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Ohio Utica Shale

Third New York town wins in court on fracking ban

By Bob Downing Published: March 20, 2013

From the Associated Press:

A third upstate New York town has won a court challenge to its ban on natural gas drilling as two previous cases are about to be argued before a state appeals court.

Gas drilling company Lenape Resources, based in western New York, had sued the Livingston County town of Avon and the state Department of Environmental Conservation over the town’s moratorium on drilling, saying the action threatened to put it out of business after it had operated in the town for decades. Lenape’s owner, John Holko, also sought $50 million in damages. He named the Department of Environmental Conservation because he said the agency had a duty to stop towns from enacting local bans.

On March 15, Acting Supreme Court Justice Robert Wiggins in Livingston County ruled against Lenape on all counts. He cited Court of Appeals precedents as well as decisions in favor of local bans in the upstate towns of Dryden and Middlefield.

Appeals of the Dryden and Middlefield decisions will be argued before the Appellate Division of the state Supreme Court in Albany on Thursday. The ban on drilling in the Tompkins County town of Dryden was originally challenged by Denver-based Anschutz Exploration Corp., but after the company declined to pursue an appeal of a trial-level state supreme court ruling in the town’s favor, the appeal was filed by Norse Energy, another company with gas wells in western New York.

Albany attorney Tom West is arguing the appeals on behalf of industry and has said he’s confident the Appellate Division, or if necessary the highest court, the Court of Appeals, will agree that local bans violate a 1981 state law that says the state’s authority to regulate the oil and gas industry supersedes the authority of localities.

New York has had a statewide moratorium on gas drilling that uses high-volume hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, since the Department of Environmental Conservation began an environmental impact study and regulatory overhaul in 2008. In the past couple of years, dozens of localities, anticipating that the state will eventually allow drilling, have enacted local bans or moratoriums on drilling at the request of residents who have petitioned town boards saying such heavy industrial activity is inconsistent with the community character and that they fear potential health and environmental risks.

“One by one, the courts in New York are siding with the people over oil and gas industry interests, ruling that local municipalities have the right to decide what industrial activities are appropriate for their communities,” said Deborah Goldberg, attorney for the environmental group Earthjustice who will argue on behalf of Dryden and Middlefield in Albany on Thursday.

Michael Joy, Lenape’s attorney, said Tuesday he hadn’t seen the decision.



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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.