Following lengthy public hearings and the arrival of thousands of written comments by experts and stakeholders, the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) said Wednesday it needs another month to complete an environmental review and proposed regulations for hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in the state.

During the fourth and final public hearing in Manhattan to hear testimony on the 1,500-page proposal, DEC officials said they were extending the public comment period from the original deadline of Dec. 12.

"Many individuals and organizations requested additional time to prepare comments," said DEC spokeswoman Emily DeSantis. "We have decided to extend the comment period by 30 days to Jan. 11."

The state agency in late September formally released the proposed fracking permit rulemaking for comment, which is based on draft rules contained in the state's supplemental generic environmental impact statement (SGEIS) (see Shale Daily, Sept. 29; Sept. 8). DEC two months ago also released a proposed State Pollutant Discharge Elimination System General Permit for stormwater discharges associated with high-volume fracking.

The SGEIS is to provide the framework for DEC's fracking permit process. In July 2008 then-Gov. David Paterson ordered the DEC to complete the SGEIS, which effectively placed a moratorium on drilling horizontal wells in the New York portion of the Marcellus Shale. Paterson requested the SGEIS because the original impact statement was completed in 1992, before technological changes in shale development. In the closing days of his term Paterson extended the SGEIS deadline until July 1 (see Shale Daily, Dec. 14, 2010).

The latest extension puts the total length of the comment period at 126 days. Anti-fracking activities had asked for as many as 180 days to review the lengthy document.