From Green Right Now Reports
Anti-fracking forces in New York suffered a setback this week when a federal judge threw out their lawsuit asking for a full
environmental review of possible damages from natural gas drilling in the Delaware River Basin, a prelude to a potential ban of drilling in the region.
The activists fear that natural gas “fracking” would jeopardize water supplies for the 15 million, including some residents of New York City, who depend on water originating in the Delaware River Basin. Fracking involves deep wells into shale deposits which are blasted open by injecting a water-chemical mix at high pressures. The fissures in the underground rock then release natural gas deposits.
U.S. District Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis in Brooklyn threw out the case by environmentalists — which was opposed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and other U.S. agencies — because the plan to drill in the area is still being crafted and the regulations controlling drilling are not yet in place, making judicial review premature.
Plaintiffs responded that they were disappointed, but hopeful that their case could be viable at a later time.
“The judge’s decision recognized and validated the tremendous concerns over threatened gas drilling for the Delaware River, our organizations and communities — that he found he could not render a final judicial opinion at this time does not diminish his acknowledgement that gas drilling is a major threat to this region, and that the actions of the agencies involved should be the subject of judicial review,” said Maya van Rossum of the Delaware Riverkeeper, one of the plaintiffs.
“Of great importance, the judge did not side with agency (U.S. agencies, such as the Corps of Engineers) efforts to simply and cavalierly set aside the role of the courts or the public in reviewing what the agencies are up to on this precedent setting matter.”
Gas drilling involving hydraulic fracturing has become increasingly controversial in New York as reports emerge that drilling operations have contaminated well water. Environmentalists trying to protect the Marcellus Shale region — which sweeps through New York, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio — also criticize hydraulic fracturing for consuming large quantities of freshwater and producing billions of gallons of wastewater.
Drillers maintain that their concrete lined wells never leak and won’t contaminate underground water reserves, but activists maintain that some leakage already has occurred and is likely to continue, threatening both urban and rural water supplies.
The two sides have been at a stand off in New York, where state officials are reviewing the environmental impacts of drilling before allowing it to proceed in new areas.
Don’t Frack New York, one of the groups fighting for safer drilling or a potential ban on fracking, held a major rally in August, when they turned in petitions to the state containing 3,200 signatures of people opposed to fracking. (See video below.)