A group of conservation and anti-hydrofracking groups — along with a handful of state lawmakers — are calling on the state Department of Environmental Conservation to triple the public comment period on its latest draft review of natural gas drilling in the Marcellus and Utica shales.
More than 60 groups wrote a letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo and DEC Commissioner Joseph Martens urging them to extend the comment period from 60 days to 180 days, a move supported by the environmental conservation chairmen in both houses of the Legislature — Sen. Mark Grisanti, R-Buffalo, and Assemblyman Robert Sweeney, D-Suffolk County.
Assembly members Barbara Lifton, D-Ithaca, and John McEneny, D-Albany, also joined the call. The groups also want a series of public hearings to be held across the state. Hearings were held after the DEC released an initial draft of its hydrofracking guidelines in 2009, and the DEC hasn’t made a final decision on whether something similar will occur this time around.
The DEC’s latest draft, which proposes a set of permitting guidelines for the controversial technique that the department will move to implement in its drilling regulations, was released last month.
“New York State would be foolish to rush into permitting hydraulic fracturing for natural gas,” Sweeney said in a statement. “Technical experts and average New Yorkers need time to evaluate the state’s proposal and weigh in with the Department of Environmental Conservation to make sure that if drilling moves forward we are not compromising our communities, our environment or our long-term sustainability.”
Martens has said in the past that he’s inclined to stick with the 60-day comment period, in part because the public has had extra time to review to document since early July. The comment period is expected to start in “late summer” as the DEC adds a section on the socioeconomic and community impacts on natural gas drilling.
Here’s the letter sent to Cuomo and Martens: