{{show_title_date || "The little town that took on fracking and big oil, 8/17/13, 12:58 PM ET"}}

Natural-gas driller to appeal New York town’s fracking ban


A few weeks ago, guests on Melissa Harris-Perry had a contentious on-air debate on the merits and dangers of fracking—the practice of drilling for natural gas by means of hydraulic fracturing. The debate centered on the small town of Dryden, New York, which has banned any oil and gas drilling within its city limits. Thursday, the New York State Court of Appeals decided to hear the appeal of Norse Energy Corp.—the company fighting against the town’s fracking ban.

“The big end is to preserve our community character,” said Deborah Cipolla-Dennis, a Dryden resident and member of the town’s resources awareness coalition.

Earthjustice, the organization that handles hundreds of environmental cases each year and is working pro-bono on behalf of the town of Dryden said the court’s decision to hear the appeal is the quickest way to settle the matter.

“The Court probably knows that if it doesn’t decide the issue now, it will be asked to do so every time the question comes up in other cases,” said Deborah Goldberg, managing attorney for Earthjustice.

Back in 2009, Dryden residents were pressured into leasing their land for oil and gas development. In August 2011 the town board banned fracking. The legal challenges began six weeks later when Dryden was sued by Anschutz Corporation over the zoning ban. In February, 2012, the courts sided with the town.

Anschutz Corporation pulled out of the second legal battle, but Norse Energy Corp filing an appeal. In May of this year an intermediary appeals court ruled in favor of Dryden and another nearby town. Then Norse Energy decided to appeal that decision, bringing the case where it stands now.

Norse Energy Corp. did not respond to calls for comment from MSNBC.

So could this be the last round for Big Oil on “fracking”?

“Yes. This is strictly a state law question. The Court of Appeals will decide the issue once and for all,” said Goldberg.