Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Rumbles, real and legal

Dryden, NY

Earlier this month a 4.7 magnitude earthquake hit Greenbrier, Arkansas, possibly as a result of hydraulic fracturing (fracking). Two quakes in Britain last year prompted the drilling company to admit that the events were "probably" the result of its activities. Given the fact that natural gas helps drive climate change, and with so many questions about the local impact of fracking, is there anything communities can do to prevent fracking?

As the people of Dryden, NY, will confirm, the answer is yes.
In 2011 the town enacted an ordinance prohibiting all activities relating to natural gas exploration, production, and storage. Not surprisingly, an energy company sued. More surprisingly, on February 21, 2012, the trial court upheld the ordinance and granted the town's motion for summary judgment. After reviewing the state's Oil, Gas & Solution Mining Law (OGSML) Judge Phillip R. Rumsey found that the legislature had not intended to preempt the field, and that OGSML allows a municipality "to completely ban oil and gas production within its borders."

Not a legal earthquake, admittedly, but certainly a mild tremor.

This may not be the last word in the case of Anschutz v. Town of Dryden, but it should encourage active citizens to keep up their grassroots work in the struggle for climate justice.

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