Litigants in two cases have failed to force the Cuomo administration to make a decision about whether to permit commercial natural gas drilling through hydrofracking.
Acting Albany County Supreme Court Justice Roger McDonough held in two nearly identical July 11 rulings, Wallach v. New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, 6770-2013, and Joint Landowners Coalition of New York v. Cuomo, 843-2014, that the plaintiffs do not have legal standing to bring their claims.
In each action, the plaintiffs sought to have the state complete a Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (SGEIS) pursuant to the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) on the permissibility of fracking, or hydraulic fracturing.
McDonough found the plaintiffs failed to make the requisite showing they would suffer environmental harm from the Cuomo administration’s failure to complete the hydrofracking study, as is necessary to parties challenging the SGEIS process to establish standing.
“The entire focus of their submissions is upon petitioners’ inability to realize royalties and economic benefits from the use of HVHF [high-volume hydraulic fracturing] in the development of their mineral estates,” McDonough wrote in Joint Landowners. “As petitioners have failed to allege any environmental harm, this court is constrained to dismiss this matter based upon lack of standing.”
Fracking advocates contend that Gov. Andrew Cuomo has refused to make a decision due to political pressure from the environmental community, which questions the safety of the process.
Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, whose office defended the administration, said the rulings were an “important victory” for the health of the environment and residents.
Assistant Attorneys General Morgan Costello and Stephen Nagle argued for the state.
Scott Kurkoski, partner with Levene, Gouldin & Thompson in Binghamton, represented the Joint Landowners Coalition. Albany attorney Thomas West represented the Wallach plaintiffs.