The deadline for New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to complete work on a supplemental generic environmental impact statement (SGEIS) on hydraulic fracturing (hydrofracking) may not be as rigid as some observers previously believed.

In July 2008 former Gov. David Paterson directed DEC to prepare the SGEIS, which effectively placed a moratorium on drilling horizontal wells in the New York portion of the Marcellus Shale (see NGI, July 28, 2008). In the closing days of his term in office, Paterson extended until July 1 the deadline for DEC to prepare the SGEIS (see NGI, Dec. 20, 2010).

But the executive order said only that the draft SGEIS should be completed “on or about June 1,” and would be followed by a comment period stipulated as “not less than 30 days,” according to DEC spokesman Michael Bopp.

That didn’t necessarily mean June 1 plus 30 days, Bopp told NGI.

The DEC expects work on the SGEIS “will be done this summer, [but] not by June 1,” he said. And there is no estimate of the time it will take to complete the comment period and any other necessary work.

“There’s only an estimated date for producing and making available to the public a revised draft SGEIS, and that is this summer…and it’s just going to take some time after that. There’s a comment period and then we’re obligated under the law to process those comments. We don’t know how many we’ll get or what they’ll say, so we really can’t predict the next iteration of the plan — or the final plan — until we know what kind of feedback we get.”

In February DEC Commissioner Joe Martens said the agency’s updated draft regulations could be completed in June, slightly ahead of schedule (see NGI, Feb. 14). At that time more than 13,000 comments had been received by the DEC regarding the SGEIS and about 85% of the comments had been addressed, he said.

Last year, before he was nominated to lead the DEC, Martens suggested that the state should wait until an Environmental Protection Agency study on hydrofracking was completed before implementing rules for New York drillers (see NGI, Jan. 10).

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