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Anti fracker wins top environmental award

Helen Slottje
Contributed photo

By Fritz Mayer
April 30, 2014

REGION — Helen Slottje, who with her husband David Slottje has advised numerous municipalities in New York State on how to craft local laws to ban hydraulic fracturing and other high-impact industrial activities, has been named as one of the winners of this year’s Goldman Environmental Award. The award, which comes with a prize of $175,000, was announced on April 28.

Locally, Helen and David assisted the towns of Lumberland, Highland and Tusten in drafting local laws that banned fracking, and were active with residents opposed to fracking in the Town of Callicoon.

At a time when debate was raging across the state that municipalities had no right to pass laws that banned fracking because they were pre-empted by the Environmental Conservation Law, which gives the New York Department of Environmental Conservation authority over oil and gas drilling, the Slottjes were arguing the opposite. They said that while municipalities had no right to regulate the methods used for drilling, municipalities could ban drilling from a municipality altogether.

Pro-drilling interests disagreed with that interpretation of the law, and took the issue to court in the cases of the towns of Dryden and Middlefield, which had passed bans on drilling and fracking. Thus far a lower court and an appellate court have sided with the municipalities and against the drilling interests. The case is now before the New York Court of Appeals.

More than 170 towns and cities throughout the state have passed local laws prohibiting fracking based on the work initiated by the Slottjes.

A state-wide moratorium on fracking is still in place, and while it’s not clear when or if Gov. Andrew Cuomo will allow fracking to go forward, several geologists have offered the view that there is very little recoverable gas to be found in the Marcellus Shale in New York State and the Upper Delaware River Valley.