Here Come the Fracking Lawsuits

Earlier this week, environmental groups took the next step in their battle against the hydraulic-fracturing (aka “fracking”) industry — they sued.

Anti-fracking protestors demonstrate at the state legislature in Albany, New York January 24, 2012. REUTERS/Les Stone

Until now, protests and PR have been the name of the game, but on Tuesday, Sept. 16, five U.S. environmental NGOs — including Earthjustice, the Center for Biological Diversity, Earthworks, Environmental Working Group and the Sierra Club — filed suit against California, accusing the state of failing to effectively regulate the rapidly growing sector. Reuters reported on the lawsuit.

Fracking, which involves pumping a chemical slurry into shale rockbed at high pressure, has for the first time raised the possibility of true energy independence in the United States — opening up vast natural gas reserves that, by some estimates, could fuel the country for over a century.

The technology has also elicited ferocious opposition in many regions, as farmers and local residents fear groundwater contamination, and even the possibility of man-made earthquakes.

Lexpert‘s newest Calgary-based contributor, Anthony Davis — who’s written for such publications as Maclean’s and Alberta Venture, has been following developments in Canada closely: in Alberta (where most of the gas can be found), British Columbia (which offers a tantalizing route to ocean trade), New Brunswick (where the industry and politicians are gauging public sentiment as they attempt to build a regulatory regime) and in Quebec (where public outcry over fracking has led to a moratorium until 2013).

Davis has written an in-depth feature on Canada’s industry — and in particular the tug of war going on between B.C. and Alberta law firms over the legal spoils of fracking. That story will appear in Lexpert‘s November/December issue (due out Dec. 4). So stay tuned.

And also stay tuned for any copycat litigation that’s bound to materialize north of the border should the Californian experiment prove fruitful for environmental groups.

-David Dias

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