New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Joseph Martens said there currently is no timeline for a decision on whether hydraulic fracturing (fracking) will be permitted in the Empire State’s portions of the Marcellus and Utica shales, but he predicted a long summer of work ahead.

According to media reports, Martens told attendees of a Business Council conference in Albany on Thursday there wasn’t a specific date for when the DEC will issue the final version of its supplemental generic environmental impact statement (SGEIS) on fracking, which will serve as the regulatory framework for the practice.

“It’s a very long and tedious process,” Martens said. “We hope over the course of the summer, perhaps we’ll complete the process.”

DEC spokeswoman Emily DeSantis confirmed Martens’ comments and told NGI’s Shale Daily the agency has received more than 66,700 public comments on the SGEIS. “It will be this year, but beyond that there is no more specific time frame,” DeSantis said about the decision.

In separate rulings earlier this year, county judges have upheld local ordinances that ban fracking in two municipalities — the Town of Middlefield in Otsego County, and the Town of Dryden in Tompkins County — on the grounds that they are not preempted by state law (see Shale Daily, Feb. 29; Feb. 23). Both decisions are expected to be appealed.

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.