Schneiderman’s Delaware River basin fracking lawsuit tossed

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A federal judge tossed a lawsuit filed last year by state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, which sought to force a study of the environmental impacts of hydrofracking in the Delaware River Basin.

U.S. District Court Judge Nicholas Garaufis ruled yesterday in favor of the Army Corps of Engineers, the Environmental Protection Agency and a number of other federal agencies, deciding that Schneiderman’s lawsuit was filed too early and was speculative in nature.

Schneiderman had argued that the Delaware River Basin Commission — a partnership among four watershed states and various federal agencies — would violate the National Environmental Policy Act, which requires an analysis of the environmental impacts of a proposed federal action. But a proposed set of regulations for hydrofracking in the basin have been stalled for months, and a moratorium has remained in place in the meantime.

From the decision, issued yesterday:

“Plaintiffs appear to believe that, if Defendants are not forced to comply with NEPA now, their interests will be placed at risk immediately. But that is not the case. The courts will be available if and when the DRBC adopts final regulations permitting natural gas development,and are more than capable of preliminarily enjoining any development so that no wastewater is created before the courts have evaluated whether the DRBC and the Federal Defendants are obligated to follow NEPA in this instance.”

The decision was praised by various landowners groups who are supportive of hydrofracking.

“We are pleased the court dismissed this lawsuit brought by NY Attorney General Eric Schneiderman,” Joint Landowners Coalition President Dan Fitzsimmons said in a statement. “This brings our landowners in the Delaware River Basin one step closer to moving forward with natural gas development.”

Schneiderman spokesman James Freedland issued a statement this afternoon, that read in part:

“Although the Court’s decision was based on procedural issues, we are pleased that the ruling left the door open for legal action on the merits of our case at a later date. We are also pleased the Court agreed with our office that New York has concrete interests in protecting it citizens and environment from harmful pollution if drilling is allowed.”

The decision is below. We’ll update with comment from Schneiderman’s office as soon as we get it.

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