Drilling firm to sue Town of Dryden over drilling ban

Sep 16, 2011

Updated: The suit has been filed.  You can read it on Scribd.

Denver-based Anschutz Exploration Corporation announced Thursday that it will challenge the town of Dryden's ban on hydrofracking in state Supreme Court.

Anschutz applied in 2009 to drill a horizontal well in Dryden and the application remains open, according to the Department of Environmental Conservation's wells database.

While the first well in Dryden was drilled in 1941, the town board voted to ban all natural gas operations in August.

The town was clarifying existing zoning laws with the ban, to include natural gas operations, says town attorney Mahlon Perkins.

"We have a local zoning ordinance, which we've had in place since 1969, and it has never allowed heavy industrial uses in the town," he says.

Lawsuit "imminent"

The lawsuit is "imminent" according to Anschutz spokesman Jim Monaghan, who declined to give anymore details before the case is filed.

The company's Albany-based lawyer, Thomas West, told the Press & Sun-Bulletin that he hoped the case would "let the courts decide whether municipalities can, under the guise of zoning or otherwise, ban or regulate drilling."

According to the bio posted on his law firm's website, West has 30 years of experience litigating on behalf of oil and gas companies and was "also at the forefront of the 2008 amendments to New York law to accommodate the development of the shale resources in New York State."

Perkins says the town of Dryden is prepared to go to court, despite the company's deep pockets and the potentially wide ramifications for other towns in New York that are considering bans hydrofracking if, as expected, the state starts issuing new drilling permits sometime next year.

"The public [in Dryden] has indicated that this is something that they were in favor of and have backed the town in the action the town took and they advised us that they are going to understand the cost of defending actions like this," Perkins says.