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WIN! Court upholds ruling against water sales to Shell for fracking

Barlow speaking in Corning, New York on October 18. Twitter photo by People for a Healthy Environment.
Barlow speaking in Corning, New York on October 18, 2014. Twitter photo by People for a Healthy Environment.

In October 2014, Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow spoke in Corning, New York against proposed water takings in the Finger Lakes bio-region of Upstate New York.

Corning is located about 5 kilometres from Painted Post where a flashpoint struggle was then underway on this issue.

In brief, DC Bureau had reported, “Corporations and municipalities [in New York state] are now trying to lock in rights to withdraw water and in some cases sell water to the highest bidder, and they do not want environmental reviews to slow them down. [Shell wants water for its fracking operations and] the state Conference of Mayors and Municipal Officers says its members deserve unfettered rights to cash in on water sales — even water exports for fracking in other states. …Painted Post holds a state permit that allows it to withdraw up to 4 million gallons of water a day, well over 10 times what it actually uses. …The village has argued that the water it could — but does not — withdraw is ‘surplus property’ [to sell].”

In her speech in Corning, Barlow commented, “It is an extremely dangerous practice to allow the commercial sale of public water and sets a precedent for the commodification of our water supplies. Water is a public trust, in law and in practice. When fracking or other private interests get the green light to buy water, the nature of this public trust is violated.”

Now the Associated Press reports, “An upstate New York village has lost a court challenge of its water sales to a Shell Oil Co. subsidiary for shale gas drilling in Pennsylvania. Environmental groups and several individuals sued after the Steuben County village of Painted Post signed a contract in 2012 with Shell subsidiary SWEPI LP. The five-year contract called for up to a million gallons of water shipped daily by rail to drilling sites for high-volume hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. The Sierra Club and People for a Healthy Environment claimed village officials failed to do a state-mandated environmental impact review. The state Supreme Court Appellate Division on New Year’s Eve upheld a lower court ruling voiding the water sale agreement.”

Congratulations to People for a Healthy Environment, the Coalition to Protect New York, Sierra Club and the five local residents who took this case to the appellate court.

For a feature article ‘The People Win Over Shell in Fracking Water Withdrawal Case’, please click here.