May 16, 2012

Assembly Legislation Clarifies Local Governments' Authority to Restrict The Location of Oil and Gas Drilling

Speaker Sheldon Silver, Environmental Conservation Committee Chair Robert Sweeney, and Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton today announced the passage of legislation reinforcing the ability of local governments to regulate where oil and natural gas drilling may take place through the use of local zoning ordinances. Passage of the measure comes after over 100 local governments statewide have approved zoning restrictions on the controversial practice known as hydrofracking.

In light of the Department of Environmental Conservation's ongoing review of the possibility of high volume hydraulic fracturing in New York, this legislation (A.3245/Lifton) makes it clear that local governments retain the right to adopt laws that regulate land use provided that they do not regulate the operation of oil, gas, and solution mining industries.

"This legislation ensures that local governments are fully aware of the scope of their powers in order to maximize their ability to make the best decisions for their communities," said Silver. "Citizens need to have a say in the direction of their communities and to determine if an industry like hydrofracking is appropriate for their area."

"Local government zoning ordinances affecting where and if oil and gas drilling activities may occur in a municipality have been upheld by two separate trial courts," said Sweeney. "This legislation clarifies the current law and is in complete harmony with the judicial decisions. The bill will prevent unnecessary and costly litigation thereby protecting local property taxpayers."

"This legislation clarifies strong home rule power in relation to oil and gas drilling and codifies the recent New York Supreme Court rulings," said Lifton. "It ensures that current and future local zoning laws can dictate where these mining activities occur, even with a regulatory program at the state level."

The measure amends Article 23 of the Environmental Conservation Law, which grants the state sole authority to regulate the oil, gas and solution mining industries, and codifies local governments' ability to use local zoning laws or ordinances to dictate where these kinds of activities can occur.