Upstate New Yorkers want Home Rule to ban fracking locally

A group of 53 municipalities in upstate New York are being backed by state organizations in asking an appeals court to allow them to weigh in on the hydraulic fracturing (fracking) debate ongoing there.

According to a report from Albany, N.Y., the group of municipalities alongside the Association of Towns, Conference of Mayors, and the New York Planning Foundation have asked for persmission to address a state appeals court on whether local laws supercede state laws when addressing the question of allowing localized bans on fracking.

The municipalities are responding to a lawsuit filed appealing a New York Supreme Court ruling which said state laws do not supercede local municipal law in blocking local fracking bans. So far, about a dozen local municipalities across New York have passed laws banning fracking drilling within the limits of that city or town. These bans have withstood several legal challenges and appear valid. The bans were upheld by the New York Supreme Court recently and that prompted lawsuits on behalf of one drilling company and a local farmer in Cooperstown, N.Y., who believe the local bans are violations of state laws.

The aligned municipalities and municipal organizations are in favor of “home rule” which would favor the laws passed by municipalities taking a stand against fracking drilling or putting stricter regulations in place than would exist at the state level.

New York appears set to allow fracking drilling on privately-leased land but that decision has been continuously delayed as state regulators, environmental groups, and the fracking industries wrangle over those proposed regulations that would govern drilling in the state. Opponents of fracking drilling point to the many problems being faced in neighboring Pennsylvania, where nearly unchecked drilling has caused serious problems and likely is putting local environments at risk of severe contamination.

Those who agree fracking is dangerous for the environment and not economically sustainable believe the drilling process contaminates the air and water surrounding active well sites. Pennsylvanians say fracking has poisoned their well water and is tainting groundwater supplies.

According to the report, numerous towns have already passed localized bans or moratoriums on fracking drilling in New York. These towns and cities include Ulysses, Lansing, Caroline, Ithaca, Danby, Dryden, Rush, Mendon, Saugerties, and Ithaca. New York’s Appellate Division must approve the request on the part of the 53 municipalities wishing to be heard in the appeal filed originally by a Cooperstown farmer and Anschutz Exploration Corp. The drilling company has left the lawsuit seeking to overturn the local bans but has been replaced by Norse Energy, of Norway.

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