The New York Court of Appeals ruled today that towns and cities in New York can decide for themselves if they want fracking or not. In effect, the court ruled that if it has health or environmental concerns, a town can use its traditional zoning laws to keep hydrofracking out, overriding oil, gas, and mining regulations. The court stressed that the decision was not based on the merits of fracking itself, but instead addressed "whether the State Legislature eliminated the home rule capacity of municipalities to pass zoning laws" in regards to fracking.
The case arises from two New York towns, Dryden and Middlefield, where energy companies had bought land and gas leases. Following the purchases, the towns changed their zoning laws to ban fracking, leading the companies to sue. But today's ruling says the bans are within the towns' rights. “Today the Court stood with the people of Dryden and the people of New York to protect their right to self determination. It is clear that people, not corporations, have the right to decide how their community develops,” Dryden Deputy Supervisor Jason Leifer said in a statement.
This ruling comes as New Yorkers continue to await Governor Cuomo's decision on whether to lift a statewide moratorium, issued in 2008. Earlier this month, the state assembly passed a moratorium on fracking, and Speaker Sheldon Silver said, "We do not need to rush into this. The natural gas deposits within the Marcellus Shale are not going to go anywhere."