The issue of hydrofracking is still up in the air in the state of New York. Capital Tonight's Nick Reisman explains the current legal battle two Central New York towns are in the middle of and where the state stands on the controversial drilling method.
NEW YORK STATE -- The state's highest court will decide whether local communities can pass local bans on gas drilling and the controversial hydrofracking process. The state Court of Appeals signaled Thursday it would hear a pair of cases that could have wide-ranging effects on the future of fracking in New York.
"It's a breath of fresh air. At least we're going to get one more round of review of this issue. This is one of the most important issues that will decide the future of oil and gas drilling in New York State," said attorney Tom West.
The lawsuits pit Norse Energy Corporation against Dryden in Tompkins County and landowner Cooperstown Holstein Corporation against the Otsego County town of Mayfield. At issue are local bans on gas drilling that have survived challenges in the lower courts. But lawyers representing the companies believe home rule falls short of passing a complete ban on fracking.
West said, "They can regulate road use and they can tax the production of oil and gas. Beyond that, we think it's totally banned."
While the natural gas lobby was pleased with the court's decision to grant the appeal, advocates opposed to high-volume fracking say the energy industry is trying to bully the towns into accepting fracking.
"These towns have proven in court that they've got good sound legal footing to protect their citizens from fracking," said Katherine Nadeau, Environmental Advocates of New York Police Director.
Norse Energy holds drilling leases on an estimated 130,000 acres across the state, but declared bankruptcy in December and a court-approved asset sale is moving forward. Dairy operation Cooperstown Holstein has leased 400 acres for gas development.
Nadeau said, "We look at this as these are gas companies that are desperate and trying everything they can to get their way in New York State. They're trying to bully their way through and now they're trying to bully their way through the courts."
Statewide a defacto moratorium on high-volume fracking remains in place. The Cuomo administration move forward with a health assessment of fracking earlier this year, but the findings of that study are yet to be released.