skip to main content

→ Top Stories:
Clean Power plan
Safe Chemicals

Kate Sinding’s Blog

NRDC Launches Community Fracking Defense Project

Kate Sinding

Posted September 19, 2012

, , , , , , , , ,
Share | | |

I am very excited to be able to announce the official launch today of NRDC’s new Community Fracking Defense Project.

For too long, communities around the country have had little defense against the oil and gas companies that sweep into their neighborhoods and start fracking—a natural gas extraction technique linked to a range of air and water pollution issues across the country —without regard for the impact it has on the people who live there.  If a city or town decides it doesn’t want fracking, or wants to restrict it, their voice should be heard and respected.  The Community Fracking Defense Project is intended to start giving communities the opportunity to do so.

The new project, which is launching in five states—New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois, and North Carolina—will provide assistance to towns and other local governments that want added control over the siting of and/or protections against the harms of fracking in their communities.

For example, NRDC legal and policy staff, together with local partners, will:

  • Assist in drafting local laws and land use plans that control the extent of fracking within their borders and/or limit the harmful effects of fracking.
  • Work to re-assert communities’ rights to protect themselves under state law.
  • Defend relevant zoning provisions and other local laws that are challenged in court.

The practical and legal realities surrounding gas development in these initial five states are clearly quite distinct.  As the project gets off the ground, NRDC will be working with our local partners to evaluate the lay of the land and identify the opportunities that are most promising, effective, and potentially precedential in each of these states.

For example, in three of these states where fracking is not yet widely practiced, there is an opportunity for communities to arm themselves with appropriate protections before serious community impacts occur.

In New York, a de facto moratorium remains in place while the state continues to evaluate the environmental – and hopefully the health – impacts of proposed new fracking.  And the courts have thus far supported broad authority for municipalities to protect themselves against potential fracking, including through local bans on the practice.

In Illinois and North Carolina fracking is also still prospective (albeit it appears much more imminent in the former), providing a chance for communities to get ahead of the fracking rush.

On the other hand, in Pennsylvania, the impacts of rampant fracking are already being experienced and are well-known, and the issue of community authority over fracking is now hotly contested.  Just yesterday, NRDC filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court on behalf of a number of municipalities in support of a lower court decision striking down portions of a recently enacted Pennsylvania law that severely limited the ability of local governments to use their zoning powers to control where fracking occurs.

Ohio, too, is also already experiencing the impacts of fracking, much of it in the form of an influx of fracking wastes from other states.

In these two states, we will be working to establish and secure communities’ power to protect themselves against fracking’s harmful effects and then to help those communities exercise that power.

Decisions over land use and community character have long been the province of local governments in the United States.  Over three quarters of a century ago, our Supreme Court held that communities have the right to enact local laws to protect “public health, safety, morals, and general welfare.”  It is hard to imagine a situation where this right would be more critical than with fracking—an inherently heavy industrial, community character-altering activity.  NRDC is proud to be initiating the Community Fracking Defense Project in an effort to protect and defend communities and their important land use rights.

Share | | |


Tabitha TSep 19 2012 02:59 PM

How do I get help convincing my county to ban fracking?

Kate SindingSep 19 2012 03:03 PM

Hi Tabitha, can you please tell me in which state and county you are located? I tried to respond to the email address associated with your comment but it was returned to me as undeliverable.

Kelly BraniganSep 19 2012 03:09 PM

Fight Fracking in your Community

A helpful link from those of us who have been there, and who continue to help other communities.

Judith A CartisanoSep 19 2012 03:12 PM

I am pleased hear this. Assistance is appreciated. It think it's safe to say that many of us in New York State feel like we are in the middle of a war, that we are being invaded by corporations and people who don't care one bit about us, and led by a state government that acts like a puppet state, controlled by the oil and gas industry. This puppet state, led by the master puppet in Albany, seems to have forgotten that it is supposed to represent us. Like war, should the invasion be successful, the invaders will suck out everything we have in NYS. Then, when the gas runs out and we are no longer useful to them, the invaders will withdraw and leave it to us, the citizens of NYS, to repair all the damage the war caused--to our land, our local industries, our infrastructure, our health, and our environment, especially our water. We have a beautiful state. The land is sacred, most particularly the land around the Finger Lakes. We will fight for our land.

