As reported in the New York Times a New York State Judge has ruled that the upstate town of Dryden in Tompkins County can ban natural gas drilling within it's boundaries. Passed last year to clarify that Dryden's zoning prohibits the exploration for and production or storage of natural gas and petroleum, the home rule effort landed the Town of Dryden and the Town of Dryden Planning Board in a law suit brought by Denver-based Anschutz Exploration Corporation, which owns leases on more than 22,000 acres in the town and has invested $5.1 million in drilling operations there. Anschutz argued that the zoning amendments amounted to an attempt by the Town of Dryden to regulate the gas industry, but the Court found that New York state’s oil and gas law does not restrict municipalities from changing their own zoning laws to halt natural gas activities. While Anschutz may pursue appeals and other legal maneuvers to try to reassert its claims, the ruling is a decisive victory for opponents of fracking and advocates of home rule approaches to prevent fracking and related activities by concerned communities. “The town of Dryden has proven in court that citizens -- and not multinational energy companies -- control the future of their towns,” said Wes Gillingham of Catskill Mountainkeeper. Under the leadership of Helen and David Slottje, Earthjustice and Dryden Resources Awareness Coalition, environmental groups including Catskill Mountainkeeper came to the defense of Dryden and another NY town, Middlefield, when their newly enacted bans on gas drilling activities were challenged at the end of last year. Catskill Mountainkeeper and others have also been pursuing legislative efforts to strengthen the rights of communities to exclude gas drilling through zoning amendments, aquifer protection laws and other home rule activities. This week’s ruling validates New York’s existing home rule law and makes a strong statement endorsing the community efforts already underway across most of New York to enact laws to protect people, animals, farmlands, and existing ways of life from unwanted industrial activities such as gas drilling. According to the New York Times: "Justice Phillip R. Rumsey of State Supreme Court said that state law does not preclude a municipality from using its power to regulate land use to ban oil and natural gas production. The ruling is the first in New York to affirm local powers in the controversy over drilling in the Marcellus Shale, a gas deposit under a large area of New York, Pennsylvania and Ohio."
The Power of Activism
The exceptional work we have done together, what lies ahead and what you can do
Prior to pursuing their hydraulic fracturing agenda in New York State, the gas industry virtually walked into 32 states and set-up shop with minimal if any opposition. And the results as we know have been devastating for public health, the environment and for the social fabric of communities. But when the gas industry “Goliath” got to New York, they found a small but strong band of “Davids” who stood up and told them “NOT SO FAST”. Since then our numbers have grown exponentially and together we have waged an unprecedented 4-year campaign to expose the dangerous consequences of gas drilling using hydraulic fracturing. Most importantly we have won some major battles, slowed the process and raised the consciousness of a large part of the state’s citizenry. Significant among our joint achievements was getting then Governor Paterson in 2009 to withdraw the immensely flawed first draft Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (dSGEIS).