DEC has issued its long-awaited environmental impact study for high volume horizontal fracturing, or fracking, in New York State. This document contains the state's official findings on the environmental and human health impacts of fracking, namely, that too much uncertainty surrounds the impacts of the process to proceed with issuing permits for fracking.
Fresh off its hotly anticipated August 2014 decision upholding the right of municipalities to zone oil and gas extraction operations out of their towns, the New York State Court of Appeals is set to weigh in on another oil and gas extraction issue. This latest matter arrived at the Court of Appeals through a somewhat unusual route, but promises to decide whether landowning lessors or industry lessees bear the cost of state level regulatory inaction on high volume hydraulic fracturing of shale with horizontal drilling (also known as fracking).
On March 7, 2013, the New York State Assembly passed legislation to extend the moratorium in place on high pressure horizontal hydraulic fracturing - hydrofracking or fracking - of shale that has been in place since 2008. Though the bill, Assembly Bill 5424-A, passed the Assembly by a wide margin of 95 to 40, the legislation must still be approved by the State Senate and signed by Governor Cuomo before taking effect. It is unclear if the Senate, which is controlled through a power sharing agreement among Republicans, Democrats and the Independent Democratic Caucus, will act on the bill.
There are perhaps few other sights so closely associated with the summer scene at Coney Island than the wooden boardwalk. Predating even the venerable Coney Island Cyclone roller coaster, the boardwalk has been the main thoroughfare along which have strolled generations of New Yorkers and tourists alike, out for a game of ski-ball, some ice cream, or simply to enjoy the ocean views.
On November 29, 2012, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation missed its deadline under state law to finalize regulations for hydrofracking in New York. However, shortly before the deadline, it filed a Notice of Continuation with the Department of State to secure a 90 day extension for the rulemaking process.
During the summer of 2012, the DEC proposed its first substantive amendments to the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) regulations since 1996. The DEC has explained that the amendments are meant to streamline the review process "without sacrificing meaningful review," but the potential impact of the proposed amendments appears to be somewhat mixed. The proposed amendments center most notably on the "scoping" process, the classification of certain types of projects, and the timeline of the SEQRA process.
In a decision that highlights how strictly trial courts are construing the standing of prospective plaintiffs or petitioners, a State Supreme Court justice in Westchester County recently held that because of a land conservation buffer between existing homes and a proposed development that the petitioners were fighting, individual residents could not establish the "proximity" necessary to confer standing, i.e., the status needed to permit them to sue. In particular, the petitioners could not establish, in the court's view, that they were harmed in a manner different from that of the general public; in other words, they lacked the particularized injury necessary to be able to challenge the project. See Matter of Tuxedo Land Trust Inc. v. Town of Tuxedo, 2012 N.Y. Misc. LEXIS 938 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. Mar. 5, 2012).
The Appellate Division of New York State Supreme Court, Third Department, upheld a lower court decision that it was improper for a local planning board to deny a special use permit based on "generalized community knowledge" in opposition to a development proposal, when an unchallenged expert report concluded that the proposal would not harm the environment.
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation ("DEC") recently proposed amending its Short and Long Environmental Assessment Forms ("EAFs"), and is accepting public comment on the revised forms through April 8, 2011. These forms are used in the environmental review process that is required under the State Environmental Quality Review Act ("SEQRA"), ECL §§ 8-0101 et seq., for any state action, which includes approval of project permits. The project sponsor and the lead agency undertaking the environmental review will complete an EAF (either long or short depending on the proposed action) to determine whether a full environmental review is warranted, that is, whether the applicant will need to prepare an environmental impact statement (EIS). Typically the Long EAF is used for Type I actions (these are actions, set forth in the regulations, that are more likely to require the preparation of an EIS), and the Short EAF is used for Unlisted Actions (which are actions that have not been listed in the regulations as Type I or Type II, and which are always subject to at least an environmental review). See 6 NYCRR §§ 617.4, 617.6.