Dryden Natural Gas Ban in Judge's Hands

By WBNG

Dryden Natural Gas Ban in Judge's Hands

November 4, 2011 Updated Nov 4, 2011 at 8:01 PM EST

Ithaca, NY (WBNG Binghamton) Both sides have had their say in court.

Now, will a state supreme court judge uphold the Town of Dryden's ban on natural gas drilling?

Both sides made their cases in a hearing today.

In September Anschutz Exploration Corporation sued the Town of Dryden, after it changed its zoning laws to ban natural gas drilling and heavy industry of any kind.

The company already has 22,000 acres in gas leases in the small town--an investment of $5 million.

But a petition with thousands of names prompted a unanimous vote to ban the industry.

"The DEC regulates how drilling proceeds...what it looks like. But localities should have the right to decide where, and if, it's an appropriate use in their town," says Helen Slottje, Managing Attorney with the Community Environment Defense Council.

"If municipalities are given the power to ban drilling, it affects all of us. We lose the opportunity to have that clean burning fuel developed to offset imports of foreign oil," says Attorney Thomas West with Anschutz Exploration Corporation.

Slottje says the town has legal precedent on its side.

She also feels the town would be protected from what's called a "takings lawsuit," because property owners wouldn't be losing value, and Anschutz's losses would be counted as a cost of doing business.

According to Dryden Town Supervisor Mary Ann Sumner, the judge has 60 days to make verdict.

Dryden Town leaders expect a verdict in early January.