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Archived: Environmental Laws Legal Cases

Since its creation in 1977, MSLF has been one of the Nation's leading legal centers fighting environmental overkill and the use of so-called environmental statutes to achieve other public policy objectives. MSLF believes, not only in a sensible, science-based balance between environmental goals and economic growth, but in making people part of the environmental equation. MSLF has achieved a number of important legal precedents in its 25 year fight for reasonable environmental policy.

Joint Landowners Coaliton of New York v. Cuomo

Legal Question:

Whether the State of New York and its agencies have acted without authority in delaying the issuance of a final decision and effecting an apparent permanent ban on the development of deep shale in New York?

Plaintiffs:

Joint Landowners Coalition of New York (JLCNY), the Kark Family Trust; LADTM, LLC; and Schaefer Timber and Stone, LLC

Defendants:

Andrew M. Cuomo, Governor of  New York; State of New York; New York State Department of Environmental Conservation; Joseph Martens, Commission of New York State Department of Environmental Conservation; The New York State Department of Health; Nirav Shah, Commissioner of the New York State Department of Health

Court:

The Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of the State of New York, Third Department
Briefing before the appeals court

The Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) oversees the regulation of oil and natural gas drilling in New York.  The New York State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) requires the DEC to consider various factors prior to approving activities that may have an adverse effect on the environment but also to expedite proceedings to minimize procedural and administrative delay in obtaining permits to extract oil or natural gas.  In 1992, to streamline the well permitting process, the DEC prepared a Generic Environmental Impact Statement (GEIS), which recognized the use of both horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing (HF).

 In 2008, the Environmental Conservation Law was amended as to spacing requirements of drilling units for wells utilizing horizontal drilling and HF and then-Governor David Paterson directed the DEC to initiate a formal public process to update the 1992 GEIS as to HF and imposed a moratorium on any new permits.  The DEC issued a draft supplemental GEIS, received thousands of public comments, held multiple public meetings, and issued a revised draft supplemental GEIS (SGEIS), yet the Final SGEIS remains unpublished.

A coalition of 70,000 New York landowners—the Joint Landowners Coalition of New York (JLCNY)—and individual property owners—the Kark Family Trust, LADTM, LLC, and Schaefer Timber and Stone, LLC, are represented by MSLF and the coalition’s local counsel, Scott R. Kurkoski, Esq., of Levene, Gouldin & Thompson, LLP, in Vestal.

On January 31, 2014, the landowners sent a letter to the DEC, the Department of Health (DOH) and Governor Andrew Cuomo stating that, if the DEC fails to set a date when it will complete its studies and process applications to allow development of privately owned gas supplies or before February 13, 2014, they will ask a state court to compel completion of the studies pursuant to the SEQRA.  On February 14, 2014, the landowners filed a complaint against Governor Cuomo, the DEC, the DOH, and others, seeking to compel completion of the SGEIS process.

On March 18, 2014, defendants filed a motion to dismiss for lack of standing and failure to state a claim.  On March 28, 2014, the landowners filed an opposition.  On April 25, 2014, oral arguments on the motion to dismiss were held in Albany, New York.

On July 11, 2014, the Court granted defendants’ motion to dismiss, finding that the landowners failed to satisfy the “zone of interest” test; because the landowners failed to allege an environmental injury resulting from the state’s actions/inactions, the landowners did not have standing.  On July 25, 2014, the landowners filed a notice of appeal.

  • New York Property Owners Appeal Dismissal Of Lawsuit

    Jul 25, 2014
    A coalition of 70,000 New York land-owners and three property owners today appealed a state trial court’s decision dismissing their lawsuit against Governor Andrew Cuomo, the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), the New York Department of Health (DOH), and two State officials—the DEC and DOC commissioners.
  • New York Court Dismisses Property Owners’ Lawsuit

    Jul 14, 2014
    A coalition of 70,000 New York land-owners and three property owners suffered defeat today when a state court granted a motion to dismiss their lawsuit filed by Governor Andrew Cuomo, the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), the New York Department of Health (DOH), and two State officials—the DEC and DOC commissioners.
  • New Yorkers Fight State’s Attempt to Dismiss Land Use Suit

    Mar 28, 2014
    A coalition of 70,000 New York landowners and three property owners today responded to the attempt by Governor Andrew Cuomo, the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), the New York Department of Health (DOH), and two State officials—Commissioners Joseph J. Martens and Nirav R. Shah of the DEC and DOC respectively to dismiss their lawsuit.
  • New Yorkers Sue Over State’s Failure to Permit Land Use

    Feb 14, 2014
    A coalition of 70,000 New York landowners and three property owners today sued Governor Andrew Cuomo, the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), the New York Department of Health (DOH), and two State officials—Commissioners Joseph J. Martens and Nirav R. Shah of the DEC and DOC respectively.
  • New Yorkers Challenge State's Failure to Permit Land Use

    Jan 31, 2014
    A coalition of 70,000 New York landowners and two property owners today demanded State officials set a date when the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) will end its studies and process applications to allow development of privately owned gas supplies.


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