News Release: June 30, 2014

APA Applauds Fracking Decision from New York's High Court

CHICAGO — The American Planning Association (APA) is pleased that the New York State Court of Appeals held that towns can determine what industrial activities, such as fracking, can take place within their own borders through zoning and land use laws. This decision affirms the New York Appellate Division, Third Department, in Cooperstown Holstein Corporation vs. Town of Middlefield and Norse Energy Corp. USA v. Town of Dryden.

"The decision maintains New York's long-standing approach that zoning and land use law are primarily local issues," said Paul Farmer, FAICP, APA's Chief Executive Officer. "It is important that residents have a strong and clear voice in protecting the places where they live, work and recreate."

In the case, the petitioners argued that the state of New York's Oil, Gas and Solution Mining Law (OGSML) should prevent a local jurisdiction's zoning and regulations from banning fracking and other industrial activities from taking place. However, the court held that the OGSML governs only local regulations of mining and extraction operations. It does not cover where such activities can take place, leaving local planning authority intact.

Read more about the cases

Fracking, short for hydraulic fracturing, is a technology used to extract natural gas from shale rock formations found deep beneath the earth. And while not a new process, fracking activities have expanded in scale and geographic impact within the past decade. The process has raised concerns over the impact to public health, local character and the environment.

While this decision is only applicable within the state of New York, it could potentially influence courts in states with similar regulations facing the issue of fracking for the first time.

APA joined the Catskill Mountainkeeper, Delaware Riverkeeper Network; Gas Drilling Awareness for Cortland County; the Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc.; The New York Public Interest Research Group; OTSEGO 2000, Inc.; The Preservation League of New York State; Riverkeeper, Inc.; Theodore Gordon Flysishers, Inc.; and Vestal Residents for Safe Energy in Support of Respondent in submitting an amicus brief. The brief was written by Katherine Sinding, senior attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council and an adjunct professor of law at Fordham University School of Law.

The American Planning Association is an independent, not-for-profit educational organization that provides leadership in the development of vital communities. APA and its professional institute, the American Institute of Certified Planners, are dedicated to advancing the art, science and profession of good planning — physical, economic, and social — so as to create communities that offer better choices for where and how people work and live. APA has offices in Washington, D.C., and Chicago, with almost 40,000 members worldwide in nearly 100 countries.


Roberta Rewers, APA Communications, 312-786-6395;