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by By Jon Campbell Albany Bureau Gannett News

ALBANY — A statewide group of pro-drilling landowners says it will sue New York if the Department of Environmental Conservation misses a fast-approaching deadline for its proposed hydraulic fracturing rules.

In a newsletter distributed to its members Friday, the head of the Joint Landowners Coalition of New York said the group is “laying the ground work for a lawsuit against New York State” if the state doesn’t finalize its fracking regulations by Feb. 27. If not finished by Feb. 27, the regulations would expire.

“We sincerely hope this will not be necessary as the SGEIS and regulations are done and ready to be released,” Dan Fitzsimmons, the group’s president, wrote. “It is obvious that decisions to delay release are being made for purely political reasons. This must be stopped.”

The Binghamton-based group represents a collection of local coalitions that pooled together their acreage to gain greater bargaining power with natural-gas companies that seek to lease their oil-and-gas rights. The potential class-action suit would claim an illegal government taking under the Fifth Amendment, which prevents private property from being taken for public use “without just compensation.”

Scott Kurkoski, the group’s Broome County-based attorney, said the coalition’s members have been talking about filing a lawsuit for two years.

“As long as the state has been looking at legitimate issues, it has been difficult to commence a takings claim. But that’s not true anymore,” Kurkoski said. “We are very hopeful that everything moves forward next Wednesday and everything comes out on (Feb. 27), but if not it’s going to be a clear signal to us that this is not going to happen for political reasons.”

High-volume hydrofracking—the method used to help release gas from the resource-rich Marcellus Shale formation—has been on hold in New York since the DEC first launched a review of the process in 2008.

In his newsletter, Fitzsimmons says next week will be “crucial.” The DEC must finalize the lengthy environmental review—known as the Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement—by Wednesday if it hopes to meet the late-February regulatory deadline.

“We hope that the SGEIS will be out on Wednesday leading to completion of related regulations on February 27,” he wrote. “Albany’s lack of firm leadership has needlessly delayed progress on this issue.”

The DEC didn’t have an immediate comment Friday. On Monday, DEC Commissioner Joe Martens cast doubt on whether the agency would be able to meet the deadline.

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