New York Court Hears Arguments for Communities’ Right to Keep Fracking Out

June 17, 2014

Earlier this month, the New York Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, heard oral arguments in a landmark case that stands to decide whether the Town of Dryden has the right to keep fracking out of its borders. With more than 170 communities across New York taking action against fracking, the lawsuit stands to impact fracking’s footprint throughout the state, as well as in communities in Colorado, Texas, and California, among others.

The case dates back to 2009, when fossil fuel companies began pressuring residents for gas leases on their land. With legal assistance from Goldman Prize winner Helen Slottje, Dryden residents worked with their Town Board to amend their local zoning laws to ban oil and gas development, including fracking. The ban was passed in a unanimous, bipartisan vote from the Dryden Town Board in August 2011; oil and gas industry promptly sued the town to allow fracking. In February 2012, a state trial court ruled in favor of Dryden, a ruling that was affirmed by an appellate court in May 2013.

The town of Dryden was represented by Earthjustice, a long-time partner organization of Slottje and the Community Environmental Defense Council. Earthjustice attorney Deborah Goldberg made a strong case for why the court should reject the industry’s claim to a right to frack near places that the town has specifically set aside for housing, farming, and commercial activities. Earthjustice held a press conference prior to the June 3 oral arguments, accompanied by Helen, the town leadership, and a local dairy farmer.

Barring any action from the New York State Legislature on its state laws regulating oil and gas activities, this court will have the final say in the Dryden case. A ruling is expected sometime this summer. We’ll have more updates on the case then; in the meantime, keep following Helen’s work on Twitter.