Since New York first put large-scale hydraulic fracturing on hold 4.5 years ago, the highly passionate supporters and opponents of shale-gas drilling have agreed on little.
In this past weekend’s Gannett newspapers, we examined potential lawsuits that may be filed regarding the state’s ongoing review of hydrofracking, which are coming into sharper focus as the debate stretches on.
A soon-to-be-missed deadline for the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s proposed fracking rules has sparked more-specific talks of a lawsuit on both sides of the contentious debate, with the next few weeks likely to decide which side will sue the state first.
The increasing possibility of litigation highlights the tightrope Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration walks as it weighs whether to allow drilling in the Southern Tier, home to the gas-rich Marcellus Shale formation.
A Binghamton-based group of pro-drilling landowners threatened to sue the state earlier this month if the DEC’s Feb. 27 deadline is blown. But the group is re-evaluating its options after DEC Commissioner Joseph Martens signaled Tuesday that even as his agency’s proposed regulations expire, a decision may still come within weeks.
Martens’ comments, however, riled up environmental groups, who have urged the state not to move forward with issuing fracking permits until the official regulations are completed. The commissioner suggested DEC could move forward with drilling by finalizing a multi-thousand-page Environmental Impact Statement and placing specific conditions on each permit issued before official rules are on the books.
If that were to happen, environmental groups would sue. Some argue the state would be treating guidelines in the environmental review as regulations without going through the formal rule-making process laid out in New York law.
(AP / Keith Srakocic)