In an effort to avoid having to restart the process from square one, the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) will file for a 90-day extension on Thursday to finalize rules governing high-volume hydraulic fracturing (HVHF).

The news comes one week after Gov. Andrew Cuomo conceded that the state Department of Health (DOH) would not complete a requested health impact analysis of the practice before a deadline Thursday (see Shale Daily, Nov. 21). DEC Commissioner Joseph Martens had asked the DOH to conduct a health impact analysis of HVHF before the DEC wraps up a supplemental generic environmental impact statement (SGEIS) on HVHF (see Shale Daily, Sept. 24).

“[We] will file a notice for a 90-day extension allowed by state law to continue to work as [DOH Commissioner Nirav] Shah’s health review of the SGEIS comes to completion,” DEC spokeswoman Emily DeSantis told NGI’s Shale Daily on Wednesday.

DeSantis said the extension will include a 30-day public comment period, which would begin after the revised draft regulations are released. The last of four public hearings on the proposed rules was held Nov. 30. Under state law, the DEC had one year after the last hearing to finalize the rules.

Cuomo had been expected to issue final recommendations on whether the state would allow high-volume drilling to restart after the DEC had completed its public review, which has been ongoing for more than a year (see Shale Daily, Dec. 1, 2011; Sept. 29, 2011; Sept. 8, 2011).

“Given [Cuomo’s] decision to conduct a health review on hydraulic fracturing, DEC’s move to extend by 90 days the implementation of regulations guiding this job-creating practice is a fair and appropriate step,” Karen Moreau, executive director of the New York State Petroleum Council, told NGI’s Shale Daily on Wednesday. “We hope and trust that the end of this decision-making process is now firmly in sight, and know that once it is done, the economic renewal of the Southern Tier is just around the corner.

“We know that safe natural gas development can create thousands of jobs, save family farms and lift entire communities because it has happened just across the border in Pennsylvania. We know that it can be done safely, consistent with protecting water, land and public health, because that is the track record around the country. We remain confident, even convinced, that the State will make the right decision for the people of the Southern Tier and all of New York state by finally allowing safe natural gas development to move forward when this extension is completed.”

Brad Gill, executive director of the Independent Oil & Gas Association of New York, concurred.

“While we are extremely disappointed the state has missed the Nov. 29 deadline to release regulations governing future natural gas exploration in New York, we remain optimistic that the door is still open and that the state may soon begin to experience the benefits that safe development is bringing to many other areas of the country,” Gill told NGI’s Shale Daily on Wednesday. “We urge the state to complete the review process as soon as possible. The small businesses that make up our industry in New York are hurting needlessly, and many Southern Tier families are relying on the state to end these delays.”