Colden faces suit over hydrofracking that isn’t

Colden faces suit over hydrofracking that isn’t by Phil Fairbanks, October 5, 2012, Buffalo News
Like dozens of municipalities across the state, the Town of Colden adopted a moratorium against hydraulic fracturing this year. Now the town finds itself the target of one of the first legal challenges to those moratoriums, but with a caveat. Unlike most of the other suits, National Fuel Gas Supply Corp. is suing Colden over an operation that has nothing to do with hydraulic fracturing. “This is very different from hydraulic fracturing,” National Fuel spokeswoman Karen L. Merkel said of what goes on in Colden. “This has nothing to do with any shale drilling.”

The company is challenging the town’s six-month ban on hydrofracturing because it also prohibits other types of horizontal drilling, a practice that the company often uses to access its natural gas storage field in Colden. Town Supervisor Annie Hoffman said the town is well aware of National Fuel’s concerns and is working on changes to its moratorium, which ends later this month.“We can’t just say to National Fuel, ‘You can never come into Colden again,” Hoffman said. “Once the reworded moratorium is in place, I’m hoping the lawsuit will go away.”

Hoffman said the Colden storage field has been in existence for decades and National Fuel has the necessary state and federal permits to drill a new horizontal well. The company, in fact, completed the new well in July despite the town’s moratorium. Nevertheless, National Fuel felt a need to clarify how the moratorium affected its long-standing operation at the 41-acre Colden storage field, a now depleted natural gas reservoir that is used for the storage and transportation of gas from outside New York State. Merkel said the company is not seeking to end the moratorium but simply to prohibit its use against other types of horizontal drilling. “We’re hopeful,” Merkel said of possible changes to the town’s moratorium. “If they pass the amendments, we will voluntarily dismiss this complaint.”

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