The Sanford town board has passed several resolutions in favor of gas drilling. Town Supervisor Dewey Decker also sent a letter to Cuomo in September urging him to move forward as soon as possible with shale gas development.
The town is in the southern part of the state near the Pennsylvania border, where the gas-rich rock formation known as the Marcellus Shale is most likely to see the first drilling activity if the ban is lifted.
"They shut down public speaking," said Susan Bishop, a Sanford resident who said there had been a lot of confrontation at meetings over the issue. "I feel it is an absolute violation of our rights. It can't be allowed to stand."
Mike Musante, a fracking opponent, said people on both sides of the issue walked out of the meeting when the resolution was passed, "because there was no point in being there."
Before gas drilling became an issue, only a handful of people would attend board meetings, Musante said. But recently there have been about 40 people on each side of the issue speaking out.
"It's extremely divisive," he said. "There are some well-placed families, including our town supervisor, who have signed leases with signing bonuses in the millions of dollars. And there are smaller landowners who are opposed."
The lawsuit is seeking to have the speaking ban lifted and to recover legal fees related to the court action.