Landowners to sue Cuomo on Friday over fracking delay

19

A coalition representing thousands of upstate landowners will sue Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Friday in an attempt to force a decision on hydraulic fracturing for natural gas, the group announced Thursday evening.

The lawsuit from the Binghamton-based Joint Landowners Coalition of New York accuses Cuomo of intentionally obstructing the state’s 5 1/2-year review of hydrofracking, asking a judge to force the state Department of Environmental Conservation to complete an ongoing review that will guide whether New York will allow gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale.

The legal challenge will be filed in state Supreme Court in Albany on Friday, according to the group.

β€œIt is apparent to the world that Governor Cuomo is dragging out the (environmental review) process for his political purposes instead of focusing on his upstate New York constituents, many of whom struggle to survive in the worst economic conditions in our nation,” Dan Fitzsimmons, the group’s president, said in a statement. “We want to see our communities thrive through the blessing of this American energy revolution.”

Cuomo is named as the lead defendant in the suit, along with DEC Commissioner Joe Martens and Health Commissioner Nirav Shah, who began reviewing the DEC’s fracking work 16 months ago. The governor’s office said it had not yet seen the suit Thursday evening.

The landowners coalition, which represents dozens of regional landowner bargaining units across New York, mailed a letter to Martens two weeks ago demanding he set a firm timeline for finishing the fracking review, known as the Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement or SGEIS. If not, the state would face a lawsuit Friday, the group’s attorney wrote.

The group has threatened a lawsuit against Cuomo for months, arguing that the state has effectively taken their oil-and-gas rights as it continues to keep high-volume fracking on hold in the state. But the group’s lawsuit does not challenge whether the the alleged “taking” violates the U.S. Constitution, instead focusing on trying to force the state into completing its review.

The suit is being backed financially by the Mountain States Legal Fund, a Colorado-based non-profit that has been involved in dozens of conservative lawsuits regarding property rights.

It’s the second lawsuit filed against the Cuomo administration regarding the fracking review, which was first launched in 2008. Last year, Albany-based oil-and-gas attorney Tom West filed a similar lawsuit on behalf of Norse Energy’s bankruptcy attorney in an attempt to force the DEC to finish the SGEIS.

A hearing on the Norse lawsuit is scheduled for March 7 in Albany. The landowners’ suit seeks a hearing of its own on the same day.

Here’s the landowners’ lawsuit that, according to the JLC, will be filed Friday:

Verified Petition and Complaint

Share.

About Author

19 Comments

  1. The JLC with the help of Tom West and the Mountain States LEgal Foundation will get Cuomo to do what he should have done a long time ago – allow drilling just like it is legal in 30 other states. We need energy and we need it now.

  2. Its about time. King Cuomo held this up for his own political games but he now has no future with the entire upstate landowners who will never forget his inaction. Many landowners went into foreclosure, lost property due to the oppressive taxes, or even passed on while waiting for his action. I just wish the state would now never see the economic windfall that will now come out of the southern tier.

  3. Patricia Goldsmith on

    I feel about these 70,000 members of a special interest group the same way I feel about the union guys who show up to support the continued operation of Indian Point nuclear plant: yes, your jobs/money are on the line but that pales in comparison to the damage being done to life on this planet by the fuel source you support. In this case we’re talking about fracking. We know we need to leave almost all known carbon reserves in the ground if we are to keep global temperature rise at or below 2 degrees. Mind you, we don’t even know if we can survive a 2 degree rise, but that is now locked in. 70,000 landowners vs. the planet? Give me the planet, please! And thank you, Governor Cuomo, for taking enough time to allow other states to show what happens when the fracking industry is unleashed. Every day there’s an explosion at a plant or a pipeline or a train car carrying this doom. All the vibrant industries in New York, from agriculture to real estate to tourism, thank Governor Cuomo for this reprieve. And we intend to press on for a permanent ban.

  4. If we needed it now, gas prices would be way higher than they are. We actually have a glut of natural gas and cannot store much more, so why risk pollution in a populous state where the Marcellus Shale will not yeild anywhere near what it has in PA?

  5. @Patricia and @Hugh – try to follow along here. This lawsuit is about following the law, which Cuomo took an oath to uphold, and which he has violated. He has NO role to play in this process whatsoever, but being a weak and indecisive politician with delusions of national power, he has illegally inserted himself into the process and has thereby subverted the laws he swore to uphold. Plus he’s a liar – he promised transparency in his administration. So where is that? Oh yeah, in some ‘sacred place’.. He promised science would decide – another lie, since he first said he’d decide by this year’s election, which has NO basis in science, then said maybe after the election, and now he won’t say. You can try to paint me as a greedy landowner, but I doubt I’d ever make enough in royalties to even pay my property taxes = I just want to see the law followed by our poor excuse of a so-called leader.

