ALBANY -- New York's top court will step into the debate over natural gas drilling when it hears two cases involving town bans on a drilling technique called horizontal hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking."
The Court of Appeals said Thursday it would hear appeals by complainants trying to overturn bans in Dryden, just outside Ithaca in Tompkins County, and Middlefield, which contains part of the village of Cooperstown in Otsego County.
Typically, the court hears arguments in a case about 12 months after it agrees to do so.
Lower courts have upheld the towns' right to prohibit natural gas drilling within their borders, ruling that state mining and drilling law doesn't trump the authority of local governments to control land use.
More than 50 New York municipalities have passed bans on gas drilling in recent years. Norse Energy Corp. and a dairy farmer planning to allow drilling on her land are challenging the local restrictions.
New York already has thousands of natural gas wells that used vertical hydraulic fracturing, which uses less water than horizontal.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has repeatedly delayed a decision on whether to lift a 5-year-old moratorium and permit horizontal hydraulic fracturing as he awaits a public health study.