NY Sues Feds for Gas Drilling Study

NY State Attorney General’s complaint in the US District Court for the Eastern District of New York in Brooklyn aims to force an environmental impact study of proposed natural gas drilling in the Delaware River Basin, which includes the New York City watershed. Defendants are the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Park Service, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of the Interior. In a press release, AG Eric T. Schneiderman said “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. 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 Delaware River Basin Commission, a federal-interstate body composed of the Army Corps and the governors of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware, proposed regulations to allow 15,000 to 18,000 gas wells to be drilled within the basin, most of which would be developed by the controversial hydraulic fracturing technique called “fracking”. The DRBC has the legal authority to approve or disapprove activities that may substantially affect water resources within the 13,500 square-mile Delaware River Basin.

A Law 360 article, NY Sues US Over Fracking In Delaware River Basin, available to the Brooklyn Law School community by a BLS Library subscription, says that “The lawsuit claims that bypassing the environmental study would constitute a violation of the National Environmental Policy Act, which demands that federal agencies conduct a full review of actions that may cause significant environmental impact. Unlike in Pennsylvania and other states, no hydraulic fracturing combined with horizontal drilling has taken place yet in New York’s shale formations.

Hydraulic fracturing is a way of extracting natural gas and oil by injecting water, sand, and chemicals into dried-up wells to release trapped resources beneath the ground. With evidence that fracking can result in heavily polluted waterways, legislation to limit it include the New York State Assembly’s bill, A7400, which would establish a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing until an EPA issues a report on the practice. In Congress, Sen. Chuck Schumer has co-sponsored a bill to amend the Safe Drinking Water Act to repeal an exemption for hydraulic fracturing. A NY Times Drilling Down series of articles examined the risks of natural-gas drilling and efforts to regulate it and included Extracting Natural Gas From Rock. Researchers from Cornell completed the first peer-reviewed paper on methane emissions from shale gas. For more, read the article about the study on Cornell’s site. BLS Library users can also search across multiple databases at once for other articles on the topic.

Earlier this year, the Environmental Law Society hosted the documentary Gasland, which examines the environmental impacts of fracking. The trailer for the film is here.