The state may miss a key deadline in its analysis of hydraulic fracturing if the Department of Health recommends new safety measures, New York’s top environmental regulator said Monday.
The state Department of Environmental Conservation faces a Feb. 27 deadline to finalize its proposed fracking regulations or allow them to expire. Whether the agency will meet the deadline depends on when state Health Commissioner Nirav Shah completes his review of the DEC’s analysis and what he ultimately recommends, DEC Commissioner Joseph Martens said at a legislative budget hearing Monday.
“It all depends on what the health review says,” Martens said. “If it recommends additional measures, then it’s going to difficult to finalize it and get the regulations finalized.”
Martens first asked Shah in
August late September to analyze the DEC’s review of hydrofracking and make recommendations with the assistance of three outside consultants. In a separate budget hearing last week, Shah said he believes his review will be finished “in a few weeks.”
But the DEC’s time frame is tight. In order to finalize the regulations by Feb. 27, the agency would likely have to finalize a lengthy environmental review—which it first launched in 2008—by Feb. 13.
If the regulatory deadline is missed, the state would have to again put the regulations out for public comment—a move that could delay a decision on fracking for months.
Missing the end-of-February deadline would deal a blow to the natural-gas industry and pro-drilling landowners, who have urged the DEC to allow high-volume fracking in order to tap the gas reserves in the Marcellus Shale formation.
Opponents of fracking packed the hearing room where Martens delivered his testimony Monday, occasionally cheering lawmakers’ questions and groaning at Martens’ responses.
“I think you’ve even doing a great job—except on the issue of hydrofracking,” Sen. Tony Avella, D-Queens, said to applause.