WindyridgeSep 19 2012 07:40 PM

Our town board is doing nothing. They are dragging their feet probably because they are afarid of confrontation. Some members are pro-fracking, some are just not very smart and incompetent. I organized an info forum and was astonished at how many people showed up. I think the majority are against it including two of the biggest farmers in the community. We need help prevetning fracking from coming to this area.

Jenny L.Sep 19 2012 08:03 PM

How do we sign up, what do we have to do?!?

KarlaSep 19 2012 08:17 PM

This is great, great news Kate! Thank you to you and NRDC for creating and launching this project.

Tabitha TSep 19 2012 08:46 PM


Karen LondonSep 19 2012 10:31 PM

Thank you, Kate and NRDC, for this tremendously important initiative! It is so gratifying to know that NRDC will stand to support and defend the towns that have already enacted protective zoning. This will hopefully embolden other towns to do the same. This announcement made my day.

Jack OssontSep 19 2012 11:13 PM

I'll believe it when I see it in triplicate. When on this very page you have a link to an article entitled "Hydraulic Fracturing Can Potentially Contaminate Drinking Water Sources" how many on the ground documented contaminations does it take for a money raising NGO to get the courage to call for an unconditional criminalization of fracking?

Jay WenkSep 20 2012 12:02 AM

When you wrote " protect themselves under State law", didn't you realize that it's the State that is the leader in moving fracking forward? NY's regulatory agency, the DEC, is mandated to 'mitigate', for the corporations, not to 'protect' the public. The only defense that can succeed is the People rising up, and criminalizing fracking and the frackers.

James McMurtrySep 20 2012 01:36 AM

Shouldn't this basically be called the "Mineral Rights Theft Project" instead of the "Fracking Defense Project". After all, you're not advocating a ban on public lands fracking, your advocating that the mineral rights of private citizens (often working class farmers) be taken without any form of compensation whatsoever. That is theft, and that is why, in the USA legal system, such projects are doomed to failure.

If you thought Citizens United was overly generous to corporations, just wait until SCOTUS weighs in on these local fracking bans. The plaintiff in these cases will be ma and pa farmer, looking to drill on the property they've owned for multiple generations.

Annie LenihanSep 20 2012 07:04 AM

You and four other groups met with Cuomo and set up the five "counties" in New York to be experimented on and sacrificed to fracking. You have not called for a ban on a toxic process that dumps billions of gallons of poison into the ground. I would like to see the NRDC release who donates to your organization. The oil and gas industry, maybe?
You are an organization that supposedly protects the environment but sets up areas to be experimented on? People need to stop supporting the big enviros who work with big corporations to poison us!

Kate SindingSep 20 2012 07:44 AM

Thanks for your comment, Annie. Neither NRDC nor any other group of which we are aware have ever met with DEC or anyone else to identify counties in which fracking should proceed. To the contrary, we joined with groups from across the state in condemning the partial fracking plan, which was leaked to the press before the state had completed its on-going review of whether fracking should be allowed to occur at all in New York State.

cynthia carestioSep 20 2012 10:18 AM

Though I commend the effort you are making on behalf of folks in states where there is no precedent set for zoning out hydrofracking, I take exception to the inclusion of NYS in that group. We, in NY have the unique opportunity to ban this practice outright before the Oil and Gas Industry invasion begins in earnest and with the blessings of the state government. It is not helpful and, indeed counter productive to offer the NRDC's assistance in "protecting" a town (indeed, a state) from the harmful effects of this dangerous industry. The damage,once done is unmitigatable If the NRDC sincerely wanted to be helpful, they would promote and advance the truth about this practice and the Oil and Gas Giants: That it is based upon greed and short-sightedness and delays the inevitable advancement of renewable energy.
I am disappointed in the NRDC's weak statement thus far.

