Legal questions raised on NY's gas-drilling rules

By MARY ESCH | July 11, 2011 | 3:14 PM EDT


An industry lawyer says New York's newly proposed regulations for natural gas wells in the Marcellus Shale region may spawn legal challenges by energy companies and landowners in areas where drilling would be banned.

The Department of Environmental Conservation on Friday released a draft version of its proposed rules for gas drilling using high-volume hydraulic fracturing, which blasts shale with millions of gallons of chemical-laced water to release gas.

The proposed regulations would ban "hydrofracking" in the New York City and Syracuse watersheds. Attorney Tom West says companies are unlikely to challenge that ban, as the areas are seen as less gas-rich than elsewhere. But he says landowners may claim an illegal taking of their mineral rights.

West says municipal fracking bans are more likely to be challenged by industry.