Fracking ban ruling pleases local officials

MINDEN – A recent New York state Court of Appeals case ruling means several local towns and villages will be able to keep their hydrofracking bans in place.

Minden Supervisor Cheryl Reese said she is pleased with the court’s decision.

Reese said while she was not the supervisor when the town’s hydrofracking moratorium was put in place, she and the Town Board support the policy.

“I think that is a great ruling that towns and municipalities can choose what they feel is right for them,” Reese said.

Hydraulic fracturing, the controversial process known as fracking, uses chemical-laced water injected at high pressures into natural gas wells to free deep rock deposits of natural gas.

About 170 municipalities in New York state have passed local moratoriums on fracking, while about 40 other New York towns have passed resolutions supporting gas development.

Six local municipalities have enacted moratoriums on hydraulic fracturing: Dolgeville, Minden, Oppenheim, Palatine, the town of St. Johnsville and the village of St. Johnsville.

The New York State Court of Appeals ruled Monday that municipalities could ban hydrofracking at a local level through zoning laws. The majority opinion was the two cases the court ruled on were not about the practice of hydrofracking, but on whether or not local-level governments could make such legislation themselves.

“At the heart of these cases lies the relationship between the state and its local government subdivisions, and their respective exercise of legislative power,” the majority opinion reads. “These appeals are not about whether hydrofracking is beneficial or detrimental to the economy, environment or energy needs of New York, and we pass no judgment on its merits.”

Proponents of fracking point out the method has helped boost U.S. oil and gas production to its highest level in more than a quarter-century, with thousands of wells in more than 30 states, but environmentalists have expressed concern about the affect fracking may have on ground water.

Reese said until the Minden Town Board gets information proving hydrofracking is safe for town residents, the ban will stay in place.

“We are all of the opinion that we will be keep [the ban],” Reese said.

Palatine Supervisor Sara Niccoli said she also is pleased with the court’s decision.

“I’m really happy the court upheld home rule,” Niccoli said.

Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara, who represents Montgomery County, supported the ruling.

“The courts have affirmed the idea that communities know what’s best for them, not a bunch of bureaucrats,” Santabarbara said in a statement. “This decision gives residents the voice they deserve when it comes to deciding whether or not hydrofracking is allowed in their own backyard.”