February 22, 2012

Anchutz attorney blusters a lot

I didn't expect attorney and lobbyist Tom West to be happy about losing the first round of the Anschutz lawsuit, but I also didn't expect this in the New York Times:

The Dryden case, however, is sure to prompt further litigation. Thomas West, the Albany lawyer representing Anschutz, said the company might appeal or instead pursue a "takings" claim against the town — based on the principle that private property should not be taken without just compensation. Mr. West said the company had spent more than $5 million securing land leases from Dryden property owners and could claim the lost value of its assets, including any profits it would have derived from exploiting the mineral rights under the land.

"It could be a very large claim," he said.

By my reading, that '"takings" claim' threat is just a lot of wind. New York State's actual rules on taking claims don't resemble the rhetoric of gas advocates, and I'm reasonably confident, despite not being an attorney, that West would get laughed out of court for filing such a case.

However, Solid Shale takes a look at how much would have to change for such a claim to become plausible, which I guess means that Anschutz and friends would have to run through the legal process on a quest to find right-wing activist judges willing to demolish precedent in this space.

That doesn't seem likely to me, except that it fits a particular right-wing corporate agenda that goes well beyond the oil and gas industry, and maybe this is the kind of case they've been looking for. Given that natural gas prices just keep plunging, I'm not sure the gas industry by itself is going to be too excited about trying to win this case if drilling in Dryden is really the issue.

Mostly, though, it seems like Tom West's classic approach, making big claims that sound terrible but really lack the certainty he projects.

Update: This bluster faded fast.

Update: If you prefer your bluster local, here's Henry Kramer of the Dryden Safe Energy Coalition. Even Henry seems to have lowered his sights, only threatening the Town with $5 million of potential damages for Anschutz's actual investment instead of the $175 million in (his dream of) possible lost income. I don't think even the $5 million is plausible.

Posted by simon at February 22, 2012 12:10 PM in ,
Note on photos


Linda said:

How can there be a taking when the leases were made on land that was not zoned for the purposes of those leases? If I rent a store in the Village with the intention of operating a slaughter house and then find out that such a business is not permitted by the zoning law, could I ask for the value of all that beef and pork I expected to sell?

Call me crazy said:

@Linda: The problem with you question Linda is that it is based on a flawed assumption. Specifically, the zoning laws would have allowed exploration for oil and gas, which the leases here provided for when they were entered into. What happened next is that the Town banned ALL oil and gas exploration after it was previously allowed.

So, to use your scenario, if you rented a store in the village with the intent to operate a slaughter house when it was a permitted activity (paid a lot of money to do so - a fact I added to make it more true to form) and then the Village promulgated a rule that zoned out all slaughter house operations, you should be able to ask for the return of the money you paid to obtain the lease and potentially your lost income from the sale of the meat.