A hearing on a lawsuit that seeks to force a decision on shale-gas drilling in New York has been pushed back to March after the state Attorney General’s Office successfully asked for a delay.
State Supreme Court Justice George Ceresia late last week ruled in favor of the state’s request, delaying an in-court hearing on the suit until March 7. It had been scheduled for Jan. 24.
Last month, Albany-based oil-and-gas attorney Tom West filed what’s known as an Article 78 challenge on behalf of a shareholder and bankruptcy trustee for now-defunct Norse Energy. An Article 78 claim, which is used to challenge a state action, is generally put to an expedited schedule, with a hearing scheduled within weeks of its filing.
But the state argued that it would need more time to prepare, largely because the lawsuit makes claims based on the Department of Environmental Conservation’s 5 1/2-year review of high-volume fracking, the controversial technique used to help extract gas from the Marcellus Shale and other shale formations.
“Given the representation of two State Agencies and the Governor by this Office, the complexity of the underlying matter, and the Petitioner’s proposed Return, which would encompass over five years of documents produced and maintained by three offices, we had requested the courtesy of a 45 day adjournment to allow for a proper response to the combined Petition and Complaint,” Stephen Nagle of the Attorney General’s Office wrote on Jan. 9.
West objected to the request, arguing that the state’s lengthy delay in finalizing its fracking review has already had an adverse impact on gas companies and landowners. Moving the hearing back, West wrote, is “exactly the type of unnecessary delay tactic that this case seeks to remedy.”
“The time is come for Governor Cuomo, Commissioner Martens and Commissioner Shah to appear in court and explain this ongoing delay,” West wrote.
Ultimately, Ceresia sided with the state.
“While the Court understands the concerns of the petitioner (West), and his contention that the (DEC fracking review) has been outstanding for more than five and one half years, it also recognizes that the proceeding herein was just filed on December 17, 2013, the matter is one of some complexity, and involves a record comprised of over five years of documents produced and maintained by three offices,” Ceresia wrote.