The state’s highest court upheld bans on hydrofracking imposed by local governments in a 5-2 ruling issued Monday.

The case centered on the rights of two communities — Dryden and Middlefield — to create local zoning restrictions on the controversial natural gas extraction process.

In arguments before the court last month, attorneys for the natural gas industry argued that noting in arguments that communities can’t prohibited entire industries.

“We think that this is really a very, simple, straightforward case that the courts below have really misinterpreted,” said industry attorney Tom West said in oral arguments.

But the ruling found the towns “engaged in a reasonable exercise of their zoning authority.”

At the same time, the court also stressed its ruling wasn’t on the pros and cons of hydrofracking itself, a process that is currently being studied by the state Department of Health for its impacts on human health.

The ruling on Monday by the state Court of Appeals holds up decisions by lower courts in the Dryden and Mayfield cases.

“At the heart of these cases lies the relationship between the State and its local government subdivisions, and their respective exercise of legislative power. These appeals
are not about whether hydrofracking is beneficial or detrimental to the economy, environment or energy needs of New York, and we pass no judgment on its merits. These are major policy questions
for the coordinate branches of government to resolve,” the majority opinion found, written by Judge Victoria Graffeo. “The discrete issue before us, and the only one we resolve today, is whether the State Legislature eliminated the home rule capacity of municipalities to pass zoning laws that exclude oil, gas and hydrofracking activities in order to preserve the existing character of their communities. There is no dispute that the State Legislature has this right if it chooses to exercise it.”

A dissenting opinion written by Judge Eugene Pigott and concurred by Judge Robert Smith, found the towns exercised undue regulatory authority that sought to restrict a specific industry.

The opinion found that the towns “purport to regulate the oil, gas and solution mining activities within the respective towns, creating a blanket ban on an entire industry without
specifying the zones where such uses are prohibited.”

130 131opn14 Decision by Nick Reisman