A state court in New York has overturned a local ban on hydraulic fracturing, ruling that the city of Binghamton ordinance was a “moratorium” that was not properly enacted. Jeffrey v. Ryan, No. 1254 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. 10/2/12). A group of landowners that wanted to lease their land for natural gas exploration challenged the ordinance. They argued, among other matters, that the state Environmental Conservation Law preempted it. The court rejected that argument, relying on case law to the contrary.
The court rejected the city’s argument that the ordinance was an exercise of the city’s police powers, noting that the city was “clearly not relying on the anticipated regulations from the New York Department of Environmental Conservation to alleviate any health and safety threats that may be posed by this activity.” The court also determined that the city failed to show that the ordinance, set to sunset in December 2013, was in response to “a dire necessity” that was “reasonably calculated to alleviate or prevent a crisis” or that it was “taking steps to rectify the problem.”