NY AG Launches Spitzerian Suit over Fracking

by William Yeatman on May 31, 2011

in Blog

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In the worst Spitzerian tradition, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (D) today announced that he is suing the federal government for failing to conduct an environmental analysis on the impacts to drinking water caused by ‘fracking,’ a.k.a. hydraulic fracturing, the American-made technological miracle in natural gas production that has roughly doubled known North American gas reserves in only the last 5 years.

New York could be a huge beneficiary of fracking, as much of the state is situated above the Marcellus Shale, an enormous gas deposit in the American Northeast that can be tapped only with this new technology. But environmentalist special interest groups oppose the practice, because it would expand America’s supply of hydrocarbon energy, and they have whipped up alarm among Manhattanites by making unfounded claims that fracking would pollute New York City’s water supply.

In fact, these allegations are bunk. Just ask the British Parliament, which recently concluded that fracking is safe for water supplies. Closer to home, AG Schneiderman could have sought counsel from New York State Geologist Dr. Taury Smith, a self-described liberal Democrat, who  told the Albany Times Union that the state’s natural gas deposits are “a huge gift.” Dr. Smith dismissed the environmentalists’ allegations about water contamination as being “exaggerated,” and “the worst spin.”

As I explained in a previous post,

“While there is some evidence that poorly built ‘fracking’ rigs could lead to the escape of methane into local groundwater wells, this isn’t as disturbing as it sounds. Methane (ie, natural gas) does not make water poisonous, and there is no evidence that the fluids used in the process, which could be toxic, have leaked into well water. Much more importantly, there is ZERO evidence that the process affects water tables used for utility scale water supply, although environmentalist special interests are quick to try to conflate well-water methane contamination with water table contamination. The upshot is that hydraulic fracturing has been used in this country for fifty years, without harming public health and environment.”

In any case, AG Schneiderman’s request ignores the fact that the Environmental Protection Agency already is conducting a high-profile, comprehensive study on fracking’s impact on water, due in 2012. As such, his demand is already being met, so there was no reason to litigate. Of course, he knows this, which is why it’s a safe bet that this silly lawsuit was launched just so the AG could have a press conference, à la Spitzer.

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