New York Supreme Court: Towns Can Use Zoning to Ban Fracking

The New York Supreme Court struck a blow to the oil and gas industry today when it ruled that towns can use zoning ordinances to stop landowners from engaging in hydraulic fracturing, more colloquially known as fracking. 

What's the Latest?

With much of the nation's attention on that other major ruling today, news that the New York Supreme Court effectively gave towns the right to ban fracking passed mostly below the radar.

In a huge blow to the state's oil and gas industry, New York's highest court ruled today that towns may restrict the practice of hydraulic fracturing by way of zoning ordinances. Fracking has been a hot topic in the major northeastern state for months. The Times describes the practice as such: 

Fracking is the process of drilling into the ground and injecting a mix of water, sand and chemicals at high pressure to break up shale deposits and release natural gas.

As fracking appears to have major environmental ramifications, many localities have attempted to restrict oil and energy companies from engaging in the practice within their dominion. 

What's the Big Idea?

The court's decision was split 5-2, with the majority stating their ruling should not be taken as a commentary on the ethics of fracking but rather how power between state and local governments should be balanced. 

The Times does a good job of recounting the back story behind the case:

The two towns at the center of the case – Dryden, in rural Tompkins County, and Middlefield, in Otsego County – amended their zoning laws in recent years to ban fracking, on the basis that it would threaten the health, the environment and, in Middlefield’s case, the “rural character” of the community.

Subsequently, an energy company that had acquired oil and gas leases in Dryden and a dairy farm in Middlefield that had leased land to a gas drilling company filed legal complaints, arguing that the town ordinances were pre-empted by state oil and gas law.

It remains to be seen whether New Yorkers' newfound right to ban fracking will encourage other states' towns to attempt similar strategies.

Read more at The New York Times

Learn more about fracking at the BBC.

Photo credit: Calin Tatu / Shutterstock

Related Articles

Scientists discover what caused the worst mass extinction ever

How a cataclysm worse than what killed the dinosaurs destroyed 90 percent of all life on Earth.

Credit: Ron Miller
Surprising Science

While the demise of the dinosaurs gets more attention as far as mass extinctions go, an even more disastrous event called "the Great Dying” or the “End-Permian Extinction” happened on Earth prior to that. Now scientists discovered how this cataclysm, which took place about 250 million years ago, managed to kill off more than 90 percent of all life on the planet.

Keep reading Show less

Why we're so self-critical of ourselves after meeting someone new

A new study discovers the “liking gap” — the difference between how we view others we’re meeting for the first time, and the way we think they’re seeing us.

New acquaintances probably like you more than you think. (Photo by Simone Joyner/Getty Images)
Surprising Science

We tend to be defensive socially. When we meet new people, we’re often concerned with how we’re coming off. Our anxiety causes us to be so concerned with the impression we’re creating that we fail to notice that the same is true of the other person as well. A new study led by Erica J. Boothby, published on September 5 in Psychological Science, reveals how people tend to like us more in first encounters than we’d ever suspect.

Keep reading Show less

NASA launches ICESat-2 into orbit to track ice changes in Antarctica and Greenland

Using advanced laser technology, scientists at NASA will track global changes in ice with greater accuracy.

Firing three pairs of laser beams 10,000 times per second, the ICESat-2 satellite will measure how long it takes for faint reflections to bounce back from ground and sea ice, allowing scientists to measure the thickness, elevation and extent of global ice

Leaving from Vandenberg Air Force base in California this coming Saturday, at 8:46 a.m. ET, the Ice, Cloud, and Land Elevation Satellite-2 — or, the "ICESat-2" — is perched atop a United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket, and when it assumes its orbit, it will study ice layers at Earth's poles, using its only payload, the Advance Topographic Laser Altimeter System (ATLAS).

Keep reading Show less