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Parties revisit home rule arguments in NY State Court of Appeals

Innovation Trail
Attorney representing the bankruptcy trustee for Norse Energy makes his oral argument before the Court of Appeals. Earthjustice attorney Deborah Goldberg listens in the foreground.

The debate over whether a municipality can ban hydraulic fracturing within its borders was brought before the New York State Court of Appeals Tuesday afternoon. The Southern Tier town of Dryden is defending its right to home rule against lawyers representing the bankruptcy trustee for Norse Energy.

Earthjustice managing attorney Deborah Goldberg says she feels confident bringing the case before the court because home rule is protected by the state constitution and New York isn’t alone.

“If the court is concerned about what the practical implications might be, then we know that there are other states around the country that do allow local bans on oil and gas drilling within municipal boarders and never the less don't have any problems supporting the oil and gas industry.”

She says states like Oklahoma, Texas, California and Illinois all allow drilling bans similar to the one Dryden is hoping the court will uphold.

Earthjustice, which is representing the town pro bono, joined town representatives and environmentalists at a pre-hearing presser at the Legislative Office Building in Albany hours before appearing.

Attorney Helen Slottje is an environmental activist who’s been involved in the Dryden case from the beginning. She says she expects the courts to uphold the state’s February 2012 Supreme Court ruling in favor of Dryden.

“Despite the general inability of the legislature to agree and pass very many progressive type laws. That if the court did rule against the community there would be a tremendous call for the legislature and for Gov. Cuomo to rectify that and to make it clear that here in New York we have certain community right and people have the ability to say no."

Dryden has been locked in a dispute over fracking after the town board unanimously decided to ban fracking in August 2011. That following February, the oil and gas company sued the town and the appellate court upheld Dryden’s right to home rule in May 2013.

Jenna first knew she was destined for a career in journalism after following the weekly reports of the Muppet News Flash as a child. In high school she wrote for her student newspaper and attended a journalism camp at SUNY New Paltz, her Hudson Valley hometown. Jenna then went on to study communications and journalism at Seton Hall University in South Orange, NJ where she earned her Bachelor of Arts.