Saturday, September 22, 2012

New York Delaying Fracking Ruling

New York's fracking announcement on health review months in the making

10:55 PM, Sep. 21, 2012  |  
Joseph Martens, commissioner of the state DEC.
Joseph Martens, commissioner of the state DEC. / File Photo
ALBANY — The state’s surprise announcement Thursday to delay a decision on hydrofracking and further assess its health impacts came after months of wrangling with environmental groups over the direction of New York’s four-year-long regulatory review, e-mails and meeting records show.
The records obtained by Gannett’s Albany Bureau show that several organizations have been privately pushing the Department of Environmental Conservation and Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office to take a broader look at the potential health impacts of hydrofracking. In particular, the groups wanted the state to assign an independent group to do the work.
The outcome of the behind-the-scenes discussions was the DEC announcing Thursday that it would have the state’s health commissioner and outside experts assess the state’s review of hydrofracking.
The move will likely mean more delay in a process that started in 2008 to determine whether New York would join other states in allowing high-volume hydrofracking, specifically in the gas-rich and economically struggling Southern Tier.
And the decision opened a new series of questions about if and when hydrofracking would get under way. The DEC on Friday refused to say how long the health analysis would take and whether it has already begun.
There were mixed reviews to the state’s latest move. Environmental groups were split; some praised the decision, while others were concerned about the independence of the process.
“While we respect the ideal of government being an independent arbiter, that simply is not how our world works,” said David VanLuven, director of Environment New York. “No report, no conclusion and no recommendation comes out of state agencies without first being reviewed, edited and sometimes rejected by the governor’s office.”
Gas-industry and landowner groups were cautiously optimistic.
“The next step is to ensure that the review the DEC initiates is done expeditiously and is mindful of the long-term delays we have experienced that have cost us dearly — both as a state and as individuals,” said Brian Conover, president of Central New York Landowners Coalition.
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DEC's fracking announcement was months in the making

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