Environmental groups hammer on DRBC's fracking stance with new lawsuit

Just days after the U.S. government asked a federal judge to dismiss an anti-hydraulic-fracturing lawsuit filed by New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, a coalition of environmental groups has filed its own similar lawsuit, thereby giving the AG's case a significant assist.

Back in May, Schneiderman sued the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) in federal court in an attempt to stop the multi-state commission from issuing regulations for hydraulic fracturing within the Delaware River basin. The gist of Schneiderman's argument was that the the various federal agencies that sit on the DRBC broke the law when they drafted regulations for fracking within the basin last year without first doing an complete environmental impact study.

The feds responded to Schneiderman's case this week with a letter asking U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis in Brooklyn to dismiss the case on procedural grounds. Gannett's Albany bureau has a copy of the letter, which argues that Schneiderman is trying to do an "end run" around the statutes governing the DRBC and that his state agency has no right to sue because a) the DRBC enjoys "sovereign immunity" and b) because the state of New York cannot prove that it has been injured by the DRBC's actions.

Enter a coalition of environmental groups led by the Delaware Riverkeeper Network. The groups filed a lawsuit yesterday that makes almost exactly the same arguments as Schneiderman's case, with one important distinction: the environmental groups have a better shot of proving that they have been injured by the DRBC's actions. From the Riverkeeper Network's complaint:

The individual and cumulative impacts to the environmental resources of the Basin from natural gas drilling are likely to adversely affect Plaintiffs' extensive interests in the aesthetic, commercial, professional, ecological and recreational opportunities in the Delaware River, its tributaries and the Basin as well as adversely affect their sources of clean, safe drinking water. Defendants' failure to conduct a thorough NEPA analysis of these impacts has harmed and will continue to harm Plaintiffs' interests by depriving them of their procedural rights to be informed of and in turn to comment upon Defendants' major federal action in developing,proposing, and working to finalize regulations permitting natural gas development in the Delaware River Basin.

As soon as the lawsuit was filed yesterday, Riverkeeper made a motion to consolidate its case with Schneiderman's, effectively beefing up the AG's lawsuit. To read the complaint in the case, see below.

Delaware River Keeper Network v. US Army Corps of Engineers