The issue of banning hydrofracturing waste from the city has been before the Common Council for quite a long time. The minutes of the Common Council for January 17, 2012, make reference to a letter, accepted as a communication, from Claudia Bruce, "urging the Council to adopt legislation that would protect the citizens of the City from the potential adverse effects of natural gas extraction." After writing the letter, Bruce returned regularly to Common Council meetings to ask what action was being taken, once bouncing up and down on a back bench to act out her intention to be the squeaky wheel that would get the grease.
The discussion of the draft local law addressing hydrofracking and waste materials from hydrofracking began in the Legal Committee on August 22, 2012. Abdus Miah (Second Ward) and Cappy Pierro (Fifth Ward), two of the seven aldermen who voted against legislation on December 18, 2012, both serve on the Legal Committee. On December 10, 2012, the proposed law was introduced at the informal meeting of the Common Council. At the Legal Committee meeting, before the law was moved forward, and at the informal Common Council meeting, when it was introduced, city attorney Cheryl Roberts, who had drafted the law, explained its content and its intent. At the informal meeting, there were no questions, comments, or objections voiced by any of the aldermen, yet eight days later, the proposed law was, in the words of Alderman David Marston (First Ward), "torpedoed, and no one was willing to explain why they voted as they did."
Last night, two aldermen--Pierro and Wanda Pertilla (Second Ward)--attempted to explain. Pierro complained about a sixteen-page document, implying that there had been inadequate time to comprehend its import. (Marston later pointed out that the claim that the document was sixteen pages long was "patently false.") Pierro also objected that no one had ever discussed the issue with DPW superintendent Rob Perry. Pierro sits on the Legal Committee, which first took up this issue in August. He had ample time to understand it and ample opportunity to suggest that Perry needed to be consulted. Pertilla explained her vote by saying: "I'm not going to vote on something that I am not fully educated about."
When the meeting was opened to questions and comments from the public, Fifth Ward resident Cheryl Stuart took issue with an earlier statement by Pierro that "hazardous material [from fracking] is going to be state regulated" and his attitude that "we have to accept what New York State says." Citing home rule, Stuart pointed out that bans of hydrofracking are already in place in many New York communities. Pierro insisted that there was no way to prevent hazardous material from being transported through the city: "If New York State says something can come through the town, we can't stop it." When asked, Roberts conceded that a municipality cannot interfere with interstate commerce.
Alderman John Friedman (Third Ward) made the point that passing the fracking law would "send a message to Albany" and warned "if we wait for New York State to make a final decision, we've abdicated our responsibility to our constituents."
Stuart then posed this question to Pierro: "If we can ban contaminants, would you vote to support it?" Apparently missing the conditional nature of the question, Pierro said he wasn't the lawyer and gestured toward Roberts.
Linda Mussmann, who is married to Bruce, who brought the issue to the Council in the first place, said she was "convinced that Cheryl Roberts has the expertise to write the law" and was "surprised that her aldermen voted against it." Mussmann and Bruce live in the Fourth Ward and are co-directors of Time & Space Limited, which is located, also in the Fourth Ward, on the truck route. The Fourth Ward is represented on the Council by Ohrine Stewart and Sheila Ramsey.