NY’s top court says towns can ban fracking


New York’s towns can use zoning laws to ban hydraulic fracturing within their borders, the state’s top court ruled Monday.

apdrillingIn a precedent-setting ruling that could have wide implications on the future of shale-gas drilling in New York, the state Court of Appeals ruled 5-2 in favor of the towns of Dryden, Tompkins County, and Middlefield, Otsego County.

The two towns had been embroiled in separate, three-year-long legal disputes over the validity of their local fracking bans. An oil-and-gas company and a Middlefield dairy farm had challenged the bans, arguing that New York law gives full power to the state to regulate the industry.

“We are asked in these two appeals whether towns may ban oil and gas production activities, including hydrofracking, within municipal boundaries through the adoption of local zoning laws,” Associate Judge Victoria Graffeo wrote in the majority opinion. “We conclude that they may because the supersession clause in the statewide Oil, Gas and Solution Mining Law (OGSML) does not preempt the home rule authority vested in municipalities to regulate land use.”

The decision Monday affirms the rulings of the lower courts, which had ruled in favor of the towns.

High-volume hydrofracking has been on hold in New York since 2008, when then-Gov. David Paterson ordered the Department of Environmental Conservation to complete a lengthy environmental review. That review continues today under Gov. Andrew Cuomo, with no deadline for completion.

Anschutz Exploration Corp., a Colorado-based oil-and-gas company, first challenged Dryden’s anti-fracking zoning ordinance in 2011, and the Cooperstown Holstein Corp. filed suit against Middlefield not long after. Norse Energy took over for Anschutz after the state Supreme Court ruled in favor of the town, and Norse’s trustee took over after the company filed for bankruptcy last year.

Here’s the ruling from the Court of Appeals:

Home Rule Decision

(AP file photo)


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  1. Hugh Kimball on

    Congratulations to all those directly involved in the towns which adopted the bans, to the lawyers who helped adopt them, and to the lawyers who defended the bans at the three levels of the NYS judicial system. Also, congratulations to the thousands of New Yorkers who stood up for their rights and for home rule for the past many years. Well done, all.

    However, we cannot rest as we know money will be spent by the industry to be able to frack New York.

  2. Joanne Corey on

    I’m not at all surprised that the bans were upheld. New York is a home rule state, as the court has again affirmed.

    Still, because the impacts of shale gas drilling easily pass town borders via water, air, waste disposal, atmosphere, food, traffic congestion and accidents, socioeconomic impacts, etc. a statewide ban should be enacted on drilling, new infrastructure, and waste treatment/disposal. All NYers deserve equal protection.

    Unfortunately, for those of us living on the PA border with active drilling right over the border, we will continue to suffer environmental impacts. Let’s not add to them by allowing drilling and waste treatment in our own town, too.

  3. I applaud the High Court’s decision to allow Home Rule, the people who live in their towns and pay their taxes decide the fate of the land use. This is a great decision for local municipalities. However, as we all know air and water know no boundaries. What one town wants and another doesn’t and how the water and chemicals can carry underground to one neighbor living in one town NOT wanting it from another town WANTING it, doesn’t work geologically. Our Governor now must ban it in the entire state to protect the rights of all who live within the state. He’s been guided by many New Yorkers and the High Court. Now ban it completely.

  4. Congratulations to all who gave themselves tirelessly in this fight! Now let’s surround the few towns that “want” fracking with towns that have banned it! Make those places inaccessible to America’s Natural Gas.

  5. Daniel Rapaport on

    This is legally the correct decision, but it should put a fire under the governor’s chair to pass a statewide ban on the practice, or at least a 10 year moratorium.

    The deleterious effects of this practice cross through communities, and it’s all done to export our resources to foreign countries so that a very very few gain wealth.

    What we need in NY is a huge push into renewables. Upgrade our grid, pass legislation to allow shared solar projects, and subsidize home solar more.

    Let’s make NY a model for energy sustainability!

  6. The Biggest Losers on

    New York – CLOSED FOR BUSINESS. Politics won. The scumbags rejoice. Andy the Dithering douche can rest easy.


