Speaking after delivering remarks at a Martin Luther King Jr. remembrance ceremony, Cuomo told reporters he won’t move to add the appropriate staff until the state Department of Environmental Conservation determines whether to allow high-volume hydraulic fracturing.
It’s a “chicken and the egg” situation, Cuomo said.
“You would not be hiring staff to regulate hydrofracking unless you believed you were going ahead with hydrofracking,” Cuomo said. “And we haven’t made that determination. So the budget won’t anticipate hydrofracking approval.”
The DEC has estimated it would need 140 additional staff members before being able to properly regulate hydrofracking, a technique used with drilling that uses a high-pressure mix of water, sand and chemicals to break shale formations and unlock gas.
But a panel assembled by the agency has yet to make recommendations on how to pay for that staff, which is expected to come through an increase in fees on drillers.
A DEC spokeswoman told Gannett’s Albany Bureau in late December that no funds for hydrofracking regulators would be included in Cuomo’s budget, which will be unveiled on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, a public comment period on 1,500 pages of proposed DEC rules and regulations for the activity wrapped up last Wednesday, drawing an estimated 40,000 responses. High-volume hydrofracking can’t move forward in New York until that document is finalized.
Cuomo said the state will make sure to have the right amount of regulators if the DEC ultimately determines hydrofracking can be done safely.
“If you make a decision down the road to go forward, then the state would do it appropriately and we would have the staff and the resources to do it,” he said.
When asked if the vocal opposition to hydrofracking from environmental and anti-fracking groups has given him pause on the issue, here’s what Cuomo had to say:
“Do I listen to people? Yes, all the time. I work for the people. I represent them, what they think and their opinions is vitally important to me. Is opposition or support always determinative? No. But do I always listen to it? Yes.”
(AP Photo / Mike Groll)
Here’s Cuomo on hydrofracking: