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Like Governor, New York Energy Plan Silent on Fracking

Mum is apparently the word on hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in New York State.

One day before Gov. Andrew Cuomo delivered his State of the State address, the state's Energy Planning Board (EPB) on Tuesday released a draft energy plan for 2014 that, like the governor's speech, made no mention of fracking.

Under the draft energy plan -- outlined in two volumes, the latter a technical appendix -- New York would increasingly rely on renewable energy, including hydroelectric power, solar, wind and other carbon-free sources.

"Creativity and innovation in regulation, policy and financial tools will enable New York's economy to continue to grow, supported by affordable, reliable and clean energy," the EPB said, adding that its draft energy plan "sets forth a vision for the energy system in the context of the rapidly evolving uses of energy and the challenges facing energy sources and delivery systems."

A 60-day public comment period began Tuesday with the release of the draft energy plan. Six public hearings have also been scheduled to discuss the plan.

Karen Moreau, executive director of the New York State Petroleum Council, a division of the American Petroleum Institute, told NGI's Shale Daily that the organization was not surprised fracking wasn't included in the EPB's draft energy plan or Cuomo's 70-minute speech Wednesday (see Shale Daily, Jan. 8).

"Although it is disappointing, it is consistent with the administration's embargo on all official comments on this matter since last February," Moreau said Thursday. "However, in the energy plan they do go to great lengths to cite their goals of achieving affordable energy for the state, a more reliable grid, and reduced greenhouse gas emissions, which are all consistent with natural gas being used as a primary source of fuel in New York."

Moreau said the omission of fracking from both the governor's speech and the draft energy plan was intentional, due to the upcoming gubernatorial election on Nov. 4.

"Our sense is that at this point the delay is purely part of a political strategy," Moreau said. "The sense that we have is that [Cuomo] does not want to deal with the issue, certainly prior to the middle of the election season.

"I think that he's concerned about the left wing of his party, and I think he's going to avoid this issue as long as he possibly can so that it does not interfere with his election effort. And I think he is certainly going to run again. He hasn't announced, but he has $30 million in his war chest."

Cuomo officials did not return several calls seeking comment Thursday.

Moreau added that there was equal concern among supporters of shale gas development in New York that the Empire State was being left behind.

"We see at least 30 states now moving forward on shale gas development, and a number of states benefiting significantly economically from this," she said. "This is not a partisan issue; you have a president that has at least expressed great support for natural gas development, as has the secretary of energy, the secretary of the interior and even the new head of the [Environmental Protection Agency]. So the fact that the Cuomo administration is continuing to put off a decision here, while the rest of the country moves forward, doesn't speak well to his gauge on what's happening across the nation."

In their initial responses to Cuomo's speech, two politicians who voiced support for Marcellus and Utica shale gas development in the past -- state Sens. Thomas Libous (R-Binghamton) and James Seward (R-Milford) -- also made no mention of fracking on Wednesday (see Shale Daily, April 24, 2012). A spokesman for Libous did not return a call seeking comment Thursday.

In September 2012, Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Joseph Martens asked Department of Health Commissioner Nirav Shah to complete a health impact analysis of HVHF before the DEC completed a supplemental generic environmental impact statement (SGEIS) on the practice (see Shale Daily, Sept. 24, 2012).

Martens and Shah are both members of the EPB.

The SGEIS was ordered in July 2008 by then-Gov. David Paterson -- who was in the audience for Cuomo's speech on Wednesday -- effectively placing a moratorium on drilling horizontal wells in New York.

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