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Ohio Utica Shale

N.Y. judge throws out Binghamton's fracking moratorium

By Bob Downing Published: October 5, 2012

From the Associated Press:

ALBANY— A state judge invalidated Binghamton's two-year moratorium on natural gas drilling, marking the first time a local law that would ban fracking in New York has been struck down.

 

"There can be no showing of dire need since the New York state Department of Environmental Conservation has not published the new regulations that are required before any natural gas exploration or drilling can occur in this state," Lebous wrote.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo's administration is considering whether to allow natural gas drilling using hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, a process involving the injection of wells with chemically treated water that is denounced by many environmentalists.

As the DEC review continues, more than 30 upstate municipalities have passed bans on gas drilling and more than 80 have enacted moratoriums. The laws enacted by towns sitting atop the gas-rich Marcellus Shale formation are typically in response to fears that fracking could contaminate water supplies, though the energy industry says the process has been used safely for years.

Local bans in Dryden and Middlefield have already passed muster with state courts. Lebous referred to those two previous court decisions as "well-reasoned" and focused his decision on Binghamton's actions. Despite the loss for Binghamton, about 130 miles southwest of Albany, environmentalists said the ruling reaffirms the legal right for local bans. Lawyers for environmental groups said they don't believe this ruling would imperil the other local bans.

"Almost all of the decision is very fact specific and limited to Binghamton, which had a very unique law," said Helen Slottje, an attorney with the Community Environmental Defense Council, which represented the city.

Binghamton Mayor Matthew Ryan said Wednesday an appeal is likely. He said the city could try to pass a similar law that would not run afoul of the court.

City officials had argued the law was not a moratorium but an emergency action to protect its water. But Lebous ruled it was a moratorium and held the city to that strict legal standard.

The lawsuit was bought by a group of plaintiffs who claimed the law could harm their business or prevent them from obtaining natural gas leases.

"You've got to follow the letter of the law," said Kenneth S. Kamlet, a lawyer for the plaintiffs. "The city of Binghamton didn't play by the rules, and they had to pay the piper."

State Supreme Court Justice Ferris D. Lebous became the latest New York judge to weigh in on local bans or moratoriums Tuesday, ruling that the city law approved December 2011 failed to meet the standards of a properly enacted moratorium. Lebous said the city never established that there was a "dire emergency" regarding a practice that is still not allowed in New York.

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

ODNR Division of Geological Survey.

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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.