Industry uncertain as court upholds right to ban fracking

Industry uncertain as court upholds right to ban fracking by recordonline, May 19, 2103
Since that appellate court was the second state court to uphold the bans, there’s no guarantee that the state’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, will even hear a final appeal. Plus, the 4-0 ruling essentially upholds bans in 55 New York towns, including the Sullivan County towns of Bethel, Forestburgh, Highland, Lumberland and Tusten, which takes a lot of land off the potential gas drilling map. The decision also might embolden other towns that were essentially sitting on the fence for fear of lawsuits. … Then there are the political ramifications, says one of anti-fracking’s most visible leaders, Wes Gillingham of Sullivan County-based Catskill Mountainkeeper. “I think it decreases the chances of (fracking happening in New York) because it sends a very clear statement,” says Gillingham, who adds “the more local bans the better in convincing politicians stuck in the mud. “But the most profound implication of the decision that upheld bans in the upstate towns of Middlefield and Dryden might be that the gas industry may feel drilling in New York is just not worth the risk. … That’s why the industry lawyer who lost the home rule decision calls the future for drilling in New York “risky.” “If a town can flip flop this issue based on one town board member, the fracktivists can elect one of their own and just flip the board (to enact a ban),” said Albany attorney Tom West who also told the Shale Gas Review: “You can invest millions of dollars to lease in New York and be at the mercy of a 3-2 town hall vote.” Still, pro-gas folks are not about to give up. West is already planning his appeal — and talking of “taking” lawsuits that essentially would claim landowners in towns with fracking bans have been deprived of their mineral rights. Plus, those for drilling are embarking on a new campaign to convince the public and politicians that fracking is safe. … That’s why West suggests towns that want drilling enter into road and land use agreements with gas companies to show they’re open for business. “And then if the board flip flops, they can be sued for breach of contract.” [Emphasis added] 

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