Judge Blocks New York Lawsuit Over Delaware River Basin Fracking

A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit that sought to block proposed hydraulic fracturing (fracking) drilling in the Delaware River Basin.

According to a Reuters report, U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis tossed out a lawsuit brought by the state of New York and several environmental advocacy groups against the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) because there is currently no basis for it.

Garaufis ruled recently that the lawsuit is predicated on proposed regulations governing fracking drilling in the delicate river basin that contains fresh water supplies that eventually serve as drinking water for up to 15 million people in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. Currently, the judge ruled in dismissing the lawsuit, the absence of a finalized set of regulations for drilling in the basin.

The DRBC is made up of federal officials and multi-state representatives and in 2010 passed proposed regulations for drilling in the basin that would allow up to 18,000 wells to be opened in the exploration of natural gas deposits in underground shale formations. Not all of the wells would use the fracking process, according to the proposals. Revisions to that initial proposal were finished in 2011 but no further legislation has been passed that would put these regulations into law. So without finalized regulations in place, Garaufis called the concerns raised by the lawsuit before him “speculative, and rely on a chain of inferences that may never come to pass.”

The lawsuit sought full environmental reviews to be completed prior to the first well being dug in the river basin. These reviews were to determine the benefits of fracking drilling versus the many environmental and public health concerns it posed.

Despite the ruling, the suing parties believe the test wells and proposals to drill in the Delaware River Basin should not have been filed until the DRBC completed the environmental and safety reviews it continues to seek from the governing body. To date, only test wells have been drilled in the basin area and fracking expansion plans have been halted, but likely only temporarily.

At the same time, New York state lawmakers are set to allow fracking drilling in other parts of the state and some local municipalities are working to enact bans to limit the activity to outside its borders. Many New Yorkers have seen the headaches caused by high-volume fracking drilling in Pennsylvania, where residents believe the boom in drilling has caused them to experience a strain on natural resources and local infrastructure, well water contamination, and health side effects, like skin irritations and breathing difficulties.

Fracking employs the use of a drill, sand, hundreds of thousands of gallons of fresh water, and a mix of more than 600 chemicals – 60 of which are known toxins – that are injected into a deep underground horizontal well shaft until they reach a shale formation. The mix blasts the rock apart, releasing natural gas deposits which are rushed back to the surface and collected to be refined. Critics of the process believe it creates and opens underground cracks that allow the drilling contents to contaminate underground aquifers that could taint the water supply.


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