Starkey Citizens for a Clean & Healthy Environment
Appeals Court Says NY Towns Can Ban Fracking

ALBANY A mid-level appeals court said New York’s local governments can ban hydraulic fracturing and shale-gas drilling within their borders, delivering a blow to the natural-gas industry and pro-drilling landowners who sought to have such bans overturned.

The state Appellate Division ruled unanimously Thursday in favor of the Tompkins County town of Dryden and the Otsego County town of Middlefield, which both passed zoning laws that prohibit natural-gas drilling. The rulings upheld decisions last year from a lower court.

“I’m very proud of the town for being able to take a lead on this issue and say that, ‘Yes, local government matters. The people supporting the local government matter,’” Dryden Town Supervisor Mary Ann Sumner said. “And it’s nice to have that affirmed by the court.”

The court decisions could have widespread ramifications if New York allows high-volume hydrofracking within its borders. The state has had a de facto moratorium on large-scale fracking for close to five years as it completes various layers of environmental and health reviews of the technique.

More than 150 municipalities have passed a ban or moratorium on hydrofracking or gas drilling, according to FracTracker, a website that has tracked the issue. A large majority of the bans have come in the Finger Lakes region and central New York, north and east of Chemung, Tioga and Broome counties, where the gas-rich Marcellus Shale formation is believed to be the richest.

The so-called "home rule" issue has been contentious between the gas industry and critics of fracking, a technique where water, sand and chemicals are injected deep underground to fracture shale and release natural gas.

Proponents of fracking contended New York law prohibits local bans because it defers all regulatory oversight of drilling to the state. Dryden and Middlefield argued the clause in state’s oil-and-gas law – which says state law “shall supersede all local laws” related to regulating oil and gas drilling, excluding roads and property taxes --doesn't impede their ability to use zoning laws as they see fit.
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