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Fending Off Fracking In Dryden, NY

Small farms dot the landscape around the Town of Dryden.

Small farms dot the landscape around the Town of Dryden.

Photo by Chris Jordan-Bloch / Earthjustice

What's at Stake

A town in upstate New York fought to save its way of life—and won.

Earthjustice represented the Town of Dryden in a precedent-setting case that has major implications for the rest of the country as localities around the nation take heart from Dryden’s fighting spirit.

Case Overview

It all started with a billionaire fossil fuel mogul trying to run roughshod over a small town.

After the bipartisan town board in Dryden, NY (pop: 14,500) voted unanimously to clarify that oil and gas activities—including fracking—were not permitted within the town’s borders, the Anschutz Exploration Corporation, owned by Philip Anschutz (net worth: $7.5 billion), sued Dryden in an attempt to override local zoning. Earthjustice is representing Dryden in its effort to keep fossil fuel development at bay.

In February 2012, a New York State judge ruled in favor of the Town of Dryden. Anschutz appealed that decision in May 2012, but withdrew from the litigation later that year. A U.S. subsidiary of Norse Energy, a Norwegian Company, replaced Anschutz in November 2012 but filed for bankruptcy one month later. In May 2013, a four-judge intermediate appellate court ruled unanimously in favor of the Town of Dryden, its second court victory against the fossil fuel industry.

Earthjustice and the Town of Dryden then went into a third round of litigation, with the case going up to New York’s highest court, as Norse was liquidating its assets and the bankruptcy Trustee pursuing the final appeal.

On June 30, 2014, the New York Court of Appeals ruled that the towns of Dryden and Middlefield can use local zoning laws to ban heavy industry, including oil and gas operations, within municipal borders. The decision gives legal backing to the more than 170 New York municipalities that have passed measures to protect residents from the impacts of the controversial oil and gas development technique. The news also gives a green light to dozens of other New York towns that have been waiting for the Court of Appeals' decision to pass their own local ban.

Case ID

2236

Clients

Case Updates

December 19, 2014 | Blog Post

Refused to Give Up, Refused to Give In

New York State's ban on fracking is a hard-fought victory that will no doubt have reverberations around the world, so what’s next in the fracking fight?

June 20, 2014 | Feature

Dryden: The Town That Changed The Fracking Game

When the oil and gas industry came to the small town of Dryden, NY (population: 14,500) with plans to start fracking, things didn’t turn out quite how they expected. Find out how a group of neighbors turned the tables on a powerful industry—and changed the fracking game forever. View the photo essay.

June 20, 2014 | Legal Document

New York Court of Appeals Decision

The Court ruled that the towns of Dryden and Middlefield can use local zoning laws to ban heavy industry, including oil and gas operations, within municipal borders.

Related Features

Dryden: The Town That Changed The Fracking Game

When the oil and gas industry came to the small town of Dryden, NY (population: 14,500) with plans to start fracking, things didn’t turn out quite how they expected. Find out how a group of neighbors turned the tables on a powerful industry—and changed the fracking game forever. View the photo essay.

Teleconference: Fracking And Community Control

On June 20, 2014, in advance of a decision from New York’s high court over a pair of zoning-based oil and gas development bans, experts from New York, Colorado, California, Pennsylvania and Texas hosted a teleconference on the growing trend of community control over fracking.