Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is reiterating his call for an environmental study of hydrofracking after an equipment failure at a Pennsylvania well sent thousands of gallons of chemically-treated water into the surrounding area, and caused the operator to suspend the practice while it investigates what went wrong.
“The events unfolding in Pennsylvania reaffirm the need to fully assess the impact of fracking before it moves forward in New York,” said Schneiderman spokesman Danny Kanner. “The federal government is compelled by both the law and common sense to address the potential dangers, and Attorney General Schneiderman is prepared to file a lawsuit if the federal government does not commit to such a study in the next 28 days.”
That’s down from the 30-day ultimatum Schneiderman gave on Monday, when he sent a letter threatening to sue the federal government if it failed to comply with the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act.
In December, then-Governor David Paterson was effectively overruled by the other members of the Delaware River Basin Commission, which decided to proceed with a regulatory program over his objections. The commission is comprised of governors from New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and a representative from the Army Corps of Engineers. In a response to Schneiderman’s threat, The Independent Oil and Gas Association of New York said it appeared to be based on “a fundamental misunderstanding,” and that the DRBC was already working to preserve the basin’s water quality.
Schneiderman’s office responded by saying: “The Attorney General’s demand letter is addressed to the federal Army Corps of Engineers’ federal representative on the Commission, not to the Commission itself. The AG has not stated that he intends to sue the DRBC if the federal government refuses to comply with NEPA, which it is required to do, but rather the appropriate involved federal agencies.”
Schneiderman ran a decidedly progressive campaign for attorney general last year–positioning himself to the left of his Democratic colleagues in a crowded primary–and promised at the time that he would sue to stop hydrofracking, until it was proven to be safe, which helped him net the endorsement of the New York League of Conservation Voters, among other environmental groups. At the time, Schneiderman cited the BP oil spill as evidence that the issue needed a closer examination.