[JURIST] The New York attorney general on Wednesday filed a complaint [text, PDF] against the US government for failing to investigate the risks of hydraulic fracturing [EPA backgrounder], or “fracking,” a controversial technique used to release natural shale gas. The complaint seeks to compel a number of federal agencies to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) [EPA materials] by investigating the environmental impact of fracking and making the findings available to the public prior to adopting a proposal by the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) [advocacy website] authorizing natural gas development in the Delaware River Basin. Pursuant to NEPA, the environmental impact statement (EIS) must include analysis of the environmental impacts of the proposed action, consideration of alternatives to the action and measures to mitigate adverse environmental impacts. Attorney General Eric Schneiderman [official profile] expressed concern about the safety of fracking in a statement [press release] Wednesday:
Before any decisions on drilling are made, it is our responsibility to follow the facts and understand the public health and safety effects posed by potential natural gas development. The federal government has an obligation to undertake the necessary studies, and as I made clear last month, this office will compel it to do so. The welfare of those living near the Delaware River Basin, as well as the millions of New Yorkers who rely on its pure drinking water each day, will not be ignored.
The complaint further alleges that authorization of the fracking plan would undermine an agreement between New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey promising that “no project having a substantial effect on the water resources of the basin shall hereafter be undertaken by any person, corporation or governmental authority unless it shall have been first submitted to and approved by the commission.”
Fracking, has become a controversial issue as it is implemented in the US and around the world. France’s lower house, the National Assembly [official website, in French], approved a bill [TA Bill No. 658, materials, in French; JURIST report] in May to prohibit the drilling of gas and oil through hydraulic fracturing and to repeal hydraulic fracturing licenses granted to companies. Fracking is a process by which water, sand and chemicals are pumped into the ground to create fractures in rocks which releases trapped gas and oil to the surface. Environmental and health concerns associated with hydraulic fracturing include contamination of ground water, migration of gases and hydraulic fracturing chemicals to the surface and the potential mishandling of waste.