Court says communities can ban drilling

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Yesterday, a state appeals court upheld two towns' bans on oil and gas drilling in separate but similar cases. The decisions were cheered by environmental and anti-fracking groups, as well by some elected officials.

One case challenged a ban in the Town of Dryden, (decision here) and the other, in the Town of Middlefield (decision here).

Essentially, a panel of state Appellate Division justices ruled that the towns did not exceed their regulatory authority by enacting the bans. Generally, the state regulates oil and gas drilling. But state courts have consistently held that local governments can exclude oil and gas drilling by saying they aren't acceptable land uses.

Both towns are located above the Marcellus Shale and faced the possibility of hydrofracking within their borders to extract the natural gas. Town officials argued that fracking amounts to heavy industry inconsistent with community character and other local industry, especially agriculture.

Drilling industry representatives told some reporters that they plan to appeal the decisions. But they also said that the higher court is unlikely to hear the cases. The Appellate Division decisions were unanimous in both cases.

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