NEW YORK, Feb 21 (Reuters) - In a blow to the oil and gas industry, a judge has ruled small towns in New York have the authority to ban drilling - including the controversial method known as fracking - within their borders.
In a ruling released late Tuesday, state Supreme Court Justice Phillip Rumsey held that the Ithaca suburb of Dryden's recent ban on gas drilling falls within the authority of local governments to regulate local land use.
Anschutz Exploration Corporation, which owns leases on more than 22,000 acres (8,900 hectares) in the town and has invested $5.1 million in drilling operations there, argued the ban violated a state law designed to create uniform regulations for oil and gas drilling and encourage the extraction of those resources.
Rumsey disagreed, holding the law was not written to favor the industry, but to regulate it in such a way that "prevents waste ... and protects the rights of all persons."
"Nowhere in the legislative history (of the state oil and gas law) is there any suggestion that the legislature intended - as argued by Anschutz - to encourage the maximum ultimate recovery of oil and gas ... or to preempt local zoning authority," Rumsey wrote.
Fracking is a process in which chemical-laced water and sand are blasted deep below ground to release oil and natural gas trapped within rock formations. It has allowed companies to tap a wealth of new natural gas reserves but critics say the procedure has polluted water and air.......