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NY Congressman, Landowners Take Aim at Cuomo Over Fracking Delay

U.S. Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY) blasted New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo from the floor of the House of Representatives on Wednesday, accusing the governor of stalling on a decision to possibly permit high-volume hydraulic fracturing (HVHF) in the state.

Meanwhile, a coalition of New York landowners is prepared to file a lawsuit against Cuomo for the ongoing delay in reviewing a moratorium against HVHF. The suit also names the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), the Department of Health (DOH), and their respective commissioners, Joseph Martens and Nirav Shah, as defendants.

Collins mentioned Cuomo while speaking in favor of HR 2728, a bill also known as the Protecting States' Rights to Promote American Energy Security Act. HR 2728 passed the House by a 235-187 vote on Wednesday (see Daily GPI, Nov. 21).

"In New York, we are already facing significant challenges in regards to fracking at the state level," Collins said. "We do not need additional, burdensome federal regulations like those proposed by the Obama Administration, which are over-the-top and step all over the state's authority to regulate this type of activity.

"Federal 'one size fits all' regulations are designed to wrap fracking efforts in endless red tape, which will do nothing but slow job creation, decrease domestic energy production and increase the cost of business. States should control their own destiny when it comes to fracking."

HR 2728 would bar the U.S. Interior Department from enforcing federal fracking regulations in any states that already have regulation. Despite passage by the Republican-led House, the bill is unlikely to be brought to a vote in the Senate, which is controlled by Democrats. President Obama is also opposed to the bill.

"In New York, I remain baffled as to why Gov. Cuomo continues to cater to the state's fringe anti-business interests by upholding the moratorium on fracking," Collins said. "Across the border in Pennsylvania, the economy is growing leaps and bounds because they are taking full advantage of their strategic location along the Marcellus Shale. It is sad that New York is squandering this same opportunity."

In September 2012, Martens asked Shah to conduct a health impact analysis of HVHF before the DEC completed a supplemental generic environmental impact statement (SGEIS) on HVHF (see Shale Daily, Sept. 24, 2012).

According to a 31-page draft lawsuit, the Joint Landowners Coalition of New York Inc. (JLCNY) says the DOH and DEC are "ready, willing and able" to move forward with fracking in New York -- specifically, the former is ready to issue its health review, and the latter is prepared to issue the final SGEIS and begin granting permits for HVHF.

"There [is] no valid, rational or legally defensible reason for further delay," the landowner group said.  "[But] Gov. Cuomo has arbitrarily prevented DOH from issuing its health review...[and] has arbitrarily prevented the DEC from issuing the final SGEIS and granting permits for HVHF for reasons based exclusively on political concerns and without any good faith, valid, rational, or legally defensible reason."

The draft lawsuit was posted to the JLCNY's website on Nov. 12. In a letter to supporters three days later, JLCNY President Dan Fitzsimmons said the move had generated a positive buzz.

"Some are calling it a publicity stunt," Fitzsimmons said. "I can assure you that our attorneys did not spend [more than] 300 hours working on a publicity stunt and we would not risk alienating our many contributors by using their donations for a mere publicity stunt. We are serious."

In July 2008, then-Gov. David Paterson ordered the DEC to complete the SGEIS, which effectively placed a moratorium on drilling horizontal wells. Paterson requested the SGEIS because the original impact statement was completed in 1992, before technological changes in unconventional development.

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