New York’s zoning ban movement is gaining momentum, and the world is watching

On Thursday, May 2, New York State’s Appellate Court upheld the right of two townships – the Tompkins County town of Dryden and the Otsego County town of Middlefield – to use their zoning laws to ban gas drilling. This includes high-volume hydraulic fracturing, during which millions of gallons of sand-and-chemical-laced water are propelled into deep shale rock to force out the methane it contains. Last week’s decision defeated corporate challenges to the state’s constitutional home rule provision, under which local ordinances trump state laws.
If you haven’t been following New York State’s astonishing grassroots battle against fracking, the foregoing may seem humdrum. But in fact it represents a victory wrenched by unknown grassroots activists from giants of the fossil-fuel industry. While the corporations defeated in last week’s judgment are only two in number, the entire industry has had its eyes on New York State, which has become the epicenter of an international struggle against unconventional gas. (By “unconventional gas” I mean not only the drilling method, but the vast infrastructure that is metastasizing from hundreds of thousands of fracking wells into America’s rural countrysides.)