Conservative Legal Group Challenges Lawsuit Against DRBC

  • Susan Phillips

On Thursday we wrote about Philadelphia City Council voting to join a lawsuit against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which represent the Delaware River Basin Commission. The lawsuit, filed by the New York Attorney General and several environmental groups seeks to prevent the DRBC from instituting any new natural gas drilling rules before conducting an environmental impact study.
Now a conservative legal organization in Washington, D.C. says the lawsuit is an abuse of the National Environmental Policy Act. NEPA is the federal statute cited by groups who filed suit. The authors of the paper, published by the Washington Legal Foundation say the 1969 law needs updating.

Over the past 50 years, the reach of NEPA has extended well beyond its initial purpose of ensuring that mission-oriented agencies such as the Department of Transportation and the Army Corps of Engineers take a “hard look” at the environmental effects of their projects (highways, dams, etc.) and identifying opportunities to mitigate those effects before project approval.  With each passing year, litigants find creative new ways of using NEPA to block projects they don’t like even when such opposition clashes with a national objective.  Such is the case in State of New York v. Army Corps of Engineers, et al., CV-11-2599 (E.D.N.Y.), where the plaintiff’s use of NEPA runs counter to the national objectives of energy security and protection against climate change.

The Delaware River Basin Commission is expected to take up its proposed rules at a meeting on November 21.

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