Tuesday, the New York State Court of Appeals will hear arguments in a case that poses a simple question: Can cities and towns in the Empire State fend off potentially devastating environmental and economic damage by banning hydraulic fracturing through their zoning code?
Our answer – as stated in an amicus brief filed on behalf of then-Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer and Elected Officials to Protect New York, a nonpartisan network of over 800 current and former municipal officials from all of the state’s 62 counties – is an emphatic yes.
For decades, New York law has acknowledged that municipalities are far better situated to determine what land use is appropriate for their territory. In 1970, the state Legislature passed a groundbreaking Environmental Protection Law which acknowledged the importance of “[l]ocal participation in planning activities which influence the ecological balance on the locality and therefore the state.”
While the Department of Environmental Conservation has imposed a blanket ban on fracking in the watersheds of Syracuse and New York City to protect the health of nearly half the state’s residents, many residents of upstate towns have rightly wondered, “If fracking isn’t safe for city dwellers, by what logic is it safe for us?”