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.
The U.S. Supreme Court has recently declined to consider a case centering on the question of when a citizens' group may challenge an ongoing environmental remediation under the federal Superfund law. The Court's decision lets stand a May 2014 ruling by the Seventh Circuit that chipped away at Superfund's general prohibition on legal challenges to ongoing removal or remedial actions.
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).
Despite - even because of - their useful properties, perfluorinated chemicals ("PFCs") are increasingly thought to be dangerous for the environment, and potentially humans. PFCs are manmade substances with the ability to repel both water and oils, and are responsible for the stain repellant properties of your rug, the sauce-resistant properties of your takeout container, and the nonstick properties of your frying pan.
In a groundbreaking verdict, a Texas jury has awarded damages to a family for injuries suffered due to air pollution from hydraulic fracturing ("hydrofracking") drilling operations. This verdict follows almost inexorably from the rise in popularity in the past decade of hydrofracking as a means of natural gas production, which was quickly met with legal challenges. Between 2009 and 2013, the civil litigation landscape was flooded with lawsuits alleging toxic tort claims stemming from hydrofracking activities.
Fixed contaminant standards need not be reached, much less exceeded, in order to cause an injury that courts can recognize. An intermediate appeals court in New York has ruled that the Suffolk County Water Authority may sue chemical companies for groundwater contamination even where the contamination does not exceed an EPA drinking water standard known as a Maximum Contaminant Level. However, this may be a pyrrhic victory, as that same court also ruled that many of the SCWA's claims were too late under New York's three-year statute of limitations for injuries from latent effects of exposure to harmful substances.
Can a party who is not the holder of a certain environmental permit be required to perform the obligations set out in that permit? The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation thought so, and argued as much in the case of a property owner who had purchased land where a hazardous waste storage facility had operated years earlier. The purchaser, Thompson Corners, LLC, had never held a permit to operate the facility, which had closed years before the purchase, and was never required to obtain one.
In a highly unusual move, the New York Court of Appeals has decided to hear an appeal despite an intermediate appeals court's unanimous ruling. It was no surprise that Norse Energy Corp. USA appealed that lower court ruling upholding the right of New York municipalities to regulate fracking through local land use laws. But court watchers in general, as well as fracking followers, were surprised by the high court's ruling, are looking forward to that court's ruling in Matter of Norse Energy Corp. USA, v. Town of Dryden et al., APL-2013-00245, that will offer the most authoritative state-level ruling possible on the fate of fracking in New York State.