ALBANY (AP) — New York’s highest court heard arguments Tuesday on whether municipalities can use local zoning laws to ban shale gas development within their borders using hydraulic fracturing.
The seven-member Court of Appeals was scheduled to hear arguments in two cases where a midlevel appellate court unanimously concluded last year that state mining law doesn’t trump the authority of local governments to control land use. A decision is expected in late summer.
The challenges have been closely watched by an industry hoping to drill in New York’s piece of the Marcellus Shale formation and by environmentalists who fear drilling could threaten water supplies and public health. The industry argues that allowing local bans will create a patchwork of regulation that will prevent effective extraction of gas resources. Most of the local bans, however, are outside the region where shale gas is most abundant: along the Pennsylvania border.
Even if the bans are overturned, the industry and landowners eager to reap the rewards of gas drilling still face a statewide moratorium in effect since July 2008, when the Department of Environmental Conservation launched an environmental impact review of shale gas development.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has said he won’t decide whether to lift the ban until a health impact review launched in 2012 is completed. There’s no timetable for completion of that review, and DEC Commissioner Joe Martens told a Senate panel in January he doesn’t expect any drilling before at least April 2015.