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Norse Plans to Sue New York Officials Over Fracking Delay

One month after declaring bankruptcy, two subsidiaries of Norway's Norse Energy Corp. ASA plan to sue Gov. Andrew Cuomo and other state officials in New York State Supreme Court in an effort to compel them to complete a supplemental generic environmental impact statement (SGEIS) on high-volume hydraulic fracturing (HVHF).

According to documents filed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of New York, appointed trustee Mark Wallach has requested the court's permission to hire Thomas West, an attorney for The West Firm PLLC in Albany, NY, for an Article 78 proceeding against Cuomo, Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Joseph Martens and Department of Health Commissioner Nariv Shah.

"It appears that sufficient time has elapsed for the completion of the [SGEIS]," Wallach said in a Nov. 18 letter to the court. He added that West "has agreed to represent the bankruptcy estate's interests on a pro bono basis in such [Article 78] proceeding as may be commenced."

Under New York law, an Article 78 proceeding can be used to challenge the actions of an administrative agency in court.

West, Wallach and Norse executive vice president Dennis Holbrook could not be reached for comment Monday.

The two subsidiaries -- Norse Energy Corp. USA and Norse Energy Holdings Inc. -- entered Chapter 7 bankruptcy last month (see Shale Daily, Oct. 18). Norse holds oil and gas leases for about 130,000 net acres in the state's portion of the Marcellus and Utica shales, and it appears the move to compel release of the SGEIS is motivated in part to give value to the leases as part of Norse's bankruptcy (see Shale Daily, July 31).

In September 2012, Martens asked Shah to conduct a health impact analysis of HVHF before the DEC completed a SGEIS on the practice (see Shale Daily, Sept. 24, 2012). The SGEIS was ordered in July 2008 by then-Gov. David Paterson, effectively placing a moratorium on drilling horizontal wells in New York.

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