The state — legislators, regulators and governor — hasn’t moved aggressively to guard the environment from ill effects of gas exploration in the Fayetteville shale. But some lawyers have picked up some of the slack. A batch of suits were filed earlier this week over property damage from exploration activities.

Today, Richard Mays of Heber Springs, an accomplished environmental lawyer, filed a potentially far more significant action. He sued in federal district court on behalf of environmental organizations to enjoin gas drilling in the Ozark National Forest and under Greers Ferry Lake until environmental assessments required by law have been completed.

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The Bureau of Land Management and the Corps of Engineers not take environmental concerns sufficiently into account before allowing plunder of public lands? Say it’s not so.

Mays is the lawyer who brought development of a shopping center for Bass Pro Shops in the Dark Hollow area of North Little Rock to a halt for failure to perform an adequate environmental assessment. Yet another Corps of Engineers boondoggle.

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In addition to complaining of inadequate environmental review, the suit today argues fracking is potentially harmful to the environment. See news release on the jump. Here’s a copy of the lawsuit.

If this follows its normal course, people who are supposed to protect the environment for the state’s citizens will claim there is no harm from gas exploration (leaky waste pit, flammable water, torn up roads and unconscionable noise notwithstanding) and the legislature’s shale lobby will try to find out some way to castigate this as a commie plot to kill the goose that laid the golden egg.

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This lawsuit doesn’t affect drilling activity on private land. But, as it develops, it should expose any number of concerns that are NOT being effectively addressed by the state in overseeing work on private land.