Opponents of natural gas fracturing in Sanford, New York filed a lawsuit Monday against the town council, alleging that officials silenced them in violation of their First Amendment rights.

The city, like many across the state, has become a hotbed of anti-fracking activism as Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) debates whether to lift a statewide ban on the natural gas extraction technique, which scientists say can cause earthquakes and has led to polluted well water in some areas.

The council in Sanford was sued after members shut down public comment in September, following weeks of meetings packed with supporters and opponents of fracking, according to The Associated Press.

The council's resolution to close public speaking time still allowed written comments to be submitted.

The lawsuit was filed by the Natural Resources Defense Council and Catskill Citizens for Safe Energy.

Despite opposition, a New York state study conducted in secret and leaked to the media in January declared that fracking is safe. Cuomo allegedly kept the report secret because he's worried about "strident opposition on his party's left," according to a source who spoke to The New York Times.


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