Blogs > Don't Frack with New York > RvK Supports Lower Court Decision Requiring Environmental Review for Fracking-Related Water Withdrawals

RvK Supports Lower Court Decision Requiring Environmental Review for Fracking-Related Water Withdrawals

Riverkeeper – along with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) – recently filed a friend of the court (amicus curiae or amicus) brief in support of the lower court’s decision in a case brought by Sierra Club and others challenging a municipality’s agreement to allow Shell to withdraw up to 1.5 million gallons of public water per day in New York for use in Pennsylvania fracking operations.

In March 2013, the Steuben County Supreme Court nullified a bulk water sales agreement between the Village of Painted Post (Village) and Shell Western Exploration and Production, LP for the sale of municipal water supplies, finding that the Village failed to conduct the proper environmental review under New York’s State Environmental Quality Review Act. The Village and related parties then appealed the Supreme Court’s ruling, and the issue is now before the Supreme Court Appellate Division, Fourth Department. The Appellate Division will decide a number of questions, including whether the Village improperly excluded the bulk water sales agreement from environmental review.

In an amicus brief asking the Appellate Division to uphold the Supreme Court’s ruling, we addressed the contention of the New York Conference of Mayors, which also received permission to file an amicus brief, that the ruling would create additional burdens for New York municipalities. In fact, as our amicus brief makes clear, the Supreme Court merely applied existing New York law, which clearly requires environmental review for large water uses like the bulk water sales agreement at issue in this case. The application of current law does not create an additional burden, but exempting large water uses from environmental review could have significant adverse impacts on New York’s environment and communities. As natural gas drilling operations using high-volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing – which involves the use of large amounts of water – continue in neighboring states and are contemplated in New York, municipalities may face increasing pressure to sell public water resources.

We will continue to follow this important case.

Riverkeeper and NRDC’s Amicus Brief in Sierra Club v. Village of Painted Post

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