All CATEGORIES
☰ Menu
Ohio Utica Shale

N.Y. high court weighing local fracking ban cases

By Bob Downing Published: June 4, 2014

From the Associated Press today:

By MARY ESCH

New York’s highest court is expected to decide by the Fourth of July whether municipalities can use local zoning laws to ban shale gas development using hydraulic fracturing within their borders.

The seven-member Court of Appeals heard oral arguments Tuesday in two cases where a midlevel appellate court unanimously concluded last year that state oil and gas law doesn’t trump the authority of local governments to control land use.

The challenges have been closely watched by an industry hoping to drill in New York’s piece of the Marcellus Shale formation and by environmentalists who fear drilling could threaten water supplies and public health.

The industry argues that allowing local bans will create a patchwork of regulation that will prevent effective extraction of gas resources.

“It has a very chilling effect because it’s very hard for operators to justify spending hundreds of millions of dollars to come in and not have regulatory certainty,” lawyer Tom West, representing the gas industry, argued in court.

Most of the local bans, however, are outside the region where shale gas is most abundant: along the Pennsylvania border.

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, frees gas from deep rock deposits by injecting wells with chemical-laced water at high pressure. It has helped boost U.S. oil and gas production to the highest level in more than a quarter-century, with thousands of wells in more than 30 states.

The cases being argued before the Court of Appeals involve bans in the small towns of Dryden and Middlefield in rural central New York.

The Dryden ban is being challenged by a trustee for Norse Energy, an Oslo, Norway-based company that went bankrupt after amassing thousands of leases on New York land it was never able to develop. The Middlefield ban is being challenged by Cooperstown Holstein, a dairy farm that had leased land for drilling.

The judges questioned both sides aggressively, asking lawyers supporting the bans what was unclear about the 1981 state law that says the state has sole authority to regulate oil and gas development. Earthjustice attorney Deborah Goldberg said if legislators had intended that law to supersede local zoning laws, they would have explicitly said so.

When Scott Kurkoski, representing Cooperstown Holstein, said the state law was intended to put energy development above “not-in-my-backyard” interests, Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman said he understands that. But he added, “There’s a flip side to that argument, which is, don’t bulldoze over the voice of the people in individual municipalities who want to be heard about how they live their lives.”

Supporters of municipal authority to restrict hydraulic fracturing said Tuesday that more than 170 towns have passed a ban or a moratorium. Environmental advocate Helen Slottje said hundreds of communities across the country are using the principle of home rule in similar fights.

About 40 other New York towns have passed resolutions supporting gas development.

Even if the bans are overturned, the industry and landowners eager to profit from gas drilling still face a statewide moratorium in effect since July 2008, when the Department of Environmental Conservation launched an environmental impact review of shale gas development.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has said he won’t decide whether to lift the ban until a health impact review launched in 2012 is completed. There’s no timetable for completion of that review.

Print
Add This

SUBSCRIBE VIA RSS

OHIO.COM VIDEOS

See the most recent drilling report and an injection wells map From NewsOutlet.org

Utica and Marcellus shale web sites

Ohio Department of Natural Resources' Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management State agency Web site.

ODNR Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management. State drilling permits. List is updated weekly.

ODNR Division of Geological Survey.

Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.

Ohio State University Extension.

Ohio Farm Bureau.

Ohio Oil and Gas Association, a Granville-based group that represents 1,500 Ohio energy-related companies.

Ohio Oil & Gas Energy Education Program.

Energy In Depth, a trade group.

Marcellus and Utica Shale Resource Center by Ohio law firm Bricker & Eckler.

Utica Shale, a compilation of Utica shale activities.

Landman Report Card, a site that looks at companies involved in gas and oil leases.FracFocus, a compilation of chemicals used in fracking individual wells as reported voluntarily by some drillers.

Chesapeake Energy Corp,the Oklahoma-based firm is the No. 1 driller in Ohio.

Rig Count Interactive Map by Baker Hughes, an energy services company.

Shale Sheet Fracking, a Youngstown Vindicator blog.

National Geographic's The Great Shale Rush.

The Ohio Environmental Council, a statewide eco-group based in Columbus.

Buckeye Forest Council.

Earthjustice, a national eco-group.

Stop Fracking Ohio.

People's Oil and Gas Collaborative-Ohio, a grass-roots group in Northeast Ohio.

Concerned Citizens of Medina County, a grass-roots group.

No Frack Ohio, a Columbus-based grass-roots group.

Fracking: Gas Drilling's Environmental Threat by ProPublica, an online journalism site.

Penn State Marcellus Center.

Pipeline, blog from Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Marcellus shale drilling.

Allegheny Front, environmental public radio for Western Pennsylvania.