The small New York town of Sanford has enraged environmental groups by prohibiting all discussion of natural gas drilling at town board meetings and is now facing a lawsuit for violating free speech rights.
Those opposed to hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” have been unable to discuss their environmental concerns since the ban was implemented in September. To justify barring the environmental talk, the town board alleges that there had already been hours of discussion against gas drilling and that no more was needed.
Herbert Kline, an attorney representing Sanford’s decision, told the Associated Press that the board was becoming overwhelmed with residents’ concerns about natural gas drilling, which has been a major political issue in New York state in wake of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s impending decision about lifting a four and a half year suspension of the practice.
“People who were against fracking had, in the minds of the town board, monopolized discussion in the public participation portion of prior meetings to the extent that very little other business could be accomplished,” Kline said.