The state’s former top environmental regulator on Monday said the length of New York’s health review of hydrofracking “seems to be excessive,” but emphasized the importance of ensuring the protection of public water before moving forward.
Pete Grannis, former commissioner of the state Department of Environmental Conservation, said he’s “surprised it has taken this long” to come to a decision on whether to allow large-scale fracking in New York, which was first put on hold when Grannis (pictured) headed the DEC in 2008.
But the process is a complicated one, Grannis said, and the state has been right to exercise caution.
“The fact is we could have started permitting hydrofracking from Day 1 and decided not to,” Grannis said of the 2008 decision to launch a lengthy environmental review that continues to this day. “I’m surprised it has taken this long, but it’s a big, complicated process.”
He continued: “For me, as an environmental advocate, it’s really the ultimate application of the precautionary principle. We are actually able to look and find out, listen, learn and prepare before we move ahead. Almost never does that happen in the environmental community. This is an extraordinary exercise that the agency is going through. I am surprised at how long it has taken.”
Now the state’s first deputy comptroller, Grannis spoke to Gannett’s Albany Bureau following a media briefing by Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli on Tuesday.
A decision on fracking and shale-gas drilling in New York now awaits the completion of an analysis by state Health Commissioner Nirav Shah—essentially a review of the DEC’s work. The state has been sued by the bankruptcy trustee of Norse Energy, who claims the delay in deciding has been arbitrary and political.
Grannis, who was fired by then-Gov. David Paterson in 2010 after a memo criticizing staff cuts was made public, said the DEC has “relied” on the Department of Health for assistance since the environmental review was launched.
He said he wasn’t surprised that the health department’s role has been expanded. Shah’s review was first announced in September 2012, and he has given no indication when it may be completed.
“Not with the role, but the length of time it has taken seems to be excessive,” Grannis said. “But again, if the department hasn’t finished it’s analysis—the goal is to make sure what ever happens happens in a way that protects the people’s water supply. That’s the main goal of the health department’s review. It has taken a long time.”
(AP file photo by Mike Groll)