Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Fracking fight — state vs. local

Posted By on Tue, Aug 14, 2012 at 11:26 AM

Officials in many New York communities have already passed laws to keep high-volume hydraulic fracturing outside of their limits. But the bans and moratoriums have raised a big question: if the state ultimately allows high-volume fracking, will the local protections survive?

Ultimately, the courts will decide the matter. In fact, earlier this year a judge upheld a ban in the town of Dryden (see this article in Businessweek), which was encouraging to fracking critics and some local-level government leaders.

This uncertainty over land-use restrictions and fracking isn’t unique to New York. Pennsylvania is several years into a shale gas drilling boom, but it’s still sorting out a variety of laws and regulations, including the issue of local fracking restrictions or bans. In one very pertinent example, a Pennsylvania court overturned a state law banning local limits on fracking. A Brookings Institute blog post puts the land-use questions into context:

“This [Pennsylvania] ruling serves as a reminder that few governance issues are as contentious as governmental battles over land-use decisions,” says the post. “Federal and state policies that restrict land-use preferences have routinely been assaulted by waves of litigation, many aiming to return authority to private and local hands.”

The post also says that the fracking-related land-use debates happening in New York and Pennsylvania are likely to go national.

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