Tag Archives: Hydraulic Fracturing

State high court upholds zoning bans on gas drilling

In a 5-2 decision, the state’s highest court, The Court of Appeals, has ruled that the current state law regulating oil and gas drilling operations does not supersede local zoning laws.  In effect, the decision upholds lower court rulings that held communities can use local zoning laws to effectively ban natural gas development.

Writing for the majority, Judge Victoria Graffeo wrote that state law allows local governments to control their zoning codes to allow or disallow activities within their boundaries. The case involved bans in two upstate towns, Middlefield in Otsego County and Dryden in Tompkins County.

Industry supporters said the bans were a “huge obstacle” to the additional investment in the New York Marcellus Shale formation. The bans had been challenged by an organic dairy farmer near Cooperstown that held a natural gas lease on its farm, and the bankrupt Norse Energy Corp., which held gas leases in Dryden.

Brad Gill, executive director of the Independent Oil & Gas Association of New York, told the Albany Times Union that should the state decide to allow fracking, it would force companies to “navigate a patchwork of red lights and green lights.”

That would be enough to discourage some companies from coming to the state, he said. “Some companies have been waiting on the sidelines, watching for this decision,” he said. “Some people will not come to New York and spend money, or they will leave.”

The Business Council of New York State had joined with the Joint Landowners Coalition of New York, Inc., the National Association of Royalty Owners, NARO-NY, the Upstate New York Towns Association, Inc., and Southern Tier Residents for Economic Independence to file an amicus brief urging the court to overturn the lower court rulings in the case.

That brief argued the state has an overriding interest in the development and promotion of its oil and gas reserves, and that there is a need for uniformity across the state with a comprehensive state law that supersedes restrictive and inconsistent local laws and ordinances.

Industry supporters could seek state legislation pre-empting the local zoning decisions, but the prospects for enactment of such a law is highly unlikely to occur.

Chief Judge Lippman and Judges Read, Rivera and Abdus-Salaam concurred with Judge Graffeo’s decision. Judges Pigott and Smith dissented.

NY Daily News says let science guide gas drilling

An editorial in today’s New York Daily News highlights the just-published study from the University of Texas confirming that there are environmental benefits to gas drilling and calls on Governor Cuomo to let science be his guide in lifting the moratorium on gas drilling in New York.

Researchers analyzed 190 natural gas wells across the country and found that there were fewer raw fuel leaks than previously believed.

The editorial points out that since the state imposed a moratorium, “the scientific case for allowing well-regulated fracking to go forward in upstate New York has grown with each of the 63 months that state officials have been dithering.”

State’s highest court will hear gas drilling cases

The Court of Appeals, New York’s highest court will hear two cases that could determine whether local communities can ban gas drilling.  The courts will most likely not hear the cases before May 2014 and a ruling is not expected until July 2014.

The cases brought against the towns of Dryden, Tompkins County, and Middlefield, Otsego County had unanimous rulings by lower courts upholding their right to ban gas drilling.

At the time of the Dryden appellate decision, The Business Council of New York State issued the following statement:

Heather C. Briccetti, Esq., president and CEO of The Business Council of New York State, Inc., said, “The Business Council’s position is unchanged. We have been a steadfast supporter of shale development. The economic opportunities and potential jobs created by natural gas development would bring a lasting positive impact to the region and the state, and we believe that scientific and technical reviews will prove the case for moving forward with permits in New York State.  Regardless of the final court outcome on this case, we oppose statutory prohibitions on the state or local level, as contrary to sound economic, energy and environmental policy.”

The Public Policy Institute of New York State, Inc. report Drilling for Jobs: What the Marcellus Shale could mean for New York found that creating as few as 300 natural gas wells per year in the Marcellus Shale has the potential to generate more than 37,500 jobs annually in New York. Natural gas exploration provides high paying jobs. The average wage in Oil and Gas Extraction and Support Activities for mining is $79,184 in New York State, over double the private sector wage in upstate New York of $39,157.

Additionally, Republican state Sen. Greg Ball, who initially backed a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing wrote an op/ed supporting a gradual phase in that is regulated by the state.

Ball wrote, “Let’s be frank, our friends upstate and in the Southern Tier are starving for job creation… a recent report by the state Comptroller’s office showed that the five counties that border the State of Pennsylvania and would benefit most…”