In late December 2012, we reported that the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) was in the process of preparing an environmental impact statement (EIS) regarding well permits for extracting oil and natural gas through horizontal drilling and high-volume hydraulic fracturing – i.e., “fracking.” The final draft of the EIS was due last Wednesday. However, the DEC allowed that deadline to pass without issuing its final draft, meaning that the four-year moratorium on shale gas drilling in New York could extend into 2014 or even longer.
According to the DEC, the decision to delay finalizing the report was made in order to allow the state’s health commissioner more time to study fracking’s potential health effects. The moratorium has been in place because of concerns that fracking may contaminate water supplies. The Joint Landowners Coalition, a pro-fracking group, plans to sue the DEC as a result of the missed deadline on the ground that delaying the drilling is a “de facto taking of property rights.” Meanwhile, anti-fracking groups are planning to litigate if regulations are drafted and drilling is allowed to proceed. As such, whether fracking is permitted in New York ultimately may be decided by the courts.
We are also continuing to watch developments in fracking-related litigation in California and elsewhere. The current edition of Sedgwick’s Hydraulic Fracturing Digest discusses pending litigation filed in CA by several environmental groups. Please click here to read this issue.