State Anticipates Missing Hydrofracking Deadline

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The state Department of Environmental Conservation on Friday signaled it anticipates missing a little-noticed deadline for its proposed hydraulic fracturing regulations — a move that would force the agency to restart its rule-making process and reopen the regulations to public comment.

Missing the deadline would further cloud the already murky situation surrounding the state’s decision on high-volume fracking, which is currently not allowed in New York as the DEC continues an environmental review that has stretched on for more than four years.

In an email, DEC spokeswoman Emily DeSantis said a newly expanded review of the health effects of hydrofracking for natural gas will likely cause the agency to miss a late November deadline.

“Given that DEC has said no regulations or final decision will be issued until the completion of (Health Commissioner Nirav Shah’s) review, should high-volume hydraulic fracturing move forward, it is expected that a new rule-making process would be undertaken,” DeSantis wrote.

Last year, DEC officials proposed formal regulations to govern the natural-gas industry that would carry the force of law. The agency held a set of public hearings afterward, the last of which was held on Nov. 30.

Under state law, the DEC has one year after holding its last public hearing to finalize the regulations, though it can file for a 90-day extension. If it misses the deadline, the rule-making process restarts, complete with a new comment period. The deadline was first reported Thursday by the blog Shale Gas Review.

The rule-making process is separate from the DEC’s overarching environmental review, known as the Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement. That review, which was first launched in July 2008 and contains thousands of pages of proposed guidelines for gas-drilling permits, would not have to be restarted if the November deadline is blown.

The DEC announced last year that it planned to issue formal regulations as a way to bolster the recommendations in the environmental impact statement.

Commissioner Joseph Martens said last year that the agency would move to issue permits if the environmental impact statement was completed before the rules were finalized. But now that is uncertain.

Asked if the DEC stands by Martens’ assertion last year, DeSantis said: “It is undetermined.”

Most proposed regulations require a comment period of at least 45 days under state law. A new round of public response would undoubtedly bring in thousands of comments. Response periods in 2009 and 2011 garnered a total of about 80,000 formal comments, according to the DEC.

Most of the submissions were in response to the DEC’s environmental impact statement. The flood of responses considerably lengthened the agency’s review of hydrofracking.

Thomas West, an Albany-based attorney and lobbyist representing several oil and gas companies, said missing the deadline doesn’t necessarily mean further delay.

“The failure to complete the rule-making in a timely fashion or starting a new one should not be an impediment to moving forward in New York if and when — hopefully sometime in my lifetime — they finally finish the process,” West said.

Friday’s decision is the latest ambiguity on hydrofracking in New York.

The DEC last week announced that it has asked the state Department of Health to review its study of hydrofracking, which involves the use of water, sand and chemicals mixed together and injected underground to break apart gas-rich shale formations. The announcement came after environmental groups had criticized the agency for not taking a closer look at potential health impacts associated with the gas-extraction process.

Katherine Nadeau, water and natural resources program director for Environmental Advocates of New York, welcomed the news that DEC may restart the regulation-crafting process.

“From our point of view, beginning a new public process based on the results of the Department of Health’s health impact review is exactly the right approach that Governor (Andrew) Cuomo and the DEC should take,” she said. “They should not issue any permits until the health impact review and the public process is concluded.”

Informed of the DEC’s comments, New York State Petroleum Council Executive Director Karen Moreau said the gas industry retains its confidence in the Cuomo administration.

“Certainly any hint at delay is something that doesn’t help the state’s economic picture, but as far as whether or not this is going to affect the ultimate outcome, I can’t say that,” Moreau said. “We feel very confident that the process is going to unfold as it should, the health review will be done and a determination will be made at that point.”

