|
The Steuben Courier Advocate
  • Landowners sue Cuomo, DEC over fracking moratorium

    • email print
  • A Binghamton-based group representing landowners across the Southern Tier filed a lawsuit Friday in state Supreme Court against Gov. Andrew Cuomo and several state agencies over New York's indecision on high-volume fracking and shale gas drilling.
    The lawsuit was filed by the Joint Landowners Coalition of New York in Supreme Court, Albany County.
    It names Cuomo, the Department of Environmental Conservation, DEC Commissioner Joseph Martens, the Department of Health, and DOH Commissioner Dr. Nirav Shah.
    The lawsuit asks the court to order the DEC to finalize the Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement, which guides the permitting process for fracking. The DEC has been reviewing the impacts of fracking and updating the SGEIS since July 2008, which the lawsuit calls "egregiously long."
    The lawsuit also says the DEC improperly referred the SGEIS to Shah's Department of Health for a study of the potential health impacts of fracking in September 2012 as a "stalling tactic."
    It also claims Cuomo is "acting without jurisdiction by orchestrating the delay and interfering with the DEC's independent decision-making authority."
    The plaintiffs also include several landowners who say they've been unable to benefit from gas leases because of the state's de facto moratorium on fracking.
    The JLCNY is represented by Vestal attorney Scott Kurkoski as well as the Mountain States Legal Foundation, a Denver-based non-profit law firm that takes up property rights cases.
    "It is apparent to the world that Governor Cuomo is dragging out the SGEIS 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," said Dan Fitzsimmons, JLCNY president. "We want to see our communities thrive through the blessing of this American energy revolution."
    The JLCNY, formed in 2010, says its membership includes 38 smaller landowner groups in 14 counties who collectively own one million acres.
    The JLCNY includes the Steuben County Landowners Coalition, which has led the push locally for shale gas development over the past five years.
    Woodhull dairy farmer Neil Vitale - a member of the group's steering committee - says many local landowners have been donating to support the lawsuit, which he estimated will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
    Vitale says speaking out at public hearings, holding rallies in Albany, and other efforts to apply pressure on Cuomo and the state haven't worked, so he feels landowners had no choice but to take legal action.
    "I don't know what else we can do," he said.
    Vitale says the DEC's review would have been concluded already if it weren't for Cuomo's involvement.
    "After all the research that's gone on, all the money that's been spent to get the rules and regulations up to par ... it's all done," Vitale said. "And he's not letting it go through, because of politics."
    Page 2 of 2 - Cuomo's press office, as well as representatives for the DEC and Department of Health, did not immediately respond to The Leader's requests for comment on the lawsuit Friday afternoon.
    The legal papers associated with the lawsuit - an Article 78 petition, which is how governmental actions are challenged - are posted online at http://www.jlcny.org.
      • calendar