NEW YORK (Legal Newsline) - New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman made a pledge on Monday to sue the federal government if it fails to commit within 30 days to an environmental review of of natural gas drilling in the Delaware River Basin.
The natural gas drilling includes the "fracking" technique. Fracking poses numerous risks to the environment, health and communities, Schneiderman says. He says the process involves withdrawing large volumes of water from creeks and streams, contamination of drinking water supplies, the generation of harmful wastes, increased noise, dust and air pollution, and damage to community infrastructure and character from increased industrial activity.
The drilling would potentially be done in the Basin, which includes the New York City watershed and portions of Broome, Chenango, Delaware, Schoharie, Green, Ulster, Orange and Sullivan counties.
The Delaware River Basin provides approximately 50 percent of the drinking water used by more than 9 million New York residents.
"Both the law and common sense dictate that the federal government must fully assess the impact of its actions before opening the door to gas fracking in New York," Schneiderman said. "New Yorkers are correctly concerned about fracking's potential dangers to their environment, health and communities, and I will use the full authority of my office, including aggressive legal action, to ensure the federal government is forced to address those concerns."
Federal agencies are required by the National Environmental Policy Act to conduct a full review of the environmental impacts of any actions that could cause significant environmental impacts, Schneiderman says.
Because of the significant impacts franking may have on the Basin, relevant federal agencies are obligated to comply with the NEPA by performing a full review of the impact of the Delaware River Basin Commission's proposed natural gas development regulations, Schneiderman says.
Schneiderman sent a letter on Monday to the agencies that decide policy for the federal government. The federal agencies, led by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, include the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Parks Service and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The DRBC has the legal authority to approve or disapprove activities that could could have a substantial effect on the water resources in the 13,500 square miles of the Delaware River Basin.
The DRBC, over the objection of then-Governor David Paterson, proposed regulations in December to allow natural gas development in the Basin. The proposed regulations, the DRBC estimates, will result in 15,000 to 18,000 gas wells being drilled, most of which would involve franking.
No assessment of environmental impacts related to allowing fracking in the Basin was conducted prior to the DRBC proposing its regulations.
Schneiderman's letter also demands that the DRBC immediately comply with its NEPA obligations by suspending any consideration of the proposed regulations and undertaking a full review of all public health and safety risks posed by natural gas development in the Basin. The letter also calls for the review to include an evaluation of the cumulative impacts of widespread franking in the Basin.