The highest court in New York, the Court of Appeals, has set a date for oral arguments in the Painted Post bulk water sales case.

The highest court in New York, the Court of Appeals, has set a date for oral arguments in the Painted Post bulk water sales case.

The seven-judge panel, led by Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman, will hear arguments in the case on Oct. 13 in Albany, according to Rachel Treichler, a Hammondsport attorney and Sierra Club member who is assisting with the lawsuit.

Environmental groups Sierra Club, People for a Healthy Environment and Coalition to Protect New York, along with a group of local residents, filed the lawsuit in state Supreme Court in June 2012, trying to stop the Village of Painted Post from selling one million gallons of water a day for use in Pennsylvania natural gas drilling operations.

They were primarily concerned about the long-term impacts of withdrawing so much water from the Corning aquifer, and also about train traffic running through the village.

The water is drawn at a filling station built at the old Ingersoll-Rand foundry site, and hauled by tanker cars on the Wellsboro and Corning Railroad to Tioga County, Pa., where it is sold to SWEPI LP, a Shell Oil subsidiary.

A state Supreme Court judge ruled in March 2013 that the village’s state-required environmental review was not done properly, and voided both the water sale agreement and the lease deal for the property upon which the water loading station was built.

The village and Shell appealed in May 2013 to the state Supreme Court’s Appellate Division, Fourth Department, located in Rochester. A panel of judges ruled in April that the plaintiffs lacked legal standing, and overturned the previous ruling.

That cleared the way for Painted Post to resume selling water last July, and the opponents then appealed to the Court of Appeals. Attorneys for the parties involved have spent the past year filing briefs associated with the case.

Painted Post Mayor Roz Crozier said the trains have been filling up daily since then. He wasn’t sure how much revenue the water sales had generated since last July, but under a five-year agreement, the village can earn about $4 million per year if the maximum of one million gallons per day is sold.

The revenues must be used to upgrade Painted Post’s aging water system before it can be earmarked for other needs, Crozier said. However, streets can be rebuilt as part of water projects, he said.

While the two previous rulings from lower state courts have hinged on technicalities such as how the environmental review was conducted or whether the plaintiffs had legal standing, the Court of Appeals tends to focus on broad issues of law.

Treichler has said she hopes the judges will consider the bigger picture of whether municipalities should be able to sell off a local public resource, fresh water, for out-of-state commercial uses such as gas drilling.