New York Drilling Ban Rulings Being Appealed, Lawyers Say
A dairy farm and a Colorado exploration company are appealing decisions by New York state judges that upheld a ban on oil and gas drilling imposed by two towns, lawyers said.
Anschutz Exploration Corp. yesterday filed a notice of appeal of state Supreme Court Judge Phillip Rumsey’s Feb. 21 decision to uphold the ban in the town of Dryden, said Tom West, an attorney for the company, in a telephone interview today. Denver-based Anschutz sued Dryden in September seeking overturn the ban, which is aimed at stopping hydraulic fracturing, a method of natural-gas extraction.
Cooperstown Holstein Corp., a dairy farm that challenged a similar measure in Middlefield, New York, today filed a notice of appeal of Judge Donald Cerio Jr.’s Feb. 25 decision upholding that town’s ban, said Scott R. Kurkoski, an attorney representing the farm, in a telephone interview.
The attorneys said they expect both cases to be consolidated for appeal this year and heard by an appeals court in Albany. West said he also filed a motion to renew consideration of the Middlefield ruling based on the discovery of a document that he said shows that the state legislature intended to stop municipalities from banning oil and gas exploration in the state.
“There was a clear intent to supersede municipal authority over any aspect of oil and gas drilling or production except for roads and taxation consistent with what we’ve been arguing in court,” West said.
In hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, chemically treated water is forced underground to break up rock and free trapped gas. Environmental groups say the process threatens drinking water supplies.
The appeals couldn’t be immediately confirmed in court records. Mary Ann Sumner, Dryden’s supervisor, said the town hasn’t received the notice. She said the town is confident the ban will be upheld on appeal.
“It’s the right thing to do, to continue to make it clear that local municipalities have the authority to regulate land use,” Sumner said in a phone interview. “It’s the right thing and we’re proud of our ability to defend it. We just wish we didn’t have to.”
Moratorium on Fracking
New York placed a moratorium on fracking in 2010 while state regulators developed environmental rules. Since then, 22 towns in the state have adopted laws to ban drilling, according to Karen Edelstein, a geographic information-systems consultant in Ithaca, New York.
New York sits on the northern edge of the Marcellus Shale formation, which may hold enough natural gas to supply the U.S. for about seven years, according to the U.S. Energy Department. States from Wyoming to West Virginia with shale are encouraging fracking even as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency studies the effects on drinking water and may adopt nationwide regulations.
The cases are Anschutz Exploration Corp. V Dryden, 902/2011, New York Civil Supreme Court, Tompkins County (Ithaca); and Cooperstown Holstein Corp. v. Town of Middlefield, 1700930/2011, New York Civil Supreme Court, Otsego County (Cooperstown).
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