| NEW YORK
NEW YORK May 2 A New York state court on
Thursday ruled that two towns should be able to choose whether
or not they can ban a controversial oil and gas drilling
technique known as "fracking."
In a decision that could set precedent in the state and
create a major setback to oil and gas drilling firms, the New
York State Supreme Court, Appellate Division, upheld zoning laws
that allowed the towns of Dryden and Middlefield to ban oil and
gas exploration and production.
A ban on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, has been in
place in New York since 2008, amid concerns that the process,
which involves pumping chemical-laced water and sand deep below
the surface to extract oil and gas, can contaminate water
Proponents of oil and gas drilling say it would mean more
tax revenue and income for New York residents.
Norse Energy in Dryden and landowner Cooperstown Holstein
Corp in Middlefield, sought approval by the court to declare
that the zoning laws were preempted by the state Oil, Gas and
Solution Mining Law.
The court ruled that the law does not trump municipalities
when it comes to deciding zoning rules related to oil and gas
Attorneys representing energy companies and landowners in
favor of drilling in the towns plan to appeal the ruling.
Tom West, founder of The West Firm, which represents Norse
Energy and is co-counsel for Cooperstown Holstein, said they
will appeal the decision.
"Sometime in the next month we will be making an application
for leave to appeal," West said.
Norway's Norse Energy Corp had invested $100
million in New York, including leasing on more than 100,000
acres (40,470 hectares). But its U.S. subsidiary filed for
bankruptcy last year after the 2008 ban on fracking meant it was
unable to drill on that acreage.
In February New York Governor Andrew Cuomo missed a deadline
for completing a report on the environmental impact of fracking
that was to form the basis of new drilling rules for the state.
Meanwhile, the state Department of Health has requested more
time to complete a parallel health impact study that the state
wants completed before any decision on drilling is taken.
(Editing by Xavier Briand)