Second Lawsuit Filed Against NY Town Challenges Drilling Ban

One day after Anschutz Exploration announced it would file a lawsuit against Dryden, NY (Tompkins County) to overturn a local ban on gas drilling in that township (see MDN story here), another lawsuit against another township in New York State has been filed. This new case was filed by landowner and township resident Jennifer Huntington against the Township of Middlefield in Otsego County. This suit, like the one from Anschutz, says the township has passed what amounts to an illegal law targeting the oil and gas industry, an industry that is specifically regulated by the state according to New York State law. The township’s ban infringes Ms. Huntington’s private property rights as a landowner to allow gas drilling on her land. A copy of the lawsuit is embedded below.

From the press release announcing the lawsuit:

A lawsuit has been filed against the Town of Middlefield in Otsego County to declare the provisions of its Zoning Law pertaining to oil and gas drilling within the Town of Middlefield to be void and in violation of New York State law. The law firm of Levene, Gouldin & Thompson, LLP has been retained to stop the town’s efforts to ban oil and gas drilling.

Jennifer Huntington and other Middlefield residents have already signed oil and gas leases. The new town zoning law will deprive them of their rights to market their minerals under their leases. Similar zoning laws are being enacted in other New York towns. All of these bans violate Environmental Conservation Law § 23-0303(2) which states that all local municipalities are preempted from passing local laws relating to the regulation of the oil and gas industries. Towns may not pass laws prohibiting oil and gas operations since the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation is exclusively charged with the obligation to regulate the oil and gas industries in New York.

The Middlefield case will establish precedent preventing towns from violating New York law. Success in Middlefield will be a win for all landowners in New York. Donations to support the Middlefield case can be made payable to the “Middlefield Fund For Landowner Rights” and mailed to NBT Bank, 2 Commons Drive, Cooperstown, New York 13326.