The New York Court of Appeals has ruled that local governments can say no to energy companies that want to establish fracking operations within its land. The ruling upheld those of the state’s lower courts in the towns of Middlefield and Dryden.
Middlefield and Dryden had banned fracking operations from taking place within the towns’ incorporated limits. The ruling is the first of its kind as the state of New York allows fracking, but has now ruled to ultimately leave it up to the townships and communities of New York state to determine whether or not energy companies can drill within its borders.
These disputes began in 2011 when an energy company that obtained gas and oil leases in Dryden and Middlefield filed legal complaints after the townspeople took initiative and amended their zoning laws to ban fracking. The energy company argued that state oil and gas laws trump the towns’ amendments.
However, the energy company, and subsequently any energy company that had might have zeroed in on New York for fracking, received an unexpected slap in the face yesterday. The New York State Court of Appeals ruled, in a 5-2 decision, that local ordinances could restrict the expansion of fracking.
Although Associate Judge Victoria Graffeo said that the decision was more about the balance of power between the state and municipalities, the ruling is still a huge win against the energy industry.
“The oil and gas industry tried to bully us into backing down, but we took our fight all the way to New York’s highest court,” said Dryden town supervisor Mary Ann Sumne. “I hope our victory serves as an inspiration to people in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Texas, Colorado, New Mexico, Florida, North Carolina, California and elsewhere who are also trying to do what’s right for their own communities.”
The oil and gas industry is a powerhouse on the lobbying front with near-endless amounts of money to buy political support for fracking. However, the people in Dryden and Middlefield showed that some unity and tenacity can indeed shut out the powerful energy industry.