Last week, the state Court of Appeals upheld fracking bans imposed by local governments in a 5-2 ruling. The Court issued its decision in a case in which two communities — Dryden in Tompkins County and Middlefield in Otsego County – enacted zoning restrictions on the use of “high volume hydraulic fracturing” (commonly called ‘fracking’) to develop natural gas.
Two companies looking to drill for natural gas industry challenged the town bans in court, arguing that the towns lacked the authority to prohibit fracking and related natural gas development activities. They said that state law requires a uniform statewide policy, and does not permit “patchwork” regulation by the State’s 932 towns.
The Court disagreed, holding that the state’s Oil, Gas and Solution Mining Law (OGSML) does not preempt the home rule authority vested in municipalities to regulate land use, including natural gas development.
While we disagree with the Court’s decision, is should open the door for towns that do want to allow natural gas development in their borders to do so. The only thing stopping them is the DEC’s inability to complete its environmental impact review. That review is long overdue.