New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has proposed slashing the Department of Environmental Conservation’s (DEC) budget by more than one-sixth for the upcoming fiscal year, dashing hopes that the agency could hire additional oil and natural gas drilling inspectors.

Cuomo unveiled an executive budget totaling $136.5 billion for the 2013-2014 fiscal year on Tuesday, but reports said the total budget climbs to $142.6 billion with federal funding to aid the recovery from Superstorm Sandy. The state’s fiscal year begins April 1.

Under Cuomo’s budget, the DEC would receive $897.8 million, or $187.4 million less than it received during the preceding fiscal year, a 17.3% decrease.

According to a budget highlight from the office of Cuomo’s budget director, Robert Megna, the decrease in DEC funding “primarily reflects the change in the pace of the New York Works capital infrastructure program that is now spread over the [outer years of the state’s five-year] financial plan, and reductions taken for the transfer of employees to the Office of Information Technology Services.”

In an interview on Jan. 17, Cuomo told The Capitol Pressroom, a public radio program, that his budget wouldn’t include money for additional oil and gas inspectors — even if the DEC ultimately recommended moving forward with regulating high-volume hydraulic fracturing (fracking). DEC staffing isn’t a budget issue, he said.

“The budget presentation that I’m doing doesn’t get to staffing levels that would be germane to that,” Cuomo said. “But it’s not going to be a budget issue. If the state goes ahead with fracking, then it’ll do it properly. If we do it, we’re going to have the money to pay the staff to do it right.”

Independent Oil and Gas Association of New York spokesman Jim Smith told NGI’s Shale Daily on Wednesday that the organization “didn’t expect the governor to mention anything about drilling revnues, or the DEC budget, in his speech yesterday. I’m sure [Cuomo’s staff] thought it was premature, and it probably would have started some chaos in Albany if he had done that.

“There’s plenty of opportunity for the DEC to ask the legislature for the funds, when and if it will need them. IOGA has supported the notion that DEC should be funded for this, and we have recommended ways to pay for the additional staffing through revenues that would be received through drilling activity — taxes, permit fees, etc.”

Last September, DEC Commissioner Joseph Martens asked state Department of Health Commissioner Nirav Shah to conduct a health impact analysis of fracking before the DEC wraps up a supplemental generic environmental impact statement (see Shale Daily, Sept. 24, 2012). The DEC filed for a 90-day extension when it became obvious that the health experts would not be done before a Nov. 29 deadline (see Shale Daily, Nov. 29, 2012).