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May 2, 2013

Court rules towns can ban fracking

Middlefield, Dryden, home rule prevail in Appellate Division

The Otsego County town of Middlefield and the Tompkins County town of Dryden -- along with the principle of home rule -- scored major victories today, with the state Appellate Division issuing a pair of rulings that uphold their bans on hydraulic fracturing for natural gas.



The towns had also prevailed in the first round of the case, with state Supreme Court judges upholding their right to enact home rule legislation against drilling.



The cases will likely now wind up before New York's highest court -- the Court of Appeals, according to attorneys on both side of the legal fight that has been ongoing for nearly two years.



On the losing side of the mid-level appeals court decisions today are the natural gas industry and Jennifer Huntington, operator of Cooperstown Holstein Corp., who argued the town of Middlefield's zoning change in June 2011 put a stop to her plans to have a conventional gas well at her property.



Middlefield Town Supervisor Dave Bliss told The Daily Star: "We're pleased that the court has agreed with our position that a ban is not a regulation, and we had the authority to do what we did."

Since Middlefield and Dryden enacted their drilling bans in 2011, hundreds of towns and villages have passed bans or enacted moratoriums preventing drilling for gas trapped under shale formations.



The gas industry and Huntington contended that Middlefield exceeded its authority and that only the state Department of Conservation was empowered by the state Oil, Gas and Solution Mining Law to regulate drilling.



The towns responded that they were not regulating drilling -- but instead banning it.



An attempt to contact Huntington at a telephone number listed for her  Cooperstown this afternoon was unsuccessful.


 

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