| ALBANY, N.Y.
ALBANY, N.Y. Dec 17 When Governor Andrew Cuomo
announced a ban on fracking in New York on Wednesday, he
predicted "a ton of lawsuits" against the state. But that is
unlikely as the end of a drilling boom has left the industry in
no mood for a fight, industry experts and lawyers said.
"I think most of the companies in the industry are
disinterested in fighting," said Brad Gill, the executive
director of the Independent Oil and Gas Association of New York,
a trade group.
Six years ago, before the start of a lengthy New York
moratorium on hydraulic fracturing of natural gas, the governor
might have been right. But since then, the fracking phenomenon
has turned from mania to mundane.
Chesapeake Energy, once one of the biggest
leaseholders in New York, last year gave up a legal battle to
retain thousands of acres in the state. Norse Energy
went bankrupt in 2012 after more than 100,000 acres in the state
it leased were deemed off-limits to drilling.
The industry's less confrontational stance reflects the
dramatic shift in the U.S. natural gas industry over the years
since the state's de facto ban came into force in 2008.
That year, natural gas prices spiked to a near record around
$14 per million British thermal units (mmBtu), and drilling were
racing around the country snapping up land rights to exploit new
techniques that would unlock decades worth of reserves.
Fracking involves blasting large volumes of water, sand and
chemicals into shale rock to release trapped gas.
New York was a prime target because it sits atop the
Marcellus Shale, a massive rock formation holds enough reserves
to meet the country's current needs for more than three years,
according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
But the flood of new natural gas supply overwhelmed the
market and knocked future prices to below $4 per mmBtu.
The land rush stopped, as companies began to focus on efficiency
and lower costs. Access to new territory - such as New York -
became all but irrelevant.
NO STANDING FOR LANDOWNERS
Cuomo, who spoke on Wednesday after the ban was announced,
said that while he expected lawsuits, he was confident the state
would prevail. He did not elaborate.
The ban will likely take effect early next year.
Advocates say allowing fracking would have created thousands
of jobs in depressed upstate areas, as it has in states from
Pennsylvania to Wyoming. Critics argue that it creates public
health dangers that are not yet fully understood.
Thomas West, an Albany attorney who represents some of the
companies that have left New York, said his clients had taken
their investments to the more than 30 states that allow
fracking. Vermont is the only other state that has banned
Some observers said New York landowners who had hoped to
sell drilling leases could sue the state, claiming it is
illegally restricting their rights, but that would be hard to
prove precisely because so many drillers have left New York.
"If no one is there to drill, you don't have a case," said
Deborah Goldberg, an attorney with Earthjustice, an
environmental group that opposes fracking.
(Reporting by Daniel Wiessner, additional reporting by Edward
McAllister in New York; Editing by Ted Botha and Cynthia