  6. Why do the landowners and the industry feel that it is their right to have a generic environmental impact statement in the first place? Other businesses and landowners prepare environmental impact statements for their projects. Why should the taxpayers of New York pay for a giant document that attempts to cover every site throughout the state rather than requiring the leasing companies to prepare a site-specific environmental impact statement? The economics of shale gas must be pretty marginal if the companies haven’t even tried to apply for an individual site permit, using a site-specific EIS.

    Do we know if the DEC has been continuing to update the draft SGEIS to incorporate the newest science? There have been numerous published studies in the past two years on atmospheric methane leakage, air pollution, and methane migration, among other topics. Have these studies been incorporated into the most current draft? Also, have the comprehensive, cumulative impacts been addressed? This was called for in Gov. Paterson’s executive order which Gov. Cuomo continued. The last publicly available draft still did not include comprehensive, cumulative impacts. Has that been rectified in the current draft?

  7. @joanne, you make my point exactly – we don’t know squat because Cuomo has lied to us about transparency, and has interfered with the process (whether you like the concept of a GEIS or not). As to why the companies have not filed an EIS/permit, why bother? There is Patterson’s Executive Order 41, continued by Cuomo as EO 1 (or was it 2?) that imposed a statewide moratorium on all drilling that required HVHF. And consider your apathy toward the concept of a GEIS; if there is ever to be any serious solar or wind development, every single one of the thousands of turbines would require an EIS as part of the permitting process..

  8. Joanne Corey: Here is an answer to your much repeated bogus claims of atmospheric methane leakage espoused by fractivist professors Howrath and Ingraffea of Cornell. They have been roundly disputed not only by 3 Cornell Professors (Lawrence Cathles III, Larry Brown, and Andrew Hunter) http://www.geo.cornell.edu/eas/PeoplePlaces/Faculty/cathles/Natural%20Gas/2012%20Cathles%20et%20al%20Commentary%20on%20Howarth.pdf
    but also by MIT, University of Texas/Environmental Defense Fund, former U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu only to mention a few. Cuomo’s foot dragging days are coming to an end with the prosecution of these much needed lawsuits.

  9. For every one socalled scientist ( and many who are not; they are academians with little if any science background!) who claim to have evidence that fracking is safe and there is ” minimal methane leakage,” there are 20 legitimate scientists who can show the data proving that there is!! Besides, what about all those states allowing fracking who now have huge numbers of sick people and animals within a several mile radius of the drilling operations!? And what about the noise and lights of the compressors, the heavy truck traffic that is destroying roads- which, by the way, the taxpayers are paying for, certainly not the gas or trucking companies who are doing the damage! You can sue Cuomo, folks, but he’s trying to protect us all- in other words, he’s doing his job!

  10. K.Roberts – You claim there are 20 scientists who support Ingraffea/Howarth – NAME ONE! As far as roads, in Bradford County, PA Mike Lovegreen, now retired head of the Bradford County conservation district, gave a presentation at the Binghamton Library on April 10, 2103 which I attended and he stated the GAS COMPANIES doled out over $50 million to fix the roads in Bradford and paid for all of the repairs. This presentation was sponsored by the Broom County Environmental Management Council http://www.bcholidayclassic.com/emc/docs You are a liar and propagandist for those trying to steal land from upstate landowners.

  11. K. Roberts, I would also add that it is not Cuomo’s job to protect us, it’s the job of the DEC as the lead agency in this matter. I’d ask you not only for the names of the scientists who support Howarth and Ingraffia, but also for published, peer-reviewed studies by credentialed health professionals or government agencies that support your claims of sick people and animals. Dish TX has been de-bunked, in Pavillion WY the EPA could not make their case and withdrew in favor of the state, an ongoing 30-year study of the health of Australian oil and gas workers shows them to be healthier than average (other than increased melanoma caused by sun exposure)… The studies prove exactly the opposite of what you claim. And let’s not forget that hydraulic fracturing has been performed in New York State for years, in over 90% of the 14000+ gas and oil wells here. Many in the Seneca lake region.. Look at the DEC data.

  12. Bill Owen: You’re wasting your breath trying to talk sense to K. Roberts. He or she is a member of a group of land grabbers called VeRSE (Vestal Residents for Safe Energy). I constantly read his/her rants and lies in the viewpoint section of the Binghamton Press and Sun Bulletin. This group is notorious for spreading lies and propaganda as Vestal is a town of elites and the well – to – do. They could care less if a farmer is on the verge of bankruptcy. In fact, IMO they relish the thought that way they can acquire more land for themselves. You can tell the propaganda from a mile away….Roberts stated that there are 20 scientists for every one scientist who disputes Ingraffea/Howarth without giving ONE NAME. Joseph Goebbels would be envious.

