|Landmark Decision for Local Control – Major Setback for Fracking Supporters
ALBANY, N.Y. — Towns across New York State and as far away as Texas and Colorado may soon feel the aftershocks of a landmark decision June 30 by the highest court in New York that towns have the authority to ban drilling for natural gas.
The 5-2 ruling by the state Court of Appeals has emboldened opponents of high-volume hydraulic fracturing, for fracking, and they hope to make the most of it.
“Any town that has held off banning fracking for fear of getting sued by the frackers just got a neon green light to proceed with a ban,” said Chip Northrup, an energy investor turned anti-drilling activist from Cooperstown. “While they are at it, they should ban frack waste, since most New York towns are more liable to being dumped on than fracked.”
In Texas, the Denton City Council is expected to consider a petition for a local ban on fracking at its next regular meeting, July 15. Denton has 270 gas wells within its city limits, but 2,000 residents have signed the petition to ban more. And Texas law is deferential to local authority over land use.
In Colorado, on the other hand, the state’s highest court now says local bans cannot pre-empt gas development. But the state legislature could still step into the long tug of war between local and state authority over drilling rights that has pitted the towns of Lafayette and Fort Collins against the governor and triggered a statewide voter initiative.
The New York ruling follows a 2013 decision by Pennsylvania’s highest court to uphold local bans on drilling. It is another major blow to the energy industry’s once-fond hope of wholesale natural gas development in New York’s Marcellus Shale formation.
Frustrated drillers have been campaigning unsuccessfully for six years to obtain permits for high-volume fracking. But Gov. Andrew Cuomo has placed those permits on hold until at least 2015, pending the outcome of a state Department of Health study of fracking’s health impacts, which was launched in 2012.
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