A coalition representing thousands of upstate landowners will sue Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Friday in an attempt to force a decision on hydraulic fracturing for natural gas, the group announced Thursday evening.
The lawsuit from the Binghamton-based Joint Landowners Coalition of New York accuses Cuomo of intentionally obstructing the state’s 5 1/2-year review of hydrofracking, asking a judge to force the state Department of Environmental Conservation to complete an ongoing review that will guide whether New York will allow gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale.
The legal challenge will be filed in state Supreme Court in Albany on Friday, according to the group.
“It is apparent to the world that Governor Cuomo is dragging out the (environmental review) process for his political purposes instead of focusing on his upstate New York constituents, many of whom struggle to survive in the worst economic conditions in our nation,” Dan Fitzsimmons, the group’s president, said in a statement. “We want to see our communities thrive through the blessing of this American energy revolution.”
Cuomo is named as the lead defendant in the suit, along with DEC Commissioner Joe Martens and Health Commissioner Nirav Shah, who began reviewing the DEC’s fracking work 16 months ago. The governor’s office said it had not yet seen the suit Thursday evening.
The landowners coalition, which represents dozens of regional landowner bargaining units across New York, mailed a letter to Martens two weeks ago demanding he set a firm timeline for finishing the fracking review, known as the Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement or SGEIS. If not, the state would face a lawsuit Friday, the group’s attorney wrote.
The group has threatened a lawsuit against Cuomo for months, arguing that the state has effectively taken their oil-and-gas rights as it continues to keep high-volume fracking on hold in the state. But the group’s lawsuit does not challenge whether the the alleged “taking” violates the U.S. Constitution, instead focusing on trying to force the state into completing its review.
The suit is being backed financially by the Mountain States Legal Fund, a Colorado-based non-profit that has been involved in dozens of conservative lawsuits regarding property rights.
It’s the second lawsuit filed against the Cuomo administration regarding the fracking review, which was first launched in 2008. Last year, Albany-based oil-and-gas attorney Tom West filed a similar lawsuit on behalf of Norse Energy’s bankruptcy attorney in an attempt to force the DEC to finish the SGEIS.
A hearing on the Norse lawsuit is scheduled for March 7 in Albany. The landowners’ suit seeks a hearing of its own on the same day.
Here’s the landowners’ lawsuit that, according to the JLC, will be filed Friday: