GOP Lawmakers Plan Their Attack Against NY Fracking Ban

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GOP Lawmakers Plan Their Attack Against NY Fracking Ban

One month after landmark ban, Congress is likely to pursue 'property rights' argument to deflate regulatory action

Protesters with New Yorkers Against Fracking picketing Governor Andrew Cuomo in November, one month before he announced a landmark fracking ban. (Photo: New Yorkers Against Fracking)

Protesters with New Yorkers Against Fracking picketing Governor Andrew Cuomo in November, one month before he announced a landmark fracking ban. (Photo: New Yorkers Against Fracking)

Just one month after New York's landmark fracking ban was announced, amid ongoing celebrations and calls for other states to follow suit, Republican lawmakers are already scheming on how best to override the decision.

The Poughkeepsie Journal reported Sunday that at least one Republican congressman is considering ways to make it easier for landowners to sue the state.

Fracking advocate and U.S. Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY), who was recently named to the House Energy and Commerce Committee, told the Journal that he has "engaged in a series of discussions on the next steps needed to help restore the individual property rights of New Yorkers."

Landowners already have a recourse, known as a "takings claim," through which they can argue that they have "no reasonable use for their property as a result of the government's action" and that the government is obliged to compensate for their losses. At issue is whether the fracking ban would apply in this context.

Tom West, an attorney who has represented oil and gas companies in fracking cases, told the Journal that lawmakers are "potentially" considering legislation that would make it easier for landowners to bring such a claim and, further, make their case in federal court, as opposed to state court—where a takings claim would face stronger opposition.

Though such action may not challenge the fracking ban outright, West notes, "if you have the prospect of having to pay out hundreds of millions—or billions—of dollars to landowners as a result of your regulatory action, you might rethink your strategy."

The attack is not unexpected. When announcing the ban, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said that decision would likely face "tons" of lawsuits.

Supporters of the fracking ban are planning a rally in Albany this Wednesday to celebrate what they say is an "incredible victory for science, public health, the environment, and our movement." Over one hundred local and national organizations are sponsoring the event.

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