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Cooperstown Holstein Corp. v. Town of Middlefield

ELR Citation: 42 ELR 20055
Nos. 2011-0930, (N.Y. Sup. Ct., 02/24/2012)

A New York court upheld a town's enactment of a zoning law that bans oil and gas drilling, including hydraulic fracturing, within the geographical borders of the township. The holder of two gas leases argued that §23-0303 of New York's Environmental Conservation Law preempts the zoning law. The section states that "this article shall supersede all local laws or ordinances relating to the regulation of oil, gas and solution mining industries." But neither the plain reading of the statute nor its legislative history leads to the conclusion that this phrase was intended to abrogate the constitutional and statutory authority vested in municipalities to enact legislation affecting land use. Rather, the natural and most obvious sense of the word "regulation" is that the legislature intended to insure state-wide standards with regard to the method and manner to be used in oil, gas, and solution drilling or mining. The state determines the "how" of such procedures, but the municipalities maintain control over the "where" of such exploration. Accordingly, a local municipality may enact a land use regulation that permits or prohibits oil and gas drilling within the confines of its geographical jurisdiction.