Court of Appeals Asked to Hear Fracking Home Rule Cases

11:24 PM, Jun 3, 2013   |    comments
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By Jon Campbell, Albany Bureau

ALBANY, NY--  Proponents of hydraulic fracturing have asked New York's top court to hear their arguments on whether local governments can ban gas drilling within their borders, but whether the Court of Appeals agrees to take the case is far from a sure bet.

Attorneys for Norse Energy and an Otsego County farm made the filing late Friday, asking the seven-member Court of Appeals to take on the cases of a pair of upstate towns that changed their zoning laws in 2011 to ban hydrofracking and gas drilling.

Since a mid-level appeals court ruled unanimously last month in favor of upholding the bans, however, there's no requirement that the top court must hear the case.

The cases-involving the towns of Dryden in Tompkins County and Middlefield in Otsego County-are expected to set a precedent statewide.

Opponents of fracking argue that municipalities are well within their zoning rights to prohibit drilling and heavy industry, while the plaintiffs say state law includes a clause prohibiting local drilling bans.

Statistically, the chances of the Court of Appeals accepting the appeals is small. Of the 999 requests for permission to appeal to the court in 2012, just 64 were granted, according to the Court of Appeals' annual report.

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