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New York’s Highest Court Hears Oral Arguments on Local Bans

Yesterday the New York Court of Appeals heard oral arguments in two cases challenging the authority of a municipality to ban certain oil and gas activities within its jurisdiction.  The Court is reviewing two lower court decisions from May 2013 which held that New York’s Oil, Gas, and Solution Mining Law (OGSML) does not preempt local zoning laws.

During the oral arguments, Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman stated that both sides present valid public policy issues.   “On the one hand, you’re saying yes, we should have a comprehensive strategy to deal with such an important issue to our state–energy,” Lippman said.  “And on the other hand, municipalities believe (they can) determine how they’re going to live. They want some voice in how they live.”  Attorneys representing the parties challenging the bans argued that New York’s interests in pursuing a uniform energy policy are paramount.  In response, the attorneys for the municipalities argued that because the OGSML does not expressly supersede zoning laws, local governments are free to regulate land use within their borders as they see fit.  The Court of Appeals is expected to issue its decisions in July 2014.