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September 25, 2012
New York's fracking battleground

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is suing Governor Andrew Cuomo for illegally withholding information that would illuminate if and how the oil and gas industry influenced the development of a state plan that addresses the potential environmental and human health impacts resulting from hydraulic fracturing in the Marcellus Shale region of the state.
Industry “pressure”
In the petition, which was submitted to the Supreme Court of New York State, the EWG claims that the Cuomo administration failed to honor EWG’s request under the state’s Freedom of Information Law for full disclosure of public records showing communications between the governor, six other senior officials, and about 2 dozen representatives of the oil and natural gas industry. 
The communications that were allegedly withheld concern a draft supplemental generic environmental impact statement (SGEIS) and accompanying draft regulations that the N.Y. Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) released in September 2011.  The DEC has yet to release a final SGEIS or final fracking rules.
The EWG alleges that natural gas interests have been putting “intense pressure” on the Cuomo administration to lift a statewide moratorium on high-volume fracking and horizontal drilling for shale gas. 
Early access
In response to its request to New York for full disclosure, the EWG says it was provided with 282 pages of records showing that the state granted natural gas industry representatives exclusive access to the SGEIS as early as 6 weeks before it was made public.   The EWG charges that the material it received contains indications that meetings and phone calls occurred between state officials and industry representatives, but that actual records of those communications are missing.  While the DEC disclosed mostly e-mails, the EWG says its request encompassed text messages, letters, notes, meeting requests, calendar entries, meeting minutes, documents, drawings, graphs, charts, and official business calls made on state, personal, and campaign phones. 
EWG’s lawsuit seeks, among other things, a judicial hearing to determine what additional records exist and an order requiring the governor’s office and the DEC to produce a complete set of records.
Read the EWG petition .

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