New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman is threatening to sue the federal government if it doesn’t commit within 30 days to conducting a full environmental review of proposed regulations that would allow natural gas drilling – including the potentially harmful "fracking" technique – in the Delaware River Basin.
The basin includes the New York City watershed and provides approximately 50 percent of the drinking water used by over nine million New York residents and visitors every day.
“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,” said Schneiderman. “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.”
The Delaware River Basin includes the federally-designated Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River (and its tributaries), a nationally-significant fishing, boating and recreational destination. In addition, roughly 58 percent of the land area of New York City's West-of-Hudson watershed is within the Basin.
The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires federal agencies to conduct a full review of the environmental impacts of actions that may cause significant environmental impacts.
Fracking poses numerous risks to the environment, health, and communities, including withdrawing large volumes of water from creeks and streams, contamination of drinking water supplies, generation of harmful wastes, increased noise, dust and air pollution, and harms to community infrastructure and character from increased industrial activity.
Due to the potential for significant impacts from gas fracking within the Basin, the relevant federal agencies are obligated to comply with NEPA by performing a full review of the impact of the Delaware River Basin Commision's (DRBC) proposed natural gas development regulations.
Schneiderman's demand is contained in a letter sent to agencies that decide policy for the federal government as a member of the DRBC. Led by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the federal agencies include the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Parks Service and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.