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Fracking Showdown in NY’s Highest Court

PHOTO: New York’s highest court will hear an appeal from a foreign-owned energy company that wants to start hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, for natural gas underneath two upstate towns - Dryden and Middlefield - which have banned drilling. Courtesy Town of Dryden
PHOTO: New York’s highest court will hear an appeal from a foreign-owned energy company that wants to start hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, for natural gas underneath two upstate towns - Dryden and Middlefield - which have banned drilling. Courtesy Town of Dryden
August 30, 2013

ALBANY, N.Y. – The towns of Dryden and Middlefield will have to go another round in their court battle opposing the controversial practice of fracturing shale rock for natural gas, an extraction method known as fracking.

The state's highest court of appeals Thursday decided to hear an appeal from an energy company that ran up against the towns' action to keep its fields and farms frack-free.

So far, every court that has ruled on this case has sided with Dryden and Middlefield and against Norse Energy Corporation, USA, a foreign-owned natural gas drilling company.

Helping Dryden with its case is attorney Deborah Goldberg, who said she's not surprised that the appeals court is going to take up the case.

"It's very clear that if they didn't take the case now, that the industry would be asking them to take it every time this issue came up from another case," she explained.

Norse owns or leases approximately 130,000 acres in New York state, and has said it looks forward to developing the resource potential.

More than 170 New York municipalities have passed bans or moratoriums on fracking, and some 350 communities across the country have voted to take official action.

Goldberg said the Dryden and Middlefield cases are being watched closely.

"There's already a couple of cases in the pipeline and so the court probably just felt that it was best to resolve the issue quickly," she said.

Goldberg's organization, Earthjustice, offers pro bono legal help on environmental matters and is representing the town of Dryden in this case.

"By and large, given the climate issues, the climate impact, our view is that we don't need new development at this point,” she said. “What we need is clean energy."

Oral arguments in the appeal aren't expected until early next year.


Mark Scheerer, Public News Service - NY