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State court supports fracking ban

    DRYDEN—The New York State Supreme Court has ruled Feb. 21 that the town of Dryden can ban hydraulic fracturing through zoning laws.
    Supreme Court Justice Phillip R. Rumsey made the decision in the court case between the town of Dryden and the Anschutz Exploration Corp. According to the ruling, the court was asked to determine whether a local municipality can regulate land use to prohibit exploration for and production of oil and natural gas.
    In order to prohibit fracking, the town of Dryden amended its zoning ordinance Aug. 2, 2011, to ban all activities related to the exploration for and production of natural gas and petroleum. Anschutz owns gas leases covering approximately 22,200 acres in Dryden, representing over one-third of the total area. According to the court, these leases were obtained prior to the zoning amendment. Anschutz filed a suit on Sept. 16 to invalidate the zoning law on the basis that it is preempted by the Oil, Gas and Solution Mining Law.
    Rumsey stated in his decision that while the OGSML says it supersedes local law, “this provision was last amended more than 30 years ago, long before the potential use of hydrofracking to recover natural gas from the Marcellus Shale in New York could have been anticipated.” He adds that the court of appeals has ruled on a similar matter concerning the supersession clause in the Mined Land Reclamation Law, saying that did not overrule local zoning ordinances. Rumsey said because the two laws are similar, “the court is constrained to follow that precedent in this case.”
    The town’s change to the zoning stated that:
    • “No land in the town shall be used: to conduct any exploration for natural gas and/or petroleum; to drill any well for natural gas and/or petroleum; to transfer, store, process or treat natural gas and/or petroleum; or to dispose of natural gas and/or petroleum exploration or production wastes; or to erect any derrick, building or other structure; or to place any machinery or equipment for any such purposes.”
    • “No land in the town shall be used for: the storage, transfer, treatment and/or disposal of natural gas and/or petroleum exploration and production materials.”
    • “No land in the town shall be used for natural gas and/or petroleum support activities.”




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