Anschutz Exploration

Anschutz Files Supreme Court Lawsuit to Overturn
Town of Dryden Ban on Natural Gas Drilling

The West Firm of Albany, New York, on behalf of the Colorado-based oil and natural gas company, Anschutz Exploration Corporation (Anschutz), filed today a lawsuit in New York Supreme Court, Tompkins County, seeking to overturn an ordinance and zoning amendment adopted by the Town of Dryden (Town), which bans all oil and gas exploration and development activities in the Town. The basis for Anschutz’s lawsuit is that the zoning ban is preempted by New York’s Oil, Gas and Solution Mining Law, Article 23 of the New York State Environmental Conservation Law (ECL).

ECL §23-0303(2) expressly supersedes all local regulations relating to oil and gas exploration and development, with the exception of local roads and real property taxes. Specifically, the ECL provides that:

The provisions of this article [ECL Article 23] shall supersede all local laws or ordinances relating to the regulation of the oil, gas and solution mining industries; but shall not supersede local government jurisdiction over local roads or the rights of local governments under the real property tax law.

The litigation papers filed on behalf of Anschutz demonstrate that this clear and unequivocal preemption language was intended to and does preempt all municipal regulation of oil and gas extraction and development, including local zoning, with narrow exceptions concerning roads and taxation. The papers further demonstrate that any effort by the Town to regulate or prohibit oil and gas exploration and development would conflict with the extensive statutory scheme administered by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) relative to oil and gas development and the stated purposes of New York law to promote the development of these resources and protect the correlative rights of owners, including landowners. The litigation papers also include an affidavit from Greg Sovas, the former Division Director of the Division of Mineral Resources at DEC, concerning DEC’s long-standing interpretation that the supersedure provision at issue in this litigation was intended to preempt all local regulation of the oil and gas industry, including local zoning, with the exception of the regulation of local roads and taxation.

Although Anschutz does not dispute the role of local governments, including the Town regarding traditional zoning, Anschutz has commenced this litigation to protect its substantial lease holdings in the Town. Anschutz and The West Firm look forward to having the Supreme Court resolve this dispute to provide Anschutz and the Town with guidance concerning the Town’s role relative to the extensive leases held by Anschutz within the Town.

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