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Editorials

July 9, 2014

In Our Opinion: Court got it right on home rule

New York state’s highest court has ruled that local governments have the right to tell the big drilling companies to leave them alone and mind their own fracking business.

Good, very good.

The 5-2 decision last week by the Court of Appeals rewarded the doughty efforts of the Otsego County town of Middlefield and the Tompkins County town of Dryden, which refused to be intimidated by the expenses of a long judicial process.

It was also a triumph for those who believe that folks should have a say in what goes on and what doesn’t in their towns and villages.

“The decision is a significant victory for municipal home rule rights to ensure local residents have a say in what happens in their community,” Middlefield Town Supervisor Dave Bliss said. “This decision goes a long way to ensure the town of Middlefield will continue to be known for its clean air, clean water, farms, forests, hills, trout streams, scenic viewsheds and rural lifestyle.”

This was anything but a business-friendly Republican vs. environment-oriented Democrat decision. The majority decision was written by Associate Judge Victoria Graffeo, a Republican.

While Middlefield’s 2011 ban was challenged by Cooperstown Holstein Corp., owned by Middlefield dairy farmer Jennifer Huntington, the suit was backed by drilling interests, including Norse Energy, a company based in Norway that challenged Dryden’s ban.

The state of New York, meanwhile, continues to dither about whether it will allow horizontal drilling for natural gas at all. A lot of people, including Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Republican opponent, Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, say that Cuomo is delaying a decision until after his re-election campaign is over in November.

Those people are correct about that. Cuomo has asked the state Health Department to complete a study on the health impacts of fracking. The ultimate decision about whether to allow permits for horizontal fracking will then rest with the governor. 

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