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Local News

December 4, 2013

Fracking firm threatens to sue over delay


The demand letter also stated that the referral to Shah was “arbitrary, capricious and amounts to an illegal delegation of your decision-making under SEQRA.”

The letter concludes: “In the final analysis, the department’s protracted delay and refusal to complete the SGEIS process must come to an end.”

When contacted by The Daily Star, a spokesman for Martens issued no immediate response to West’s allegations.

However, a New York City-based lawyer for the environmental organization Earthjustice scoffed at West’s attempt to blame the state for Norse Energy’s financial woes.

“This looks like a company that made very bad investments, and now wants to blame somebody else,” said Deborah Goldberg, the Earthjustice attorney.

Goldberg, who is involved in the legal effort to uphold the town of Middlefield’s drilling ban, branded West’s demand letter “an extraordinary weak set of claims. I’m sure the state will have no problem defending if they go forward with this suit.”

West, in response to questions from a reporter, declined to specify who is paying for his legal services, other than to describe the “funding sources” as investors who are frustrated by the state’s delay in completing the drilling rules. He also confirmed that Oslo-based Norse Energy is not paying the legal bills.

West said New York is now viewed by players in the energy industry as “dead last in the country” among states where they would consider setting up shop.

Scott Kurkoski, a lawyer for the pro-drilling Joint Landowners Coalition of New York, an umbrella organization that includes the Unatego Area Landowners Association, called Norse Energy “an ideal candidate” to bring a legal challenge against the delay in the drilling regulations.

“We’re pleased that Norse is doing this,” Kurkoski said.

West is also one of the lead attorneys in the gas industry’s effort to nullify the home rule bans against drilling adopted by Middlefield and Dryden. Norse Energy took over as the plaintiff against Dryden after Anschutz Exploration Corp. opted not to pursue an appeal when both Dryden and Middlefield prevailed when the twin cases were decided by lower courts.

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