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Fracking Bans Upheld by New York Court

Fracking opponents scored two major court victories In New York State on May 2 when an Appellate Division court panel ruled unanimously that two towns can use zoning to ban fracking. Paradoxically, it could also be good for energy companies.
May 12, 2013, 5am PDT | Irvin Dawid
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Joe Mahoney pens a trio of articles on the court's ruling allowing the Otsego County town of Middlefield and the Tompkins County town of Dryden to ban fracking, thus upholding "home rule". It was a defeat for the energy companies that argued that only the NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation "was empowered by the state Oil, Gas and Solution Mining Law to regulate drilling."

The earlier ruling by the NY Supreme Court that upheld Dryden's ban of fracking was reported here last February.

While the "cases will likely now wind up before New York's highest court -- the Court of Appeals", it might be better for the natural gas industry to let the rulings stand, according to Thomas West, an attorney who works for the natural gas industry and was involved in one of the court cases, writes Mahoney on May 7.

“The silver lining in this cloud is that it now gives the governor an exit strategy (to allow hydraulic fracturing in communities that have signaled they are open to it)” said West.

The legislature imposed a temporary moratorium on fracking in 2010 and the Assembly voted on May 6 to extend it for two more years. Cuomo, who has shown signs of wanting to lift the ban, may be more willing to do so knowing that those areas opposed to it could ban it, while others would benefit from new state regulations overseeing it.

The Daily Star's editorial of May 9 acknowledged West's opinion and appeared to encourage the town to consider banning the controversial procedure.

"(I)t’s essential that individual communities have the ability to protect themselves from the potential negative impacts of this process".

According to Mahoney, "an estimated 150 towns have either passed bans or moratoriums against gas excavation".

While there are populist rebellions against fracking in New York and California due to the environmental and public health concerns associated with them, other states have shown more concern with ensuring that the energy industry pays sufficient royalties and severance taxes.

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Published on Thursday, May 2, 2013 in The Oneonta Daily Star
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