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Environmental Group Sues NY over Drilling Records

Thu, 09/20/2012 - 6:00am

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — An environmental group is suing the Cuomo administration over public records pertaining to the state's communications with energy industry interests hoping to drill for shale gas in New York using hydraulic fracturing.

The Washington, D.C.-based Environmental Working Group said Wednesday that it sued because the state Department of Environmental Conservation handed over fewer than 300 documents when it requested public records in March.

The group said the records were a "paltry" amount compared to the number of public documents the agency's staff generated in discussions with gas-drilling representatives.

"Given the high stakes for New York and the rest of country in this matter in regards to drilling, we thought this was the clear next step in order to shed further light on the process," said Thomas Cluderay, the group's assistant general counsel.

Cluderay said the documents the group did receive from the state indicated there were significant "gaps" in the records of communications among DEC staff and energy industry representatives about the state's ongoing planning for fracking regulations.

Administration spokesman Richard Bamberger said Wednesday that Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office is reviewing the lawsuit.

The DEC is completing work on an environmental impact review and new regulations for shale gas development using horizontal drilling and high-volume hydraulic fracturing, also known as "fracking." Cuomo has given no definite deadline for the DEC's review to be finished.

Opponents say fracking will adversely impact the environment and quality of life in areas of New York's Marcellus Shale region where energy companies want to drill for natural gas. Health, environmental and political groups have called on Cuomo to ban fracking.

Drilling companies say the process is safe, and some municipal officials have urged Cuomo to allow fracking, saying the industry will create jobs in rural areas that desperately need them.

The lawsuit, first reported by the Times Union of Albany, was filed Monday in state Supreme Court in Albany.

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