New York Sued by Environmental Group Seeking Fracking Documents

New York was sued by an environmental group seeking documents on the oil and gas industry’s efforts to influence the state’s regulation of hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking.

The Washington-based Environmental Working Group filed the suit against the state Department of Environmental Conservation and Governor Andrew Cuomo. The group is seeking correspondence and communications since Jan. 1, 2011, between 25 oil and natural-gas companies or their representatives and the governor, his top aides and department officials.

Cuomo’s office provided “only a very limited number” of records after the group filed requests under the state’s Freedom of Information Law in March, and “constructively denied access to the remainder of the records,” according to Environmental Working Group’s petition, filed Sept. 17 in New York State Supreme Court in Albany.

“The public has a ’right to know’ what was communicated to DEC and to the governor by the oil and gas industry, and what was communicated by DEC or the governor to the oil and gas industry, especially as it pertains to the risks of high-volume horizontal hydrofracking to public health, drinking water, homes, residents and property values,” according to the petition.

In fracking, millions of gallons of chemically treated water and sand are forced underground to break shale rock and free trapped gas. The process has been blamed for groundwater contamination.

Shale Gas

Regulators in New York have banned fracking while environmental rules are drafted. Cuomo is considering a plan that would allow fracking in five counties near the Pennsylvania border.

The state responded to information requests “in a timely manner and consistent with the letter and spirit of the law,” Rich Azzopardi, a spokesman for Cuomo, said in an e-mail. “We are confident that this will be crystal clear to any court.”

Environmental Working Group provided a stamped copy of the petition, which couldn’t be immediately confirmed in court records.

The case is Environmental Working Group v. New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, 5159/2012, New York State Supreme Court, Albany County (Albany).

To contact the reporter on this story: Chris Dolmetsch in New York at cdolmetsch@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net

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