Fending Off Fracking In Dryden, NY

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.


Regional Office / Program

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.

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)

Case Updates

A farm near the town of Dryden in New York.
June 29, 2015 Press Release

It’s Official: New York Fracking Ban Made Final With Release of 43-Page Document

On eve of one-year anniversary of local fracking ban court win, NY finalizes statewide ban

Leslie Roeder, an advocate with New Yorkers Against Fracking, celebrates in 2014 after Govenor Cuomo announced he would ban hydraulic fracking.
December 19, 2014 Article: Victory

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?

An anti-fracking demonstration outside of New York Governor Cuomo's office in Manhattan, NY, in October of 2012.
December 17, 2014 Press Release: Victory

Earthjustice Hails Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Historic Energy Leadership

Health risks too grave, New York State will ban fracking