Dryden fracking lawsuit appeal set for court hearing

Dryden fracking lawsuit appeal set for court hearing by Andrew Casler, March 14, 2013, The Ithaca Journal
DRYDEN — Norse Energy Corporation is hoping to overturn a 2012 decision that upheld the Town of Dryden’s hydraulic fracturing ban. State of New York Supreme Court judges are scheduled to hear the appeal on the morning of March 21. State Supreme Court Justice Phillip Rumsey previously ruled in favor of the town. The lawsuit is considered a landmark. It can decide whether New York municipalities have the right to establish zoning ordinances that ban hydrofracking, a gas extraction method. Norse Energy, a Norwegian-based company with U.S. headquarters in Buffalo, replaced Anschutz as plaintiff after Rumsey’s decision. Dryden’s legal fees were approximately $38,000 for the initial lawsuit, according to the town, and the appeal is being handled pro bono by Earthjustice, a non-profit law organization focused on environmental issues. Speaking on behalf of Norse Energy is Thomas West of the West Firm PLLC. According to his appellant brief, West maintains municipal home rule powers do not trump state pre-emption, and that the lower court erred in finding relevant legal precedent for its 2012 decision. Speaking on behalf of Dryden are Deborah Goldberg, of Earthjustice, and Alan J. Knauf, of Knauf Shaw LLP. According to her respondent brief, Goldberg argues that when the state legislature authorized the state to regulate oil and gas industries it didn’t clearly express intentions to revoke traditional land use powers, and the state constitution and statutes protect the authority of municipalities to control the use of land within their borders. The Appellate Division, Third Department, will likely hand down a decision in late April or May, according to New York State Supreme Court Clerk Bob Mayberger. During Thursday’s hearing, three lawyers will have 10 minutes each to verbally argue their case. The lawyers have already submitted their full arguments in writing, which are called appellant and respondent briefs. The same judges will hear Cooperstown Holstein Corp. v. Town of Middlefield later that morning. It is another landmark case on hydrofracking bans.

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