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State court rules N.Y. towns have power to ban fracking

By ANNA MEILER

ALBANY, N.Y. (WKTV) --  The top court in New York State upheld a decision Monday that says town governments have the right to decide whether to ban fracking within their borders.

There has been a state-wide ban on hydrofracking since 2008, but what this ruling means is if Gov. Andrew Cuomo were to lift that ban tomorrow, town governments have the ultimate say when it comes to fracking.

On Monday, the State Court of Appeals upheld lower court rulings in favor of cases that originated in the town of Middlefield in Otsego County and the town of Dryden near Ithaca.

Both towns banned high volume fracking within their borders in 2011 due to concerns about air pollution, water contamination and other potentially harmful effects to the environment.

This ruling allows all local governments in New York to create zoning laws that ban fracking.

"The decision by the Court of Appeals today is a significant victory for municipal Home Rule rights to ensure that local residents have a say in what happens in their community.  Middlefield is very pleased that the Court of Appeals upheld the validity of its zoning law preserving the Town's quiet rural and agricultural heritage," said David Bliss, Middlefield Town Supervisor.

Local Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi supports the ruling and says more information needs to be gathered on the environmental impact of fracking before the industry comes to New York.

"There's a number of studies out there right now that are determining whether or not it's safe and until we can prove undeniably that hydrofracking is safe then I don't support it. I think water is one of our most precious resources here in New York State. We've seen in other states what has happened with contamination of ground water and that's the last thing we should want here in New York, especially Upstate New York where agriculture is such an important industry for our economy," said Assemblyman Brindisi.

But proponents of fracking, like the Independent Oil and Gas Association of New York, call it a set back for industry and landowners.

"We have a great relationship with landowners in New York, especially in the Southern Tier, who want and need this very badly. It certainly doesn't mean there can't be drilling in New York State. There are a lot of areas in the state where people are interested in drilling and we expect municipalities will continue to embrace it," said Executive Director Brad Gill.

About 170 municipalities in New York have already implemented bans or moratoriums on fracking. According to opponents in Otsego County another 80 are working toward bans. The Department of Environmental Conservation has been conducting a review of fracking since 2008, but has no set date for completion.

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