[JURIST] The New York Court of Appeals [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF] Monday that towns can use zoning laws to ban hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking [JURIST backgrounder], within their town lines. In a 5-2 decision, the court ruled in favor [USA Today report] of the towns of Dryden and Middlefield, which passed zoning ordinances in 2011 that prohibited gas drilling and fracking within their borders, and rejected the argument that state oil and gas law preempted those ordinances. The ruling was celebrated [NYT report] by fracking opponents, who fear that the process may contaminate groundwater. A lawyer for one of the energy companies involved in the case, Norse Energy Corporation, expressed his disappointment in the ruling, stating that it would likely further discourage gas drilling companies from investing in the state of New York.
Hydraulic fracturing is a highly debated topic in regions where recent Marcellus shale gas developments have been associated with toxic water pollution. The New York State Assembly [official website] in 2013 approved a two-year ban [JURIST report] on fracking. The measure postponed any potential fracking until May 15, 2015, by which time a “comprehensive health impact assessment” can be conducted to identify potential public health impacts that may result from the process. The ban represents a continuation of a previous ban on fracking that has been in place in the state since 2008. Also in 2013, JURIST guest columnist Nicolas Parke debunked rumors [JURIST op-ed] around fracking. Earlier that year, JURIST guest columnist Samantha Peaslee detailed the future of fracking [JURIST op-ed] in Colorado in the wake of recent lawsuits against fracking companies in the state. In 2012 Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Vermont, New Jersey, New York and the Environmental Protection Agency [JURIST reports] all took regulatory, legislative and judicial steps towards restricting hydraulic fracturing for fear of environmental and public health concerns.