NY Top Court OKs Local Gas-Drilling Bans

ALBANY (AP) -

New York’s top court handed a victory to opponents of hydraulic fracturing for natural gas Monday by affirming the right of municipalities to ban the practice within their borders.

The state Court of Appeals affirmed a midlevel appeals court ruling from last year that said the state oil and gas law doesn’t trump the authority of local governments to control land use through zoning.

The two “fracking” cases from two central New York towns have been closely watched by drillers hoping to tap into the state’s piece of the Marcellus Shale formation and by environmentalists who fear water and air pollution.

The court in a 5-2 decision stressed that it did not consider the merits of fracking, but only the “home rule” authority of municipalities to regulate their land use. The court said the towns of Dryden and Middlefield both acted properly.

More than 170 towns have passed bans or moratoriums, while 40 have passed resolutions supporting gas development.

The state has its own 6-year-old moratorium on fracking for gas. 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 the review.