ALBANY – Opponents of natural gas hydrofracking have declared complete victory following Monday’s precedent-setting ruling by the state’s highest court. The 5-2 decision from the Court of Appeals upholds the legality of dozens of local government bans in the Southern Tier and elsewhere against the controversial drilling technique.
In the case, the high court uphold lower court rulings that supported fracking bans adopted in 2011 by two upstate towns — Dryden in Tompkins County and Middlefield in Otsego County.
Writing for the majority, Judge Victoria Graffeo wrote that state mining law, which gives the state the sole authority to regulate gas drilling, still allows local governments control over zoning to allow or disallow industrial uses like hydrofracking within their boundaries.
The two towns “studied the issue and acted within their home rule powers in determining that gas drilling would permanently alter and adversely affect the deliberately cultivated, small-town character of their communities,” Graffeo wrote.
Opponents said there is increasing evidence that hydrofracking harms air and water quality, while the industry insists it is safe.
So far, more than 80 towns in New York have used local zoning laws to enact such bans, and another 120 have adopted moratoriums. Others have been waiting to see how the bans fared in court.
The issue of hydrofracking has been a hot-button issue across the state, including here in Chautauqua County. This week on WRFA’s Community Matters program, we’ll talking with a community educator Glen Wahl about the effort to pass moratoriums locally.