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Joint Landowners Coalition plans to sue state

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: Joint Landowners Coalition plans to sue state
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Natural gas drilling has been on hold in New York State for five years now and now a pro-fracking group says it’s going to sue the state. Our Elyse Mickalonis has more on how the Joint Landowners Coalition of New York plans to move forward and what opponents of hydrofracking have to say about the move.

SOUTHERN TIER, N.Y. -- Hydrofracking has been a hot-button issue in the Southern Tier since 2008 and now a pro-fracking group plans on suing the state.

"Other states are moving forward with this process -- Ohio, California, Michigan -- they've all put together their regulations in eight to 24 months and here in New York, it's been more than half a decade and we're still not there,” said Scott Kurkoski, Joint Landowners Coalition of New York Attorney.

Isaac Silberman-Gorn, Citizen Action Environmental Organizer, added, "In all those states, you’re hearing instances of contaminated water, you’re hearing instances of people getting sick, you’re hearing instances of companies looking to smear people and using bullying techniques to get what they want."

But the Joint Landowners Coalition of New York thinks fracking can be done safely. The group sent a draft lawsuit to its members Tuesday. They plan to file a lawsuit against Governor Andrew Cuomo, the state and the commissioners of the Health and Environmental Conservation departments.

"Under the State Environmental Quality Review Act, the state has to move this process along in reasonable way and in a prompt way and avoid administrative delay,” said Kurkoski. “That hasn’t happened in New York we’ve been at it for five years.”

And that delay, the JLC argues, has hurt property owners who sold drilling rights to their land.

"Our state let its regulations lapse on this, after thousands of comments, after many public hearings, let them lapse. But we also have claims for takings, landowners who have had their rights taken away, they are also included in this lawsuit,” said Kurkoski.

Silberman-Gorn countered, "In order for a takings claim to be valid, it has to result in a complete loss of value for the property, which we haven’t seen at the point."

For their part, fracking opponents say the lawsuit is a PR stunt, and they currently don't have plans to counter-sue.

"This is a desperate PR attempt and right now, that might be, I’m not going to promise that it might not be a strategy in the future, but that’s not on our plate at this point,” said Silberman-Gorn.

The coalition is currently in the process of raising money to pay the legal costs before filing their suit.

For more information on the suit, head to www.jlcny.org.

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