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Case challenging new provision in town zoning rules could set precedent in New York
In what appears to be a potentially precedent-setting case for municipalities all over the state, the attorney for a natural-gas company based in Denver said Tuesday said that they are set to file the first lawsuit against a local ban on drilling in New York.
Anschutz Exploration Corp said that it plans to file the case in state Supreme Court in Tompkins County this week to have the ban currently in effect in the town of Dryden struck down. This was revealed by Thomas West, the attorney representing the gas company.
With the state seemingly bent on permitting high-volume hydraulic fracturing – a method popularly used in gas drilling – Dryden has been one of the more than 15 municipalities and counties across the state that altered their zoning regulations or enacted legislations that is meat to ban the said activity, either temporarily or permanently.
However, Joseph Martens of the state Department of Environmental Conservation said that it will most likely be up to the courts whether those local bans can hold up under state law. The environmental conservation statute of New York has a two-sentence clause, which was adopted during the 19802, giving the state the power to regulate gas and oil industry, although it also allows municipalities to regulate the use of their roads by the said industry.
The Dryden Town Board, in August, approved unanimously a modification to its zoning laws, which expressly prohibited any exploration, extraction or storage of gas in their locality.
Asked for his reaction, West said, “It will be a good opportunity to let the courts decide whether municipalities can, under the guise of zoning or otherwise, ban or regulate drilling. Hopefully, it won’t be a difficult issue for the court.”