7:08am

Fri March 7, 2014
Environment

Water sale ban appealed

Environmental groups won a court injunction last year against the village of Painted Post, preventing them from continuing water shipments for fracking operations in Pennsylvania.

The case was brought before the State Supreme Appellate Division Court in Rochester recently, with officials from the town in Steuben County vying for a different outcome.

The village of Painted Post has a five-year contract with Shell Oil subsidiary SWEPI LP. The deal calls for up to a million gallons of water a day to be shipped by rail to supply gas fracking operations in Pennsylvania.

Painted Post has the capacity to draw on 4 million gallons of reservoir water per day. Since the community need is far lower than that, village officials entered into the deal in 2012, with expectations the sales would bring in up to $2.5 million annually.

But in March 2013, a lower court ruled that village officials had failed to conduct a proper environmental impact assessment, and shipments were halted.

At the appeal, attorneys for the village argued that the water sales are exempt from a state environmental review because they represent the sale of surplus property.

Sierra Club attorney Richard Lippes said that’s not the case when it comes to natural resources.

“It clearly is not the kind of surplus that the Department of Environmental Conservation was talking about when it talked about surplus property," Lippes said. "And they gave examples of computers and scanners and old automobiles and trucks and things of that sort.”

Attorneys for the village declined to comment, but Lippes said environmental groups are concerned the practice will have a negative effect on water quality in the aquifer.

“Our concern is for the water quality and the continuing availability of this resource," Lippes said. "Sierra Club is opposed to hydrofracking but that’s not, that wasn’t the reason this lawsuit was brought.”

The New York State Conference of Mayors has expressed concern about the injunction, saying it could endanger thousands of water-sale contracts in financially depressed towns statewide.

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