Judges uphold local bans on drilling in New York

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February 28, 2012

(Bloomberg; Feb. 25) - Bans on natural gas drilling in two New York towns were each upheld by state court judges last week. Middlefield's 2011 ban on gas drilling, including hydraulic fracturing, was upheld by a State Supreme Court judge Feb. 24, according to an attorney representing a dairy farm that challenged the ban. On Feb. 21, a different State Supreme Court judge said the town of Dryden's ban on drilling was not preempted by state law.

"This is really the kiss of death for drilling in New York," the dairy farm attorney said. "No prudent operator is going to invest in leases in New York if those leases are at the mercy of a zoning ban." The state of New York placed a moratorium on fracking in 2010 while regulators developed environmental rules. Since then, about 20 towns in New York have adopted laws to ban drilling, according to Karen Edelstein, a geographic information systems consultant in Ithaca.

The Dryden ban was challenged by Denver-based Anschutz Exploration, which sued to overturn the ban on oil and gas exploration. The dairy farm attorney, who also represents Anschutz, said he expects both decisions will be appealed. Meanwhile, the state could adopt its hydraulic fracturing rules this year, limiting local control over drilling.

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