Fighting Fossil Fuels in New York: What to Expect in 2018

A brief overview of 2017’s fossil fuel-related victories in the Northeast, and a preview of the work that still needs to be done in 2018.
Climate March 2017
Climate March 2017

Co-written by New York Program Assistant, Jhena Vigrass

As 2017 comes to a close, we are taking a look at all that this year has brought us. While there have been setbacks on the national scale, this was a landmark year for our advocacy efforts in New York State and the Northeast region, particularly in our fight against fossil fuels.

Here is a brief overview of 2017’s fossil fuel-related victories in the Northeast, and a preview of the work that still needs to be done in 2018.

Passing a Full Fracking Ban in the Delaware River Basin

DRBC group photo

Highlights from 2017

Earlier this month, the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC), the body responsible for regulating activities affecting water quality in the Delaware River Basin, released draft regulations banning fracking in the Basin. This historic victory was hard-won after years of advocacy by NRDC and our allies who have been fighting for a ban since 2010.

However, these regulations allow for significant loopholes, permitting the transport, treatment, and disposal of fracking wastewater, and the use of Basin water for fracking elsewhere.  Since the draft regulations were released, NRDC has been fighting to cut these loopholes from an otherwise excellent new rule.

What to Expect in 2018

To truly protect people’s health, our communities, and the environment, the Commission must implement a full ban on fracking that includes all aspects of this dangerous practice.

The DRBC is currently taking public comment on the draft regulations, due February 28, 2018–submit yours here.  And if you live in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, or Delaware, call your governor and ask them to advocate for a full ban on fracking in the Watershed, which includes a ban on wastewater and water withdrawal.

Fighting Oil Barges on the Hudson River

The Hudson River at Haverstraw Bay Credit: R. Friedman
The Hudson River at Haverstraw Bay
Credit: Credit: R. Friedman

Highlights from 2017

In 2016, the U.S. Coast Guard proposed dramatically expanding the number of Hudson River “anchorage grounds”—in simple terms, locations where ships can lower anchors in the Hudson River. If approved, the plan would significantly increase the number of anchorage sites in the Hudson, allowing more crude oil barges to crisscross the river, leaving it vulnerable to oil spills and river scarring.  The proposed expansion would also exacerbate the region’s contributions to climate change.  Since 2016, NRDC has fought for both state and federal solutions to this threat.

This year, the U.S. Coast Guard announced that it was suspending its proposal for the new anchorage grounds until it conducted a Ports and Waterways Safety Assessment (“PAWSA”)—essentially a risk assessment—of the River, and, NRDC participated in the process, emphasizing that there is no need for new anchoring on the Hudson.

And this fall, Governor Cuomo signed into law legislation that gives the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation the power to prevent the siting of anchorages in parts of the Hudson River by establishing “tanker avoidance zones.”

What to Expect in 2018

It is now up to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to act quickly to establish tanker avoidance zones, and for the U.S. Coast Guard to abandon their proposal to add more oil barges to the river. In the new year, NRDC will be sure to hold both state and federal agencies accountable to make sure they protect the Hudson River from crude oil barges.

Blocking Pipelines

Northern Access protest
Credit: Niagara Frontier Publications

Highlights from 2017

NRDC fought several new pipelines in 2017 with some success. 

In the fight against fracked gas pipelines, New York State has started to use a powerful tool—section 401 of the federal Clean Water Act—to stop these harmful projects. In short, Section 401 authorizes states to block fracked gas pipelines if they find that the pipeline fails to comply with state water quality standards.  Over the past two years, New York State has denied water quality certification to Constitution, Northern Access, and Valley Lateral fracked gas pipelines, and, with the exception of the Valley Lateral Pipeline, has effectively blocked their construction in New York State. 

Every step of the way, NRDC has pushed for strong water protection, and has supported New York State in court when its authority has been challenged. 

What to Expect in 2018

Despite great successes fighting pipelines in 2017, the fight far from over.  As is the case with the Valley Lateral Pipeline, several pipeline companies have challenged New York State’s water quality certification denials through the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.  While this would not have been a cause for much concern under the Obama administration, a newly emboldened Federal Energy Regulatory Commission may seek to overturn New York’s water quality certification decisions, destabilizing the careful federal-state regulatory balance that has worked for over a decade.  NRDC will continue to fight back against the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s overreach in the new year both in and out of the courtroom. 

Also be on the lookout for new pipelines proposed in New York, such as the Northeast Supply Enhancement Project.  This pipeline is a proposed expansion to the existing Transcontinental Pipeline, and if permitted, would be dug under Raritan Bay in New Jersey, and connect to an existing pipeline off of the Rockaways.  As of today, the pipeline is still moving through the federal and state certification processes. The next opportunity for public engagement will be when the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission releases its own draft Environmental Impact Statement, which will trigger a public comment period.


With EPA, national monuments, and bedrock environmental laws under attack in 2017, the state of our planet has in many ways never looked bleaker.  But at least on the local level, we made real progress in 2017, keeping fracking, pipelines, and barges at bay. 

The success of our regional work—in large part due to the work of NRDC members and activists like you—shows that even amidst great adversity on the national scale, we can still make headway locally. 

And that’s cause for hope as we begin the new year.


Click here to read more about NRDC's regional, state and local clean energy victories over the last year.

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