Author: Dan Wiessner
A lawsuit challenging a small town's ban on natural-gas drilling could have implications throughout New York, where state officials are poised to approve a controversial drilling method known as fracking.
Anschutz Exploration Corporation filed suit on Friday against Dryden, a rural suburb of Ithaca with about 13,000 residents that last month amended its zoning laws to bar all gas drilling within its unincorporated borders.
New York's Department of Environmental Conservation has recommended ending a year-long ban on drilling in New York, although a public comment period on the rules was extended this month following concerns that fracking contaminates underground wells and aquifers.
The Anschutz suit, which asks the state Supreme Court in Tompkins County to invalidate the amendment, is the first to test the legal implications of the state's move.
Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, involves cracking open rocks deep underground with a blast of sand, water and chemicals to unleash natural gas and oil.
Anschutz, which owns more than 22,000 acres of land in Dryden, said New York's Environmental Conservation Law bars local governments from any regulation of drilling.
Officials in Dryden and other towns considering their own restrictions on gas extraction say the law prohibits them only from regulating the drilling itself and not from saying where or whether it can take place.