  7. Daniel, who is going to pay for those subsidies? The companies that are leaving? How will ANY of that benefit the average farmer? It won’t – Until solar and wind can stand on their own, they will never compete. Bloomberg did an analysis of the laughable Jacobsen/Howarth/Ingraffia ‘study’ that said that it would cost over 300 billion dollars to implement. This from a governor who can’t even say how he’s going to fund the Tappan Zee bridge? And is trying to steal half a billion dollars from on environmental fund to cover some of the costs?? HAH! Believe he’s gives a rat’s rear end about the environment if you want, but he’s proven to be a sleazy, corrupt lying politician.

  8. This is fantastic news for our state.
    Now Governor Cuomo must listen to the mainstream medical community and ban fracking statewide.

  9. Proud, you are right – the governor, who has no authority to insert himself into the process under SEQRA, and who has lied about science, can ban it. Even though it’s been done safely here for years, and is being done safely in 30+ other states, he will ignore his own DOH who already said in a 2012 report that the governor suppressed that it can be done safely, will kiss the ass of Sheldon Sliver and his heroin-addict ex-brother in law. Business will continue to leave and the cost of heating your home will increase.

    New York – the Vampire state.

  10. Victor Furman on

    So if towns can ban it then towns that want it should be able to permit it without state authority. It only makes sense and since every town above the Marcellus signed resolutions supporting gas drilling lets bring the drilling on…. If Cuomo does implement a state wide ban this decision will be instrumental in a lawsuit against the state.

  11. August Braun on

    All those who are thrilled about this ruling should also now be demanding that all the nat gas coming into this nat gas guzzling state should be shut off at the border. Then let’s see how the solar arrays and windmills can keep you warm in the winter. This issue is far from over as this ruling has rendered NY private landowner mineral rights valueless. This blather about still being able to drill vertically is hilarious. It is no longer financially feasible to drill vertically, thus it is a dead technology nationwide. What is next for private landownership in NY state? We will not be able to cut down trees on our land because the machinery emissions (chainsaws, skidders, logging trucks) used contributes to global warming? The loss of the leaves on the cut trees further slows absorption of CO2 thus adds to climate change? This court ruling has opened a can of worms that the anti’s opened that they and their pro bono ambulance chasers will have to deal with in the not too distant future. This is but the first step in the gradual de facto confiscation of private land in NY.

  12. Chicken Little on

    You would think that the sky is falling to listen to the Chicken Little “pro-frackers!”

  13. Diana Wright on

    This is a great triumph. Now we need every city, town, hamlet, and village in the state to ban fracking in their jurisdiction so we can keep fracking out even if Cuomo doesn’t have the brains or balls to do so. We have the power to keep this state clean and beautiful for all generations to come. Let’s do it!

  14. Patricia Goldsmith on

    Thank God! This is an answer to my prayers! I live in Livingston, which has enacted a ban on fracking and fracking related activity, and I am beyond grateful that the courts have upheld our right to protect our land, our community, and our way of life.

  15. Patricia Goldsmith on

    By the way, this is also a fantastic opportunity for Gov. Cuomo to take the plunge and permanently ban fracking in New York! With so many towns already opposed and many more sure to follow, New York will be less attractive to the fracking industry, which might change the political calculations the governor is making right now. Ban and lead this passionate grassroots movement, Governor!

  16. Surely You are Bogus on

    August Braun Bill Owen Victor Furman (insert next made up name here) wants to get rich by leasing their land and then skipping off to some other state or even out of the USA

  17. August Braun on

    Speaking of hypocrites – “Surely You are Bogus”: just be sure to call the utility and have them shut off your nat gas supply and get back to us on how your solar array or wind turbine keeps you warm this winter.

  18. Victor Furman on

    not one town over the gas rich Marcellus banned drilling and soon Cuomo will allow it

  19. Taxpayer1301 on

    Those of us who worked hard and long on this can feel liberated from the multi-national boots on our neck for a moment or two before we go back to fighting the flood of frack-gas infrastructure that Cuomo, Obama, and their administrations are dumping on us.

  20. August Braun on

    Taxpayer 1301 – Your comment is so Castroesque and perhaps even Marxist. “Multi-national boots on our neck”…..give me a break. Bet you don’t say that when you fire up your propane grill or turn the thermostat up to turn on your nat gas furnace in the winter. Demonizing gas companies is a rather simple minded trick which works on the weak minded.