An environmental advocacy group has filed a lawsuit against the state of New York for failing to turn over public records related to its decision to allow hydraulic fracturing (fracking) drilling there.
According to a Bloomberg report, Environmental Working Group believes the state’s Dept. of Natural Conservation is withholding key documents from the organization related to its discussions with the fracking industry before it decided to allow widespread drilling this year. It requested these documents earlier this year and believes it was short-changed in the state’s response.
In its complaint, EWG says there are more than 300 pages of documents related to those discussions but the state agency’s response to that request in March generated far less pages. And among the documents the group did receive, it believes there are “significant gaps in the records of communications among DEC staff and energy industry representatives.”
New York is on the cusp of allowing widespread fracking drilling in the state. The state had been working under a moratorium imposed by former Gov. David Patterson. Though current Gov. Andrew Cuomo lifted that moratorium when he took office two years ago, he promised that drilling would not occur until state health and environmental agencies completed full reviews of the fracking process to determine its benefits and drawbacks for the state.
That time he allowed for the reviews seemed like more of a formality aimed at appeasing the numerous groups who protested his decision to permit fracking drilling in the state.
EWG and New Yorkers are concerned the state is bowing to industry pressure to allow fracking in the state. New York is situated atop the massive Marcellus shale formation, which fracking companies would like to explore for hidden natural gas reserves. The fracking process employs the use of a drill, hundreds of thousands of gallons of fresh water, sand, and a mix of more than 600 chemicals which are ushered through a horizontal drilling well until they reach the shale bed about two miles below the surface. The rock is blasted apart and the gas is released. At the same time, the entire contents of the drilling fluid and found gas are rushed back to the surface, where they are supposed to be collected and stored on site until the waste water and gas can be processed.
Opponents of the fracking process blame the drilling and the underground fractures it creates for contaminating groundwater and underground aquifers, which eventually lead to localized contamination of the public water supply. In neighboring Pennsylvania, many residents living closest to the thousands of active fracking wells believe the technology is putting their water wells at risk of contamination with the numerous toxins used in or created by the process. They also blame fracking for polluting the air and soil near the wells and believe the rush to drill creates a strain on local infrastructure and resources, too.