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Watershed moment 

A lawsuit over the Village of Painted Post's plan to sell public water to a company to use for fracking will be back in court on Monday, February 24. A panel of state Appellate Division justices will hear an appeal of a previous decision.

The case goes back to a 2012 agreement between the village, which is north of Corning in the Southern Tier, and SWEPI, LP, a Shell subsidiary. The agreement allows SWEPI to withdraw up to a million gallons of water per day from a village aquifer. In return, the village would get a minimum of $3.2 million over a five-year period.

But the Sierra Club, a few village residents, and other environmental groups filed a lawsuit saying that the village's environmental review of the agreement was inadequate. State Supreme Court Justice Kenneth Fisher agreed, and blocked the water sales.

The village, SWEPI, and two other companies are appealing the decision. They say the village not only met, but exceeded environmental review requirements.

Upstate anti-fracking groups are following the lawsuit closely because it involves the sale of municipal water for fracking. But other groups have taken an interest as well.

In a friend-of-the-court brief, the New York Conference of Mayors and Municipal Officials say that Fisher's decision could subject municipal water systems to new, unnecessary scrutiny.

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