  13. August Braun: Yeah, I know, but I get bored, and questions sometimes silences them, at least for a bit. Then they go off on another tangent – no gas here, etc. I think they spent more time coming up with their lame acronym VeRSE than they do actually doing any research – much easier to parrot Howarth/Ingraffia, Slottjes, and the like. My favorite of the week has been Isaac Silberman-Gorn claiming the JLCNY lawsuit was ‘frivolous’ – so now he has a law degree too? A self-proclaimed expert in all things, but who never ever provides evidence! I believe a community organizer about as much as I belive our Community-Organizer-in-Chief!

  14. The anti argument is fictional and quite boring. They should be held liable for their false accusations. For Instance Isaac Gorn was on the radio in Binghamton stating that reports were coming in from Ohio and Pennsylvania of wide spread devastation and aquifer pollution. Seems like today you can get on the radio and say anything you want and get away with it.

  15. Furman/Owen: Gorn is the worst kind of hack. Moved to the Southern Tier from Albany in 2007 and graduated Binghamton University with some chicken sh!t degree. Now he’s a geologist, lawyer, you name it. He’s nothing but an overpaid mouthpiece for Citizen Action of NY. Reminds me a lot of Senator Chuckie Schumer…..get him close enough to a camera and a microphone and he suddenly acquires diarrhea of the mouth.

  16. Diana L. Wright on

    First, what is “apparent to the world” is that Gov Cuomo and Dr Shah are doing their due diligence by thoroughly researching the volumes of health and environmental impacts (mostly negative) fracking has had on people and the planet in the other “30 states in which it is legal”. Secondly, ” his upstate New York constituents, many of whom struggle to survive in the worst economic conditions in our nation,” could jump on the renewable energy train and supplement their incomes very handsomely by leasing their land to —solar and wind farms. Mr. Fiutzsimmons is correct, there is an ” energy revolution.” but it’s not fossil fuels. That ship has sailed. The energy revolution as he so succinctly calls it is in Renewable energy. A civilized society cannot permit the short term benefits of the few to trump the long term detriment of all. We have the technology NOW to transition to renewable energy NOW without needing to extract one more drop of oil or gas from the earth.

  17. Ms. Wright – Rest assured I would never lease my land to a solar or wind company. Once these things are put up they will be there basically forever with the wind turbines slaughtering birds and bats like there is no tomorrow – http://savetheeaglesinternational.org/releases/spanish-wind-farms-kill-6-to-18-million-birds-bats-a-year.html When a gas well has run its course in 20 -30 yrs, NY law mandates that the land is reclaimed to its original state or better. I have a solar array and rest assured that even in conjunction with wind, hydro, geothermal, it will never supply our electrical energy needs not to mention our heating needs….something totally disregarded by those like yourself. At night and when snow covered, the array puts out zero watts thus putting the load on the remaining renewable sources. Have a windless night, and the country comes to a grinding halt. Keep dreaming and perhaps one day you will wake up to the fact that you and those like you are being played.

  18. Diana Wright: First you must understand that under the law, neither Cuomo nor Shah have the power to do what they are doing. The DEC is designated as the lead agency for SGEIS activities, and that cannot be delegated. The DOH was involved in the SGEIS process from the beginning, and produced a report in early 2012 THAT WAS BURIED and only leaked to the press in 2013; this report confirmed that hydraulic fracturing could be done with no health risk under the terms of the SGEIS. Everything else since has been smoke and mirrors to ensure that Andy the Ditherer gets re-elected by the widest possible margin in his misguided hope that he will be crowned President. I don’t know how you can possibly believe that anything useful is going on in the DOH since Shah refuses to discuss any of the data he’s reviewed, what he has found (or not), or why he’s had to fly all over the country at taxpayer expense for reports he could have had mailed/faxed/emailed to him. As to your idea of jumping on the renewable bandwagon by leasing their property – if you know of a company looking to lease property to put up a wind farm or solar power station, please post it here so interested parties can get in touch with them! BTW, did you know that each 5Mw wind turbine that is placed into a farm where the wind direction varies requires clear-cutting 30 acres? And that for the lifetime of that farm the land underneath cannot be safely used for any other purpose due to safety constraints? I’ve been to the wind farm in Palm Springs CA and seen the ground littered with collapsed towers, 50-ton nacelles that have been torn off, and would have concerns about ice shedding from the blades or the blades themselves departing in our harsh climate. Not to mention the health effects of low-frequency noise, the danger to migratory birds and bats, and more. Plus when you say renewable energy would obviate the need for one more drop of oil or gas from the earth you completely ignore the fact that not only are both oil and gas are important feedstocks for the chemical industry that are used in everything from plastics to fertilizers and more, you ignore the fact that it will be decades before industry and households convert. Do you drive an all-electic car? If so, you drive it out of state? I didn’t think so.

  19. PROUD AMERIICAN VET on

    WIND AND SOLAR ARE DIFFUSE… THE WIND DOESNT ALWAYS BLOW AND THE SUN DOSE T ALWAYS SHINE. AND LAND WHER IT DOES IS SCARSE…
    SECRATARY OF ENERGY