As the state of New York missed last Wednesday’s deadline to create regulations for high-volume hydraulic fracturing (HVHF), supporters and opponents of the practice took aim at Gov. Andrew Cuomo, anti-fracking lawmakers sought a one-year moratorium, and a landowners group said it would sue the state over the delay.
Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Joseph Martens essentially conceded on Feb. 12 that his agency would miss the deadline to complete its supplemental generic environmental impact statement (SGEIS) on HVHF (see NGI, Feb. 18). Two weeks later, the lapse didn’t appear to surprise anyone in the fracking debate.
“From the start, Andrew Cuomo has tried to have it both ways on [HVHF]: simultaneously appeasing his radical environmentalist base while ostensibly appearing business-friendly,” New York Republican Party Chairman Edward Cox said. “But by allowing politics to dominate what should have been a business decision, Andrew Cuomo has killed the competitive development of New York’s natural gas reserves.”
In a letter to Cuomo, HVHF opponents cited Department of Health (DOH) Commissioner Nirav Shah’s statement on Feb. 12 that his health impact analysis should incorporate the findings of three competing studies on the drilling stimulation practice. They also want the DOH’s health impact analysis opened to public comment and participation, and a comprehensive health impact assessment (HIA) on HVHF by an independent entity.
Martens asked Shah to conduct a health impact analysis on HVHF last September (see NGI, Sept. 24, 2012). In a Feb. 12 letter to Martens, Shah said his panel of experts should complete their work “within a few weeks.”
Although it is widely held that any regulations ultimately proposed by the DEC would be subject to a 45-day public comment period and possibly public hearings, Martens said earlier this month the DEC may still decide to move forward and process HVHF permit applications 10 days after the SGEIS is issued. “On background, there is nothing new to report since the commissioner’s statement a couple weeks ago,” DEC spokeswoman Emily DeSantis told NGI.
Last Tuesday, New York Assembly lawmakers introduced A5424, a shortly worded bill that calls for a one-year moratorium on HVHF and a ban on its permitting until May 15, 2014. The bill was referred to the Environmental Conservation Committee.
Jim Smith, spokesman for the Independent Oil & Gas Association of New York (IOGA), told NGI that the organization wasn’t surprised the deadline passed with no new developments, and rejected calls for a moratorium. “We’ve had five years to do this, that’s enough time,” he said.
The Joint Landowners Coalition of New York Inc. (JLCNY) decided to take its frustration one step further and said it would move forward with a lawsuit against the state, on the grounds that Albany is taking its property rights. JLCNY released a letter seeking landowner candidates to serve as plaintiffs in the action.
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