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New York Court of Appeals Upholds Local Zoning Restrictions on Oil and Gas

On June 30, 2014, the New York Court of Appeals ruled that under the “Home Rule” principle, towns may ban oil and gas production activities, including but not limited to hydraulic fracturing, through the use of local zoning laws in the case of Wallach v. Town of Dryden.  The Court ruled that as currently written, the state Oil, Gas and Solution Mining Law (OGSML) does not preempt the home rule authority of municipalities to regulate land use through zoning. 

The Court applied a three part test for preemption which established that state preemption of home rule is analyzed through:

  1. The plain language of the supersession clause

  2. The statutory scheme as a whole

  3. The relevant legislative history.

The Court held that the OGSML supersession clause did not satisfy any of the three criteria to be able to preempt the local zoning laws.

The Court then examined whether or not a municipality could, through the use of zoning, totally ban the exploitation of oil and gas. The Court held that a municipality is not obliged to permit the exploitation of natural resources if that limitation is a reasonable exercise of its police powers. The Court noted that the New York State Legislature could revise the OGSML to specifically preempt home rule and zoning regulations.

This case further emphasizes the difficult environment for oil and gas development in New York, which has had a statewide moratorium on hydraulic fracturing for several years.

© Steptoe & Johnson PLLC. All Rights Reserved.National Law Review, Volume IV, Number 189
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About this Author

Benedict Kirchner, Energy Attorney, Steptoe Johnson Law Firm
Of Counsel

Benedict Kirchner focuses his practice in the area of energy and natural resources law (oil, gas, and coal), specifically related to transactional matters.  Mr. Kirchner regularly assists clients in the acquisition and disposition of oil and gas assets and related matters.  In addition to legal education, he has completed multidisciplinary graduate coursework related to Central Asia, Russia, and China. This includes language training in Russian, Uzbek and Uyghur.  Mr. Kirchner has worked in the Middle East, as well as studied in Central Asia and Europe.

(814) 333-4910
Nate Holland, Oil, Gas, Attorney, Steptoe Johnson Law Firm
Member

Nate Holland assists clients with business transactions and litigation involving the oil and gas industry. In particular, Mr. Holland helps clients develop solutions for novel challenges or new applications of oil and gas law.

(814) 333-4906
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