Ithaca, N.Y. — Martha Ferger, a 90-year-old woman from Dryden, stands in direct sunlight outside the Tompkins County Courthouse in humid 80-degree weather. She holds a large sign, shaped like a sunflower, that reads “Local Power.”
Ferger has followed the anti-fracking movement since 2010, and on Monday she stood with more than 60 others from the towns of Dryden, Caroline and beyond to celebrate the upholding of fracking bans in Dryden, Tompkins County, and Middlefield in the state Court of Appeals.
“There are so many things to do,” Ferger said. “You help wherever you can.”
People stood in two semi-circles outside the courthouse, holding signs and making speeches and shout-outs to the crowd.
The 5-2 ruling, written by Judge Victoria A. Graffeo, sets a state-wide precedent that allows municipalities in New York to vote on whether or not to prevent fracking within their borders.
“The oil industry’s last hope was in the courts,” said Jason Leifer, deputy supervisor for the Town Board of Dryden. “The people of Dryden and the people of New York can rest easy knowing that the future is in their hands.”
Dr. Hilary Lambert, steward for the Cayuga Lake Watershed Network, said not knowing whether or not the ban would be upheld kept her up all night.
A friend sent her a message at 9:03 a.m. telling her that ban had been upheld, Lambert said.
“The first reaction was just, ‘oh thank goodness,’” Lambert said. “It was like I could hear the birds outside.”
While people were overjoyed by the verdict Monday morning, many people in the crowd expressed the need to continue the fight.
“Our goal is a state-wide ban. Fracking activities cannot be done safely,” Lambert said to the crowd. “We must stay vigilant, for this is a fight forever.”
While Dryden and Middlefield have bans, other municipalities in the state may not have prominent anti-fracking voices to keep drilling out, Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton (D-125) said.
“This does not signal a green lighting for the issuing of permits anywhere in New York state,” Lifton said.
“We need to keep pushing back with the state.”