Tabitha TSep 20 2012 10:36 AM

Union county, IL made a public statement against fracking and for a ban, but the IL attorney general says counties, unless they are home rule can not ban fracking...
I beg to differ according to our constitution, article XI.

Kate SindingSep 20 2012 10:38 AM

Hi Tabitha, I'd like to be able to connect you with the NRDC staff who are working on these issues in IL. Please call me at 212-727-2700.

Kate SindingSep 20 2012 10:45 AM

Thank you for your comment, Cynthia. NRDC has - and continues to - support a moratorium on new fracking in NY and has worked closely with groups across the state to urge the Governor and his agencies to fully consider the risks of fracking before making any decision to move forward.

However, should the state decide to do so, NRDC believes it is critically important that communities have to right to protect themselves, including through the enactment of local bans.

KathieSep 20 2012 11:12 AM

Any help we can get in Medina County,Ohio (and in the townships) would be greatly appreciated!

Concernced Citizens of Medina County

Dwain WilderSep 20 2012 11:26 AM

As you can see by several earlier comments, it appears that the NRDC has not done its homework in New York. The fact is, we New Yorkers are waging a battle against what amounts to corporate colonialism.

Your approach of helping people deal with abusive situations is cogent and commendable in Pennsylvania and Ohio and other states where towns and citizens have been abused by hydraulic fracturing and its industrialization of the countryside. But in suggesting that we New Yorkers prepare to deal with that abuse, it seems that you are unaware that we are organizing town bans, and town moratoria in contemplation of bans, of fracking, and of our own well-developed legal defense resources for New York towns and property owners (c.f. the radio podcast from WSKG, Tens of millions of New Yorkers are currently protected by these actions, by the Governor's ban on fracking the watersheds of Syracuse and NYC, and on Long Island, which has no drilling assets.

New Yorkers aren't girding our loins to mitigate the frackers' abuse (but thanks for the offer). We are resolved to keep them out of New York, and deny these corporate colonialists from committing their abuses, with our minds and hearts and with our bodies where necessary. If the NRDC wishes to commit itself to aiding the fight against corporate colonialism, wonderful! Otherwise, please don't muddy the waters, which we prefer clean, clear and without need of filtering, right out of the kitchen tap.

Dwain Wilder, Librarian,
FrackFreeGenesee Library

Kate SindingSep 20 2012 11:30 AM

Dwain, I am not sure where the confusion stems from, but to be absolutely clear: NRDC is helping to defend the bans that are being enacted by towns in NYS. We have the utmost respect and appreciation for the Community Environmental Defense Council and others who have taken the lead in this critical work. We are seeking to lend additional resources and manpower to those efforts.

Barry MillerSep 20 2012 01:02 PM

We know that the Marcellus Shale is radioactive, and it is low level radiation -- the most lethal!

There is no safe level of radiation exposure to humans, we also know this.

Therefore, there is no safe level of unconventional shale gas extraction.

For these reasons, there must be no shale hydrofracking allowed...anywhere.

Barry Miller
Concerned Citizens of Cattaraugus County, NY

Steve RSep 20 2012 01:53 PM

This is great news ! The NRDC is a very efficient and competent environmental protection group. Here in WV, we need all the help we can get combating frackers and their political sycophants.

Thanks again

cynthia carestioSep 20 2012 06:55 PM

"... NRDC ... to urge the Governor and his agencies to fully consider the risks of fracking before making any decision to move forward."!!!
I'm not convinced or reassured. Is NRDC in support of a ban on hydrofracking in NY?

Sue RappSep 21 2012 07:29 AM

Will you be offering help on zoning issues? Can we speak about this?

Kate SindingSep 21 2012 09:16 AM

Hi Sue:

Yes, we will. I'll email you.


Steven RunfolaSep 22 2012 07:28 AM

Hello Kate:
I am a NRDC donator from Morgantown WV. I am writing to enquire why the NRDC Community Fracking Defense Project does not include WV. As you know, we sure need it !
Thanks, Steve

Vic WeeSep 22 2012 11:18 PM

Do you have a reference for clear guidelines of what are acceptable precautions to actually do fracking? Is fracking unacceptable at any level? Industry often takes the position that no regulation is necessary but then unscrupulous drilling companies ignore obvious precautions and the blowback of environmental disasters comes to honest players. The industry needs to understand that regulations protect them too.

