As Fracking Bans Hold Water, Other N.Y. Towns Jump on ‘Ban Wagon’

| February 29, 2012 4:00 AM

Last week, two New York Supreme Courts ruled that local bans on fracking did not violate state laws. While the natural gas industry is expected to continue fighting the bans, the rulings have bolstered confidence in other towns which have already passed bans, and others that are in the process of doing so, or are considering it.

The fracking ban movement started to really build momentum on Feb. 24, when a State Supreme Court Judge ruled that Middlefield, N.Y., had the ability to ban gas drilling within its borders. Three days earlier, another Supreme Court Justice turned down Anschultz Exploration Corporation’s case to overturn a fracking ban in the town of Dryden, N.Y.

Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is a controversial natural gas drilling technique, which proponents say could be highly lucrative for the state while also creating jobs, but opponents argue it’s economically unsustainable, environmentally toxic and could potentially contaminate New York City’s water supply due to small earthquakes below the Earth’s surface.

Take a look at the map below to view where the battlefields are in this ongoing judicial war.

As this map indicates, many towns in New York (dark blue) have already passed bans on fracking, while others (light blue) have pending bans. Map courtesy of Food and Water Watch.

Now, other towns across the state, bolstered by the recent court rulings, are expected to follow suit, reported Reuters.

St. Johnsville, N.Y. was the most recent town to pass a ban on fracking — a one year moratorium that began on Feb. 25. Right now, the biggest battleground is Albany County, where a new county-wide fracking ban bill was introduced on Feb. 24, immediately after the ban in Dryden was upheld.

The legality of these bans came into question back in September, when Anschultz filed the first lawsuit against a municipality, Dryden, for banning fracking in New York State. At the time, six counties and multiple towns had passed bans against fracking, but many feared that their bans violated the New York Department of Environmental Conservation‘s mining law, which denies municipalities the ability to regulate state industry laws.

A contractor closes a valve at a fracking facility in Claysville, P.A. Recent judicial rulings have upheld local bans on fracking in New York State, bolstering confidence among opponents of the drilling practice. AP/Keith Srakocic,

However, the two most recent rulings state that while the towns of Dryden and Middlefield don’t have the ability to regulate how the industry conducts itself, their outright bans don’t violate the law.

“The state maintains control over the ‘how’ of (drilling) procedures while the municipalities maintain control over the ‘where,'” said Supreme Court Justice Donald Cerio at the Middlefield ruling.

Both opponents and proponents of fracking say they expect these legal battles over local bans to continue until the state makes a decision on whether fracking will be legal in New York. And that won’t happen until the Department of Environmental Conservation releases its final fracking regulation plan, expected sometime in the coming months.

  • Barbara Hegarty

    Please push for an all out ban on Fracking Countrywide and Worldwide. We cannot pollute our water supply and our enviroment. The chemicals that they are using for Fracking are getting into peoples water and people are getting sick and dying. Peoples lives are beening destroyed by these greedy gas companies and the politicians that allow this to happen. Please think of the future and stand up for yourselves and your families and say NO TO FRACKING.

    • Dan

      Well then get rid of your car and heat in your home and go back to living in a cave. When you do that we will all follow you. Until then. Frack away..

      • neil

        There are no easy answers. I worry about a near future without a good and clean drinking water and the biggest treats to the water supply is pollution and development of water shed areas. To stay out caves we need a long term and sustainable energy source that can clean nuclear waste at the same time, Thorium reactors are one possible answer. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thorium_fuel_cycle
        The ROI is allot better with Thorium than short term easy money from Fracking and we get to keep the best drinking water supply in the world right here in New York. Just wondering are you someone who might make money from Fracking?

    • JKland

      I have read reliably that the amounts involved should fracking go forward are not great enough or long-lasting to warrant the destruction of homes and lives. When the source runs out, people are left with wreckage of water, land, and their health. Dan can pontificate all he wants – obviously he has something to gain out of this – Is he a company executive or just a greedy homeowner who has been paid off? Or just someone who likes to condemn “tree huggers”. Read more, and study more of this issue, Dan.

  • Martina O’Dea

    Citizens of the USA and all around the world Take Back Your Power. Tell the politicians you will not vote for anyone who supports fracking. CLEAN WATER IS A BASIC HUMAN RIGHT. We are the ones who have the power to CREATE A FRACKING FREE WORLD.
    The time for action is now. Form a group. join a group, protest, lobby politicians, show GASLAND. Write letters to the papers, inform, educate. POWER TO THE PEOPLE. YES WE CAN, IS FEIDIR LINN>

    • Dan

      Yes we can Frack… Safely and without hurting the water.

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