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New York’s Highest Court to Hear Appeal in Municipal Fracking Ban Cases


Fracking site in Susquehanna County PA - Photo credit: Misty Duvall
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In a surprise decision, New York’s highest court announced Thursday that it will hear appeals from fracking proponents who have challenged the municipal fracking bans enacted by the towns of Dryden and Middlefield. The Court of Appeals ruling on in this case will conclusively determine whether municipalities in New York have the right to exercise their zoning authority to protect their citizens from the harmful effects of fracking. Without these rights, corporations would have the unfettered ability to drill and frack within a few hundred feet from homes, schools, hospitals, and religious institutions and local government would be powerless to intervene.

On May 2, the mid-level appellate court decision in the Dryden and Middlefield cases unanimously upheld local zoning laws that ban fracking within town borders, finding that such bans do not conflict with New York State’s Oil, Gas, and Solution Mining Law. The Court of Appeals’ decision to hear the appeal is surprising because last year the court granted permission to appeal in only about six percent of the cases where there was a unanimous decision at the appellate level. In the cases of Dryden and Middlefield, all three lower courts at the county and appellate levels had unanimously ruled in favor of municipal Home Rule.

Riverkeeper is cautiously optimistic that the Court of Appeals will agree with the three lower courts and uphold New York’s long tradition of Home Rule, or the municipal right to determine land use, which grants communities the authority to ban or restrict oil and gas development within their borders. We will submit an amicus curiae, or “friend of the court” brief in support of the Towns of Dryden and Middlefield and their fracking bans.

For more information on the Dryden and Middlefield municipal fracking ban cases, see Riverkeeper’s earlier posts on the subject.

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