COOPERSTOWN — A lawyer for a financially insolvent gas company that had leased tens of thousands of acres in Chenango County said Tuesday he has served New York’s top environmental regulator with a “demand letter” intended to spur the Cuomo administration to reach a decision on fracking rules.
“We’re giving them two weeks to put up or shut up,” Thomas West, an Albany-based lawyer, said in a telephone interview. He called the letter sent to state Environmental Conservation Joe Martens “a prerequisite to a lawsuit” that would be commenced against the state on Dec. 17.
The lawsuit, he said, will ask a state judge to impose a timetable on Martens’ agency to complete the Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement relating to high volume hydraulic fracturing for shale gas in New York.
West’s letter to Martens argued that Norse Energy, which less than three years ago had an office staffed by 26 people in Norwich, was forced into bankruptcy proceedings as a result of the “protracted bureaucratic delay” in approving the rules for gas drilling.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has said he is awaiting a health impact study he has assigned state Health Commissioner Nirav Shah to complete. The state agency’s nearly 6-year-old environmental impact study and new drilling rules have been placed on hold while Shah’s study continues. Shah, who like Martens is a Cuomo appointee, has been given no deadline to complete the study.
“I think that’s just a sham,” West said of the health study. “It was conjured up by the governor in response to concerns from the fractivists (opponents of shale gas drilling).
West’s letter alleged that Martens’ agency is violating the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) and has neglected “statutory mandates” that it promote and develop the state’s oil and gas resources.