NY Attorney General Sues Feds to Force Fracking Study

Says Feds have Shirked Legal Responsibility To Assess Impacts Of Gas Drilling

New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman filed a lawsuit against the federal government today for its failure to review the environmental impacts of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in the Delaware River Basin.

The Delaware River Basin includes a portion of the New York City watershed that provides most of the drinking water used by over nine million New York residents. The federally designated Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River (and its tributaries), is a significant recreational destination.

New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman

Last December the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC), a federal interstate body with legal authority to approve or disapprove activities in the basin, proposed regulations allowing natural gas extraction via drilling and fracking in the basin. DRBC estimates about 15,000 to 18,000 gas wells can be drilled in the basin.

However, the commission — with the approval of its supporting federal agencies (Army Corps, EPA, National Park Service and the US Fish and Wildlife Service) —proposed the regulations without conducting an assessment of the environmental impacts of such drilling projects on the basin.

The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires federal agencies to conduct a full review of actions that may cause significant environmental impacts.

In April, just one day before a blowout at a Pennsylvania natural gas drilling site caused gallons of chemical-laced water to spill over neighboring land and into a stream, Schneiderman had demanded that the federal government comply with the NEPA requirement and conduct an environmental impact review. He warned that if feds didn’t comply within a month he would take legal action to compel such a study. Since a month has passed with no response from the federal government, the attorney general filed a suit at the federal court in Brooklyn today.

“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 in a press statement released today.

Fracking — a process that involves injecting water, chemicals, and sand into the ground to break up rock and release trapped natural gas — poses risks to the environment and the health of communities. It involves withdrawal of large volumes of water from creeks and streams, potential contamination of drinking water supplies, waste generation, increased noise, dust and air pollution.

While the federal agencies admit that natural gas drilling in the basin could have significant environmental impacts and that there should be a study of those impacts, the DRBC’s lead agency, the US Army Corps of Engineers said last week that it, and the other member agencies, would make no commitment to running such a study.

Get the Journal in your inbox.
Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

You Make Our Work Possible

You Make Our Work Possible

We don’t have a paywall because, as a nonprofit publication, our mission is to inform, educate and inspire action to protect our living world. Which is why we rely on readers like you for support. If you believe in the work we do, please consider making a tax-deductible year-end donation to our Green Journalism Fund.

Donate
Get the Journal in your inbox.
Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

The Latest

Whale Snot, Delivered by Drone

Researchers are using aerial vehicles to study infectious disease in Arctic cetaceans.

Brynn Pedrick

Birding in Gaza

Celebrating links across species amid a nightmare of war.

Rebecca Gordon

Nepal’s Embattled ‘Mad Honey’ Bee

In the Himalayas, development, climate change, and the global market for an intoxicating honey are pushing one bee species to the brink.

Manish Koirala

In Coastal British Columbia,
the Haida Get Their Land Back

By affirming Indigenous land ownership, British Columbia and the Haida Nation are signaling a new era for Indigenous relations.

Serena Renner

Can We Ever Escape the Evils of Capitalism?

In Review: Ryûsuke Hamaguchi’s newest film explores the nature of gentrification and rural refuge.

Ed Rampell

To Protect a Forest, He Organized its People

Alok Shukla pulled together a community resistance campaign that saved an ancient forest in India from being dug up for coal.

Maureen Nandini Mitra