Judge dismisses NY anti-drilling suit

by on September 27, 2012 6:31 pm BST

US District Judge Nicholas Garaufis threw out the action on procedural grounds, saying there was no basis for the lawsuit since the regulations it sought to halt had not yet been finalised, Reuters reported.

“The court concludes that this dispute is not currently fit for judicial review,” Garaufis wrote. “The harms that plaintiffs ultimately are concerned about are speculative, and rely on a chain of inferences that may never come to pass.”

New York and several environmental groups sued the US government and Delaware River Basin Commission in 2011, asking for environmental studies to determine the effect of gas drilling on the basin, which supplies water to about 15 million people, including some New York City residents.

The DRBC, a federal-interstate commission that develops and governs the basin’s water resources, issued draft regulations in 2010 and revised draft regulations in 2011 that would govern natural gas exploration and extraction in the basin.

The proposal would allow as many as 18,000 wells in the basin, some of which would be developed using hydraulic fracturing.

The rules have not yet been finalised and, except for a few test wells, gas development in the basin has been halted. But New York and the environmental groups said there should have been a comprehensive environmental study performed by the commission before the proposal was issued and that the final regulations should be blocked until one is completed.

As the amount of fracking activity has exploded across the country, states such as New York are trying to figure out how to safely expand gas drilling while protecting sensitive natural resources, including drinking water.

New York is currently working on its own environmental review to determine whether to permit fracking in the state. Some towns have taken steps to ban the practise within their borders and at least two of those bans have survived initial challenges in New York state courts.

A spokesman for the US attorney’s office in Brooklyn declined to comment, as did the New York attorney general’s office, Reuters said. The commission did not immediately return requests by the news wire for comment.