New York state has fought a long and hard battle against oil and gas companies for many years. Much of the state sits atop Marcellus shale and the deeper, more “valuable” Utica shale regions, which are veritable gold mines in the eyes of the natural gas industry. The stories of landowners giving up their mineral rights and allowing gas companies to frack have been sprinkled with promises of riches, but are most often soiled with the reality of the devastating environmental, animal, and health effects fracking creates.

Oil and gas companies will go to extraordinary lengths to bully home and land owners into signing away the rights to frack and in some states, companies do not even need to obtain land owner permission. Fracking has been shown to cause earthquakes; pollute public water, ground water, and soil; contributes to air pollution; and has the potential to poison animals, humans, and plants that are exposed to fracking fluid. However, since there is a seemingly limitless money to be made off the exploration and extraction of natural gas reserves, oil and gas companies consistently overlook the damages and continue to frack.

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But today, the battle fought by one little New York town changed the entire game of fracking. When oil and gas representatives approached residents of Dryden, N.Y., community members took immediate action. Creating forums to learn the real facts about fracking, it became readily apparent that this was not an industry that land and home owners in Dryden wanted in their town. Swiftly taking legal action against oil and gas companies with the help of EarthJustice, the town was able to fight their way up to the New York Court of Appeals and won the right to ban fracking within municipalities.

By using zoning laws to ban heavy industry within the borders of a municipality, towns in New York now have the choice to keep oil and gas companies out of their boundaries. Previously, it was up to the individual land owner to decide whether fracking would be allowed, however, the negative effects of fracking are rarely confined to the single property where fracking occurs. The pollution created from fracking can contaminate large expanses of land for years to come, meaning by banning the industry from a whole town, it can keep all residents safe from fracking pollution indefinitely.

According to a statement from EarthJustice, “Today’s decision gives legal backing to the more than 170 New York municipalities,” and it also, “gives a green light to dozens of other New York towns that have been waiting for today’s decision to pass their own local ban.”

This legal case is now the proven blueprint that states across the U.S. can put into action to protect their own municipalities. To learn more about the case and the residents of Dryden, check out the EarthJustice website and watch the short video below:

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Image source: Chris Jordan-Bloch/EarthJustice