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  1. Landowners have suffered setback after setback because of the politics, not the science. Those who oppose the drilling have had their wishes to delay spoon fed to them by Albany as landowners hung on to Cuomo’s statements that the releases of the SGEIS would be labor day by or the end of the summer. If the deadline comes and the process starts over not only will Governor Cuomo be sending the message that his leadership is indecisive, but that New York is not open for Business and NY politics have failed the public again. In the town of Barker where I am from property taxes have doubled based on the speculation of land value increase due to gas drilling. My own home went from an assessment of 87,000.00 to 187,000.00 effectively doubling my tax bill and yet I am denied the right to access the minerals of which I am being taxed for. One has to wonder if the delays are nothing more then a calculated land grab that will benefit the state financially as people like myself will lose their land to speculative taxation. It is not right for the governor of NY to withhold the SGIES based on the uninformed non scientific beliefs movie of actors and producers who are generating income on the backs of working NY farmers and landowners. In fact it is an embarrassment to the state of NY as 28 other states are moving forward with shale gas development based on science and not withholding the development based on the lies of people like Josh Fox, Mark Ruffalo and the mis information spewers such as NYRAD and Walter Hang of Toxic Targeting who was on TV Sept-27-2012 telling people the DEC failed to protect people from drilling yet failed to mention the examples he gave of environmental problems were prior to the industry being regulated. The people of NY is losing hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue and tens of thousands of Jobs as our very rich Governor plays with the lives of hard working citizens who will surely lose their homes and farms based on the fear mongering of the very people who consume the most natural gas in the country, New Yorkers.

  2. We need Jobs and taxable revenue for New York, in Penn, it created 200,000 jobs and in New York an estimated 500,000 could be created in New York.

    The scientific studies shows it is safe for New York.

    Think of lower taxes for all of New York easing the burden among our Seniors and working families and business’s .

    I urge my fellow democrats to bust a move and move this forward.

    sincerely yours

    Hon. Brian Scavo
    518-4658915

  3. Bonnie Whittaker on

    The DEC was asked about these health issues 4 yrs. ago. This is just another attempt by Cuomo to delay without making a decision. All the Gov. has to do is make a few phone calls to the states that drill and ask if they have had any health issues.

  4. Victor Furman said: [My own home went from an assessment of 87,000.00 to 187,000.00 effectively doubling my tax bill and yet I am denied the right to access the minerals of which I am being taxed for.]

    From $87,000 to $187,000? That’s unbelievable…particularly since Broome County’s real property database (publicly available online) lists the full market value of your property at only $160,400 for 2012 and 2013 (estimated). Might you be exaggerating a tad?

    You also forgot to mention that your various exemptions have SIGNIFICANTLY increased. That isn’t reflected in your (dubious) full market value of $187,000 either. Why don’t you tell us how much you ACTUALLY cut a tax check for in each of the last 5 years? That would make more sense, if you want to discuss this matter.

    BTW, have you signed a deal with a fracking company yet? Since you obviously want to frack, I don’t see how you could possibly be harmed by your land increasing in value. Speculation is GOOD for you when all is said and done. There’s nothing preventing you from cutting a deal NOW that gives you money UP FRONT to cover your increased property taxes, a new vehicle, a round-the-world vacation or WHATEVER. Even if New York NEVER allows fracking, that’s the fracking company’s problem…not yours. It’s THEIR job to assume the risk, unless you’re trying to speculate a bit yourself, too.

    Heck, if your land has so significantly increased in value, just sell the whole kit and kaboodle to a fracker and move somewhere else. YOU are in the driver’s seat. Take the money and run, Victor. What in the world are you complaining about?

    I could go on, Victor, but why bother? The rest of your post is baloney, too. You want some $$$ no matter what. That’s your perogative. Other citizens have a right to do what’s best for THEMSELVES, though, just like you do. They don’t want hydrofracking. Contrary to what some folks say, the science is FAR from settled and other states haven’t been fracking long enough to even ASSESS the long term health risk. God knows that the FRACKERS don’t want any baseline assessment of health matters before fracking occurs (if it occurs). That would make it easier to prove that the frackers are AT FAULT when they get sued for the harm that they will undoubtedly cause.

    It’s about time that NYS showed even a smidgen of interest in health matters as they relate to fracking. If the money grubbers are upset with the delay, that’s too darn bad. Deal with it.