Schneiderman files fracking lawsuit

Bryan Cohen May 31, 2011, 1:00pm


NEW YORK (Legal Newsline) - New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced on Tuesday that he will file a lawsuit against the federal government for its failure to study the allegedly harmful "fracking" technique.

Fracking is a horizontal drilling technique that utilizes high-volume hydraulic fracturing.

Schneiderman alleges that the federal government failed to commit to an environmental review of proposed regulations that would allow natural gas drilling in the Delaware River Basin. Schneiderman had notified the federal government that if it did not commit to the environmental review before the gas drilling regulations were finalized, he would take legal action to compel the study.

"Before any decisions on drilling are made, it is our responsibility to follow the facts and understand the public health and safety effects posed by potential natural gas development," Schneiderman said.

"The federal government has an obligation to undertake the necessary studies, and as I made clear last month, this office will compel it to do so. The welfare of those living near the Delaware River Basin, as well as the millions of New Yorkers who rely on its pure drinking water each day, will not be ignored."

As part of the National Environmental Policy Act, Schneiderman alleges that the law requires federal agencies to conduct a full review of actions that could cause significant environmental impacts. Despite this law, the Delaware River Basin Commission, with federal agency approval, allegedly proposed regulations allowing natural gas development in the basin without undertaking a review.

Scheiderman called on the government to comply with the NEPA obligations by suspending its considerations of the proposed regulations and undertaking a full review of all safety and public health risks posed by natural gas development, including an evaluation on the cumulative impacts of widespread fracking.

Though the federal agencies determined that natural gas drilling in the basin could result in significant environmental impacts and that the study of the impacts should be performed, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the lead agency of the DRBC, responded last week, making it clear that it and other member agencies would make no commitment to the studies, Schneiderman says.

Scheiderman alleges that unless fracking is studied and subject to strict controls, the technique can pose environmental, health and community risks, including the potential contamination of drinking water supplies, the withdrawal of large volumes of water from creeks and stream, and potential harm to community infrastructure and character from increased industrial activity.

Schneiderman will file the lawsuit Tuesday in federal District Court in Brooklyn.

The DRBC estimates that the proposed regulations would allow between 15,000 and 18,000 gas wells to be drilled within the basis, most of which would be developed by fracking.

The Delaware River Basin includes portions of the New York City watershed, Broome, Delaware, Green, Orange, Chenango, Schoharie, Ulster and Sullivan counties. The portion of the watershed that provides drinking water is used by more than nine million New York residents and visitors.

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