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Lawsuits Challenge Fracking Bans In NY Communities

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Two lawsuits seek to overturn fracking bans in Upstate New York. Lawsuits were filed against zoning laws in the towns of Middlefield and Dryden NY and more are expected as more areas seek to ban the natural gas extraction process and more areas are targeted for natural gas extraction.

Hydraulic fracturing, popularly known as fracking, is the controversial process by which a cocktail of water and chemicals—some toxic and carcinogenic—are shot into shale wells to release gas for harvesting. Promises of domestic energy use and increased employment can overshadow environmental catastrophes; long-term, life-threatening illnesses; and community disruption and devastation.

The Utica Observer-Dispatch wrote that Otsego County’s Middlefield was named in one lawsuit by Jennifer Huntington, a farmer and president of the Cooperstown Holstein Corp. Huntington has signed leases with natural gas companies to allow fracking on her property; however, this summer, the town implemented a zoning law banning such drilling. Meanwhile, the second lawsuit was filed against Tompkins County’s town of Dryden by the Anschutz Exploration Corp. challenging a just adopted zoning law banning fracking said the Observer-Dispatch. Neither lease states what gas extraction method would be used; both indicate that only the state can regulate natural gas drilling. As the Observer-Dispatch notes, either case could be precedent setting for NY state.

The Observer-Dispatch also reported that five Oneida County towns have fracking moratoriums in place, all meant to provide time to research zoning regulations. And, while many towns are working on moratoriums, state environmental laws mandate that the state surpasses municipalities as far as natural gas drilling is concerned, according to Emily DeSantis, spokeswoman for the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), said the Observer-Dispatch. In other words, moratoriums and bans will not stop the environmental regulator from allowing fracking, said DeSantis, although each case will be individually reviewed.

Meanwhile, NY is preparing to lift a fracking ban in place for years, said NewsInferno. That moratorium expired on July 1st, and NY’s governor, Andrew Cuomo, will likely allow fracking to occur in the state. Also, on July 1st, noted NewsInferno, the DEC issued a report recommending fracking be allowed on the majority of NY’s private lands, which could—if adopted—open most of NY’s natural gas-rich Marcellus Shale for fracking.

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