open longer than anticipated, the decision to adopt the three new laws was unanimous.

“The hearing took us a little while because we needed to hear feedback from a lot of different sources,” Zimet said. “But in the end, the vote was unanimous in supporting the three bills.”

Zimet said the laws were drafted by environmental lawyer George Rodenhausen, who has prior experience drafting laws concerning hydrofracking bans. Zimet said the ban on hydrofracking brine would be one of the most impactful for the town. If the law had not been passed and if it were to snow in New Paltz, Zimet said hydrofracking brine could have been used instead of salt to melt the snow. She said brine is cheaper, but more dangerous than salt.

Zimet has previously served as a public relations specialist for anti-fracking groups and has been involved in numerous campaigns with Hollywood actors such as Ethan Hawke, Mark Ruffalo and Zoe Saldana in order to show New York residents how damaging fracking can be to the state’s water supply.

“I think a problem we have is that all of these organizations who are against fracking and  know how bad it is talk with each other, but we don’t talk to people who don’t know anything about it,” Zimet said. “We’re trying to reach out to a large amount of people so that everyone, no matter where they’re from, can be educated on the issue.”

The law has been met with positive reactions from New Paltz residents. Project Coordinator of New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG) Eric Wood said it’s important for local governments to take a stance on hydrofracking.

“It’s wonderful that the Town of New Paltz is taking the matter of fracking into their own hands,” Wood said. “I think that any way of telling Gov. Cuomo that fracking is wrong, whether it be a phone call or a letter or a law, is going to mean a lot when it comes time for the governor to make a decision.”

Fourth-year history major Rebeca Nolan said she was happy to see the laws pass but would like to see more.

“Hydrofracking is not the answer to our energy crisis and I’m so happy that our community understands the risks do not outweigh the benefits of natural gas,” Nolan said. “It’s too bad they can’t pass a law that financially encourages people to invest in solar panels for their homes.”

Zimet said if hydrofracking were to become legal in New York, the law would honor local governments’ previous laws that ban hydrofracking. While she said banning the practice in New Paltz is a step in the right direction and that she expects the Village of New Paltz to pass their own law banning fracking, she is unsure whether or not the state will do the same.

“A couple of weeks ago, I thought we had reached a tipping point and that fracking would never become a reality in New York,” Zimet said. “Now I’m not so sure. But if more and more towns take a stand against fracking, Cuomo can be a hero for a lot of people.”