Court cases could decide fate of fracking bans


News broke this week that a state Supreme Court justice upheld the Town of Avon's ban on fracking. Lenape Resources, a Western New York drilling company, sued the town and the Department of Environmental Conservation to overturn the ban.

Several news outlets reported that Avon is the third community whose fracking ban survived a legal challenge. But the general issue of whether towns have the ability to implement the bans is still alive in the courts. The Associated Press reports that state Appellate Division judges will hear arguments in two appeals cases today. One involves a ban in the Town of Dryden, near Ithaca, and the other involves a ban in Middlefield, near Cooperstown.

Dozens of New York communities have banned fracking, often using zoning laws that prohibit the broader category of oil and natural gas extraction, regardless of how its done. Typically, the communities say drilling amounts to industrial activity inconsistent with community character. As Earthjustice attorney Deborah Goldberg explained it to the Associated Press, the communities aren't regulating oil and gas drilling, they're regulating land use. And judges, so far, have backed that approach.