NY's top court says local governments can ban fracking

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Fracking bans in the towns of Dryden and Middlefield will stand under a ruling issued this morning by the state's top court.

A panel of State Court of Appeals judges said that towns and villages can use zoning laws to prohibit fracking, as Dryden and Middlefield did. They basically said that oil and gas drilling, including fracking, are heavy industry and incompatible with community character. The court's decision basically says that the state's Oil, Gas, and Solution Mining Law doesn't preempt municipalities' authority to regulate land use.

"Plainly, the zoning laws in these cases are directed at regulating land use generally and do not attempt to govern the details, procedures, or operations of the oil and gas industries," the decision says.

The decision is a victory for anti-fracking activists, who say that communities should be able to choose whether to permit drilling and fracking in their towns and villages.

Right now, high-volume hydraulic fracturing isn't allowed anywhere in New York, since state officials are still doing an environmental and safety review of the extraction method. But if state officials do eventually green-light fracking, local-level bans could create a patchwork of places in the state where fracking is and isn't allowed. Oil and gas industry officials sought to avoid that scenario, so the decision is a loss for the industry.

The decision is available here.

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