Schneiderman may sue feds over hydrofracking

Schneiderman may sue feds over hydrofracking
Mike Shuster (l.) and Lisa Zaccaglini of Sharon Springs, N.Y., hold signs during a rally against hydraulic fracturing for natural gas in the Marcellus Shale region of the state. AP Photo/Mike Groll
By Howard Koplowitz

State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is threatening to sue the federal government if it does not decide within 30 days to conduct an environmental review of proposed regulations that would allow natural gas drilling, otherwise known as hydrofracking, in the Delaware River Basin.

The basin includes the New York City watershed, a section of upstate where the city gets about 50 percent of its drinking water.

“Both the law and common sense dictate that the federal government must fully assess the impact of its actions before opening the door to gas fracking in New York,” Schneiderman said Monday. “New Yorkers are correctly concerned about fracking’s potential dangers to their environment, health and communities, and I will use the full authority of my office, including aggressive legal action, to ensure the federal government is forced to address those concerns.”

City Councilman James Gennaro (D-Fresh Meadows), chairman of the Council’s Environmental Protection Committee, praised Schneiderman “for taking necessary, bold and decisive action.

“There are precious few high-ranking government officials willing to take such bold steps, and I’m grateful to the attorney general,” he said.

Gennaro said the state “just doesn’t know enough of the potential perils of this technology,” referring to hydrofracking ,and said the method needs further study.

Schneiderman’s ultimatum comes after state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) introduced a bill last week that would ban hydrofracking.

There is currently a moratorium on hydrofracking, but it is set to expire next month, with Gennaro noting that Gov. Andrew Cuomo is looking to approve fracking contracts by July.

There have been reports of property owners in Pennsylvania, whose tap water can be ignited by a lit match because of the toxins in the water caused by the drilling method.

“I have grave concerns that the risk presented by hydrofracking, where a single accident can contaminate the water supply for over 8 million people, outweighs any possible economic gain drilling within the watershed would bring,” Avella said. “New York City residents benefit from one of only five unfiltered surface water systems in the country. As a result, we enjoy water with a superior cleanliness and flavor that rivals any throughout the world. We must be vigilant in protecting our water supply from any potential risk of contamination.”

Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4573.

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