Few Lawsuits Predicted in NY Fracking Ban
Earlier this month, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a statewide ban on hydraulic fracturing (fracking). As an energy writer and New York State resident, I’m quite proud of my often controversial governor. Since the announcement, I’ve been scouring articles about the ban and have noticed many people mentioning lawsuits and legal action against the state. Obviously, not everyone is thrilled about it. However, experts say lawsuits are unlikely to follow the unprecedented act.
The ban first started as a moratorium on fracking six years ago, during which a study was done to get more information on potential fracking risks. Many companies left, lost land leases, or went bankrupt. Chesapeake Energy was one of the biggest leaseholders in the state, but gave up a legal battle to keep thousands of acres. Meanwhile, Norse Energy went bankrupt when the 100,000 acres it leased were declared off-limits to fracking. Norse Energy did try to sue the town of Dryden, NY after it banned fracking within its town limits prior to the state ban, but the court decided in favor of the town.
Now, after six long years, many companies have left the state or are too tired to bother with a lawsuit. When natural gas prices spiked in 2008, they reached about $14 per million British thermal units (mmBtu). Since the initial fracking boom six years ago, prices have dropped to below $4 per mmBtu. So starting a legal fight to drill for natural gas at a much lower rate isn’t in any company’s best interest.
Landowners who wanted to sell drilling leases and claim that the ban is restricting their rights, have little argument due to the migration of fracking companies. Deborah Goldberg, an attorney with Earthjustice, said, “If no one is there to drill, you don’t have a case.” Unless a landowner has a valid offer from a drilling company (which none do) he or she cannot prove the state is preventing any fiscal losses because of the ban.
Initially, we can expect a lot of opposition, legal threats, and crazy comments on local news outlets. However, in a few weeks it will be old news, and life will return to normal. Those threatening legal action will find themselves without a case, and will cease to move forward with a lawsuit. For those still upset, keep in mind that Cuomo will be out of office in a few years, and it’s possible a new governor will overturn the ban. In the meantime, though, I’m going to enjoy clean air, water, and life without the impending risks of fracking.
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