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Court decision no deterrent for gas companies

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New York’s second highest court upheld the right for two municipalities to ban gas drilling last week. But, that decision won’t deter gas and oil producer Lenape Resources from appealing a similar ban in the upstate community of Avon.

Attorney for Lenape Resources, Michael Joy, says Thursday’s rulings in favor of the towns of Dryden and Middlefield are not the final word on this issue.

He says the decisions reaffirm the need for Lenape to appeal a comparable ruling in Avon, where they lost a case to overturn a one year moratorium on fracking.

“In all likelihood, the Lenape case, as well as the Dryden and Middlefield cases, are likely to end up before the highest court in New York which is really the right court in the end to finally decide this issue for New York. It’s sufficiently important that this warrants the attention of the highest levels," Joy said.

Avon town supervisor David LeFeber says the decisions are encouraging.

He says if Lenape goes ahead with their appeal, the town will continue to defend its right to put a moratorium in place.

“It’s still important that the people who are stakeholders in a community, and people who represent those communities, still have the opportunity to determine what occurs in those communities," LeFeber said.The gas and oil industry argues that local moratoriums are illegal as the Department of Environmental Conservation has sole power to regulate the state’s gas and oil industries.

“I don’t have a difficulty per se with home rule, but when it relates to energy production this is an issue of statewide importance where you need the comprehensive laws, rules and regulations, and the expertise that can only be efficiently and effectively had at the state level,” Joy said.

“It would be false to believe that each and every municipality in New York state would have the capabilities to effectively regulate oil and natural gas development, and that’s what’s happening," he continued.

LeFeber concedes that individual municipalities have fewer resources than the state to determine energy development policies, but that doesn’t mean they should be shut out of the conversation, he says.

For more from The Innovation Trail, visit their website, www.innovationtrail.org.

The Innovation Trail is a collaboration between six upstate New York public media outlets. The initiative, funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), helps the public gain a better understanding of the connection between technological breakthroughs and the revitalization of the upstate New York economy.

WXXI/Finger Lakes Reporter for the Innovation Trail