Kate SindingSep 24 2012 05:33 PM

Hi Steve,

First, thanks very much for your support of NRDC.

We do know that there is a great need in WV. Our decision to limit our launch to five states is a function of our resources and staffing abilities, as well as where we have staff on the ground. Should resources allow, we would like to expand to WV and other states down the line. In the meantime, please keep in touch with us about what is going on on the ground in WV.


DianePSep 25 2012 07:46 AM

It is so discouraging that WV was excluded from this 5-state initiative.

We ARE at ground zero of marcellus drilling exploitation of both people and our WV lands. Is WV written off as collateral damage?

We have a large network of volunteers here in WV who are working our butts off to get attention from the outside world to come here and see what's being done to the people and environment in WV and to hopefully help us out!!! (check out and yet we get little or no support from outside environmental groups around the country to help us with our effort.

What more can we do to get you to try to get your attention to come help us in WV? Please let us know...we are getting discouraged.

Steve RunfolaSep 25 2012 10:09 AM

I agree with Diane P ! How can we help NRDC implement this program here in WV ?

Thanks, Steve

Ruth RogersSep 25 2012 04:24 PM

Will you NRDC, please check to make sure that Fort Collins, Colorado and/or northern Colorado is doing enough to save the water? There is so much confusion in this area -- about the truth of "fracking." Some group says that is will not hurt the water, because they want the money. WATER MEANS MORE MONEY THEN NATURAL GAS IN COLORADO. The other people and groups know the value of water. Please help us go solar and wind. Thank You. PLEASE HELP NORTHERN COLORADO -- NEAR FORT COLLINS. THANK YOU.

Ruth RogersSep 25 2012 04:29 PM

Dear NRDC, Northern Colorado has got a big problem. The coal or gas or some company came asking for signatures to get us to say that we want hydraulic frackturing(fracking.) This usually means that there will be no clean water, and horrible air quality. Please kindly check into this and if you will and/or can make a petition for Colorado -- that will work. Thank You.

Kevin WardSep 25 2012 10:16 PM

Is there a reliable "frack map" either for proposed or ongoing projects nationwide and is this info public domain?

Ed VicheckSep 27 2012 09:48 AM

You mentioned Act 13 here in Pennsylvania which will take zoning out of the hands of the municipalities and hand it over to the State and (drilling companies) who had a big part in writing the bill. I have it from a source that shall remain nameless there is a lot of pressure being place on the court and it looks as if they are going to allow Act 13 to remain as is. I really hope that my source is wrong because this would be devastating to Independence Township and all of Pennsylvania.

Kathleen FerrisSep 27 2012 07:42 PM

Kate, you don't mention Tennessee. Tomorrow there is a meeting in Nashville to rewrite the rules governing oil and gas drilling. We may be next.

Kate SindingSep 28 2012 08:53 AM

Hi Kathleen, Steve, Ruth and Cynthia,

We are very concerned about conditions in all of these states. Please remain in contact with us so that we can do our best to provide assistance.


Kristin LokenSep 28 2012 01:32 PM

Why isn't the project in West Virginia, too?

Linda TSep 28 2012 03:38 PM

I live in Colden, Erie County, NY. We have a current moratorium on fracking that is set to expire soon and have formed a committee with representatives from the town, zoning, planning and environmental boards and local citizens group to write legislation on fracking. However, our town sits on top of an underground natural gas storage field and it is unclear how or if we can restrict activities in the storage field and whether or not this impacts what type of legislation we can write for high volume fracking. The town board is afraid of a lawsuit by the gas company that operates the storage field and has allowed them to have input on the moratorium. Could your legal staff help us with this issue?

Comments are closed for this post.


Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit

Feeds: Kate Sinding’s blog

Feeds: Stay Plugged In