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New York Governor Said to Still Back Some Fracking

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is reportedly close to making a public endorsement of high-volume hydraulic fracturing (HVHF) and will unveil a plan to allow the practice on a limited scale initially, but under strict regulation and only in localities that welcome it.

According to recent report by the Albany Times-Union, Cuomo administration officials are currently contacting several environmental groups active in the state to alert them of the governor's plan, which he will reportedly make public before Labor Day. That plan reportedly calls for having the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) issue permits for 50 HVHF wells in 2013, followed by another 100 wells in 2014.

A senior official with a major environmental organization, who declined to be identified, told NGI the report was accurate but disagreed with the characterization that the meetings with Cuomo officials were briefings. "I would say that it's an exaggeration to say that we were given a full briefing," the official said. "General concepts were discussed, but we saw no documents. I would characterize it as an informal heads-up." The official added that unlike last year -- when the DEC issued a list of fracking recommendations and a final draft of a supplemental generic environmental impact statement (SGEIS) (see NGI, Sept. 12, 2011; July 4, 2011) -- there wasn't anything official on which to comment.

"Certain changes have come up that [the Cuomo administration] wanted to make us aware of," the official said. "In reflecting on the way things were unveiled last year, it's a lot more important to see it on paper than to hear it by word of mouth. Sometimes the things that they suggest aren't necessarily quite the same on paper."

During an interview in July, Cuomo said he supported "home rule" legislation currently under consideration by the state legislature, and he described it as a mechanism for localities that support HVHF to eventually have it (see NGI, July 16). One month earlier, the Democratic governor hinted that his administration was considering a plan to allow the practice in five counties along the Pennsylvania border (see NGI, June 18). In New York going the home rule route would lessen the ability of the heavily populated New York City to restrict activities in other parts of the state.

DEC spokeswoman Lisa King said regulators "are in the process of preparing responses to the 13,000 comments we received during the first comment period, and the 66,700 comments we received during this comment period. We expect the final documents to be released this year. If the final documents determine [HVHF] could move forward in New York, we could begin to review permit applications after the final SGEIS and findings statement are released."

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