PO Box 177...
Morris, NY 13808... email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Tuesday, June 3, 2014
NYS Court of Appeals, Tuesday, June 3: Can Cities & Towns Ban Fracking? GET READY, MORRIS!
Tuesday, the New York State Court of Appeals will
hear arguments in a case that poses a simple question: Can cities and
towns in the Empire State fend off potentially devastating environmental
and economic damage by banning hydraulic fracturing through their
Our answer — as stated in an amicus brief filed on behalf of then-Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer and
Elected Officials to Protect New York, a nonpartisan network of over
800 current and former municipal officials from all of the state's 62
counties — is an emphatic yes.
decades, New York law has acknowledged that municipalities are far
better situated to determine what land use is appropriate for their
territory. In 1970, the state Legislature passed a groundbreaking
Environmental Protection Law which acknowledged the importance of
"[l]ocal participation in planning activities which influence the
ecological balance on the locality and therefore the state."
While the Department of Environmental Conservation has
imposed a blanket ban on fracking in the watersheds of Syracuse and New
York City to protect the health of nearly half the state's residents,
many residents of upstate towns have rightly wondered, "If fracking
isn't safe for city dwellers, by what logic is it safe for us?"
it turns out, many towns aren't waiting for the state to finish its
analysis. As evidenced by the more than 175 New York municipalities that
have already enacted bans and moratoria on fracking within their
borders — often in the face of costly lawsuits threatened by the oil and
gas industry — concerns about the effects of fracking on public health
and quality of life have united communities large and small, from Otsego
to New York City.
our collaboration and the coalition assembled by EOPNY stand for the
proposition that when it comes to fracking and its effects on our way of
life, upstate and downstate are in this together.
argument to the court seeks to protect the long-standing right of
municipalities to make their own land-use, local control decisions by
emphasizing the powerful justifications for local bans: significant
scientific evidence linking fracking to water contamination by heavy
metals, radium and methane; municipal and social ills due to increases
in crime and stresses on social and emergency services; and economic
costs including catastrophically expensive road damage and the specter
of declines in property values.
In fact, a 2011 report from the state Department of Transportation found
the cost of increased heavy traffic alone could result in the need for
repairs and reconstruction ranging from $211 million to $378
the six months since the brief was filed, our position has only grown
stronger as new studies have showcased the threat of water contamination
and health and community impacts imposed by fracking. One example is
the growing evidence linking fracking and its wastewater disposal to
earthquakes, which can occur miles away from the wells themselves.
case being argued Tuesday comes from the communities of Dryden and
Middlefield (population 1,869 and 1,962, respectively). The towns argue
that banning fracking through the zoning code comports with their rights
to make land use decisions appropriate to their unique neighborhoods.
In contrast, the gas companies challenging the towns have asserted that
only the state can regulate oil and gas extraction, despite the fact
that cities and towns across New York have long used zoning to
facilitate the "adequate provision of transportation, water, sewerage,
schools, parks and other public requirements" in concert with the
character of the community.
Middlefield and scores of other towns have rightly seen fit to protect
their towns from the harms associated with fracking. These actions are
firmly grounded in constitutionally granted Home Rule powers and the
duty of all municipalities to protect their citizens' health, safety and
welfare. We stand firmly for the right of any community to do the same.
Scott Stringer and Julie Huntsman
M. Stringer is the New York City comptroller and a former Manhattan
borough president. Julie Huntsman is an Otsego councilwoman and
co-coordinator of Elected Officials to Protect New York.