People opposed to “fracking” protest outside a gas industry conference in Pittsburgh last month. Pennsylvania sits atop the Marcellus shale field, a vast natural gas reserve lying deep under much of Appalachia.
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman filed a lawsuit against three federal agencies, alleging that they have failed to properly study the impact of proposed regulations on “fracking,” a potentially dangerous process in which pressurized water and chemicals are used to dislodge oil and natural gas below the earth’s surface. The process is thought to cause groundwater contamination and potentially trigger earthquakes, and Schneiderman said the Environmental Protection Agency, the Army Corps of Engineers and the Interior Department are responsible for preparing environmental impact statements on projects in and around the Delaware River Basin. Schneiderman is emerging as a watchdog against dishonest business practices, having also just launched a probe into Wall Street banks’ role in the mortgage crisis and financial meltdown. It’s a pleasure to watch him work. —KDG
The lawsuit filed Tuesday is the latest shot in a battle over hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” which is an increasingly common natural-gas development method that critics fear will lead to widespread water contamination.
“Before any decisions on drilling are made, it is our responsibility to follow the facts and understand the public health and safety effects posed by potential natural gas development,” said Schneiderman in a statement announcing the lawsuit filed in a New York federal court.
The lawsuit — which alleges violations of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)—is against the Environmental Protection Agency, the Army Corps of Engineers, the Interior Department and two of its sub-agencies.
“The Federal Agencies have determined that authorization of natural gas well development in the Basin would potentially result in significant cumulative adverse environmental impacts and that a study of those impacts should be performed. But Defendants refuse to comply with NEPA and refuse to prepare an EIS assessing the cumulative environmental impacts,” the complaint states.