New York State Fracking Cases
Amicus Brief Background
Can municipalities use zoning and land use law to prevent industrial activities such as fracking? The New York Court of Appeals (New York's high court) in 2014 reviewed two separate cases where communities had banned fracking activities through zoning and land use regulations.
The cases are Cooperstown Holstein Corporation v. Town of Middlefield and Norse Energy Corp., U.S.A. v. Town of Dryden and Town of Dryden Board.
Landowners and lessees had argued that state law (the Oil, Gas and Solution Mining Law — OGSML) regulating oil and gas recovery operations did not allow local zoning to prevent such activities. However, the lower courts held that municipal zoning and land use law could limit or prevent industrial activities from taking place.
APA and environmental organizations submitted friend-of-the court briefs, emphasizing the importance of zoning and land use law giving municipalities a voice in the industrial activities that take place within their borders. Additionally, state law makes no attempt to plan for nuisances or to preempt local planning.
About the Decision
Towns can determine what industrial activities, such as fracking, can take place within their own borders through zoning and land use laws.
Further, the justices held that the OGSML governs only local regulations of mining and extraction operations — not where such activities can take place.
This decision, while only applicable to municipalities within New York, could potentially influence courts in other states with similar regulations confronting the issue of fracking for the first time.
(Pennsylvania) Statewide zoning amendment unconstitutional
Planning magazine, March 2014
Frack or Bust: Shale gas extraction brings local planning challenges
Planning magazine, April 2012