Court Rules NY Towns Can Use Zoning Laws To Ban Fracking

The battle over the highly controversial topic of fracking — a mining technique that has gained popular use as a method of extracting natural gas from the earth — continues as New York state’s highest court has ruled that towns can use zoning laws to effectively ban the practice.

According to the Wall Street Journal, there are already some 170 municipalities in New York that are currently keeping fracking at bay with the use of zoning laws, much to the dismay of the companies that want to get at the gas and to the landowners who would be paid handsomely for access for drilling.

Fracking proponents claimed that municipalities were trying to override state law by outlawing a legal practice, but the towns maintain that they are not issuing outright bans on fracking; they are just zoning it out of existence.

This is the third victory for the two towns who were sued by an energy company and a landowner after the towns changed their zoning laws in 2011 to drive out fracking.

The practice of fracking in New York has stalled out in recent years as it undergoes review by both the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation and Department of Health.

Using zoning laws to prohibit certain types of businesses is nothing new, especially in towns that are attempting to drive out or prevent industries that they deem harmful to a town’s image or property values. One of the more infamous examples was NYC Mayor Rudolph Giuliani’s effective eviction of almost all of the strip clubs and porn shops from Manhattan with the use of zoning laws that severely limited how close these businesses could be to homes, houses of worship, schools, day-care centers or one another.