ALBANY -- State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman filed suit against the Army Corps of Engineers and other federal agencies for disregarding his demand they enforce national environmental reviews of proposed regulations that would permit a controversial form of horizontal drilling underground for natural gas.
The suit filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn comes as the Delaware River Basin Commission proposes regulations that would allow hydraulic fracturing in the Marcellus Shale layers in the Delaware basin region.
Through Assistant Attorney General Philip Bein, the watershed inspector general, Schneiderman says hydrofracking poses a threat to New York's air, water and land and an environmental impact study is essential.
The first-term Democrat said the federal agencies must honor the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 aimed at ensuring that federal projects be examined for potential environmental impacts.
Schneiderman had threatened the suit a month ago and asked for a response within 30 days. He said the Delaware River commission's plans to allow drilling based on its regulations would result in the development of up to 18,000 natural gas wells within the basin in Pennsylvania and New York, which includes a large portion of the New York City watershed.
Hydrofracking entails pumping millions of gallons of water, sand, and chemicals into deep shale deposits to fracture the rock and release the natural gas trapped within.
A spokesman for the Corps of Engineers said the Department of Justice will defend the agencies sued. On May 24, Corps of Engineers Brig. Gen. Peter A. DeLuca tried to get Schneiderman to hold off suing. In a letter, he said the federal government has no jurisdiction over commission activities.
"We do not believe that litigation is necessary or an appropriate means to address our shared concerns about the impacts of natural gas production," DeLuca said.
An industry representative said Schneiderman's actions are threatening jobs in New York. "It's unfortunate that legal facts are not prevailing in the attorney general's office," said Jim Smith, a spokesman for the Independent Oil & Gas Association of New York.
A spokesman for the state Department of Environmental Conservation, a member of which serves on the Delaware River commission, said New York voted against the regulations. The DEC is expected to produces rules for hydrofracking in New York by July 1.