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N.Y. Sues Feds Due to Hydraulic Fracking Concerns

According to reports, the United States government will ask a federal judge to dismiss a New York lawsuit that seeks to force a comprehensive review of how natural gas extraction might affect the 9 million residents of the state. Sources say the U.S. plans to ask for dismissal because the state of New York cannot prove injury and has no right to sue federal agencies. Reportedly, U.S. attorneys are relying on the principle of sovereign immunity, which protects the U.S. from lawsuits unless it waives that right.

According to New York’s lawsuit, the federal commission that oversees the Delaware River Basin has proposed regulations that will allow hydraulic fracking on 15,000 to 18,000 gas wells without a full environmental review. Hydraulic fracking is a process in which water, sand and chemicals are pumped underground to widen the cracks in the earth’s crust and release the natural gas.

Sources say the suit asks the court to halt the regulations until the federal commission complies with the National Environmental Policy Act’s requirements for a full review of all health and safety risks. The Delaware River Basin Commission supervises activities over a large gas deposit known as the Marcellus Shale. Reportedly, companies such as XTO Energy Inc. have pending applications with the commission requesting to explore the area. The lawsuit claims the commission has refused to carry out a full assessment of the effects exploration and hydraulic fracking can have on the environment.

Reportedly, the U.S. attorneys will contend that the harm to New York is “conjectural and hypothetical, and not actual or imminent.” The U.S. will also argue that the case is not yet ripe because the commission has not completed its review. Sources say the Delaware River Basin covers 58 percent of the land area of New York City’s water supply west of the Hudson River. According to the lawsuit, the reason targeted for exploration is protected by a 50 year-old agreement between the U.S. government, New York, New Jersey and Delaware.

According to New York’s lawsuit, the city of New York has spent around $1.5 billion to protect drinking water that flows from the watershed west of the Hudson. The lawsuit claims this money has gone to buying land to serve as a buffer for pollutants, maintaining sewage plants and regulating human activity.

Further, the lawsuit claims that more than 2,000 natural gas wells have been drilled in Pennsylvania which has resulted in the violation of hundreds of water pollutant laws. The above referenced case is New York v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 11- cv-2599, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York (Brooklyn).