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Gas driller sues NY, town over local moratorium

Published on NewsOK Modified: November 29, 2012 at 7:16 pm •  Published: November 29, 2012

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — A natural gas drilling company is suing state regulators and a western New York town where it has operated for decades over a local moratorium that threatens to put it out of business.

Papers were served this week in a lawsuit against the Livingston County town of Avon and the state Department of Environmental Conservation, said John Holko, owner of Lenape Resources, a small natural gas company based in Alexander, 35 miles southwest of Rochester. Holko is seeking at least $50 million in damages from the town, claiming its recent ban on gas drilling and storage has cost Lenape millions of dollars in lost business and unused mineral rights.

"I've drilled over 100 wells in this county," Holko said. "I have 100 miles of pipeline, compressor stations and a disposal well. I supply gas to farmers, industrial users and interstate commerce. Now, because three guys on a town board decide they don't want me here anymore, I'm out of business. There's something dramatically wrong with that."

Holko said the town's gas drilling moratorium and similar ones passed by dozens of other upstate New York towns violate a 1981 law giving the state Department of Environmental Conservation sole authority to regulate oil and gas development. He's also suing the DEC, saying it's required to take action against the local bans.

Local courts have upheld drilling bans in the towns of Middlefield and Dryden. Both cases are under appeal with arguments before the state Appellate Division expected in February. Lenape's suit is the first that also names the DEC.

"This issue is before the courts and we will let that process progress," DEC spokeswoman Emily DeSantis said Thursday in response to a question about the Lenape lawsuit.

Avon Town Supervisor David LeFeber said Thursday that he could not comment on pending litigation.

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