Second State Judge Says Towns Can Ban Hydrofracking

1:12 AM, Feb 25, 2012   |    comments
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Albany Bureau

ALBANY -- For the second time in a week, a state Supreme Court judge has upheld the ability of municipalities to ban hydraulic fracturing and gas drilling within their limits.

Otsego County Acting Supreme Court Justice Donald Cerio ruled late Friday that the town of Middlefield was within its rights under state law when it passed a ban oil and gas drilling in June.

A clause in the state's environmental conservation law that transfers regulatory rights to the state for oil and gas drilling does not prevent the town from banning it altogether, Cerio wrote in his decision.

The clause "does not serve to preempt a local municipality such as defendant from enacting land use regulation within the confines of its geographical jurisdiction and, as such, local municipalities are permitted to permit or prohibit oil, gas and solution mining or drilling," Cerio wrote.

An attorney for Jennifer Huntington, a Cooperstown-area dairy farmer who sued the town over its drilling ban, argued the "supersedure clause" prohibited towns from enacting a ban on gas drilling.

The ruling was similar to one earlier this week in state Supreme Court in Tompkins County, where a judge found the town of Dryden's ban on heavy industry and gas drilling to be legal under state law.

It was not immediately clear if the Middlefield decision would be appealed. Thomas West, an attorney for Anschutz Exploration Corp., which had sued the town of Dryden, said the company will discuss on Monday whether to appeal its decision.


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