New York’s highest court: Towns can ban fracking, drilling despite state laws allowing it

By Scott Kaufman
Monday, June 30, 2014 12:25 EDT
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Michael G McKinne / Shutterstock.com
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The New York Court of Appeals upheld a lower court ruling that local governments can decide whether to allow fracking or drilling on land under their control, ThinkProgress reported.

The state’s highest court had to decide whether state laws regulating oil, gas, and mining procedures take precedence over local zoning laws. The lower courts decided in favor of two New York towns, Middlefield and Dryden, which had banned fracking and drilling.

The court’s decision frees all New York townships to establish zoning laws prohibiting fracking and drilling operations.

Writing for the majority, Associate Judge Victoria Graffeo claimed that this case was less about fracking than establishing a balance of power between state and local authorities.

“These appeals are not about whether hydrofracking is beneficial or detrimental to the economy, environment or energy needs of New York, and we pass no judgment on its merits,” she argued.

“These are major policy questions for the coordinate branches of government to resolve,” Judge Graffeo continued. “The discrete issue before us, and the only one we resolve today, whether the State Legislature eliminated the home rule capacity of municipalities to pass zoning laws that exclude oil, gas and hydrofracking activities in order to preserve the existing character of their communities.”

In a statement, Dryden Deputy Supervison Jason Leifer said that “[t]oday the Court stood with the people of Dryden and the people of New York to protect their right to self determination. It is clear that people, not corporations, have the right to decide how their community develops.”

[Image via Michael G McKinne on Shutterstock.com]

Scott Kaufman
Scott Kaufman
Scott Eric Kaufman is the proprietor of the AV Club's Internet Film School and, in addition to Raw Story, also writes for Lawyers, Guns & Money. He earned a Ph.D. in English Literature from the University of California, Irvine in 2008.
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