The Myth of Community Rights: Self-Governance has a Corporate Ceiling

August 20, 2015
Thomas Linzey

Even as hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) has spread rapidly in communities across the United States, there’s a sense that communities are gaining traction to stem this tide. But the reality on the ground—despite news headlines—says otherwise.  

In New York in 2014, the state’s highest court ruled that communities could use local zoning ordinances to ban hydraulic fracturing for shale gas. Six months earlier, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court overturned a state law that stripped zoning authority away from communities regarding the siting of gas wells. And in Kentucky, the state Supreme Court ruled that a pipeline corporation couldn’t use eminent domain authority to take private property for a pipeline carrying frack gas through the state.

While on the surface it may look like the courts are finally beginning to fix the power imbalance between energy corporations and communities, the basic relationship between corporations and communities remains untouched by these rulings.