New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the state will miss a Nov. 29 deadline for revised rules governing high-volume hydraulic fracturing (HVHF), a development that should reopen the rulemaking process to at least one public hearing.
In an interview Tuesday on Talk 1300-AM radio in Albany, Cuomo said he didn’t think a three-member panel of health experts — hired by the state Department of Health (DOH) to conduct a health impact analysis of HVHF (see Shale Daily, Nov. 19) — would finish their work by the deadline.
“I don’t see how they’re going to make a deadline by next week and do it properly,” Cuomo said. “I understand that this is a process that’s been going on a long time. We want a proper process [and] we want it as expeditiously as possible. But I don’t see how we get it done by next week.”
In a letter to Cuomo on Monday, the Independent Oil & Gas Association of New York (IOGA) urged the governor to avoid further delays and release the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s (DEC) supplemental generic environmental impact statement (SGEIS) on HVHF.
“Our member companies are now well past the tipping point, and our trust in our state government now exhausted,” said IOGA Executive Director Brad Gill. “Our companies — good employers with good jobs paying good salaries — have labored to maintain a presence in New York during this prolonged delay, but many have lost employees and opportunity to other states. Most of our business owners have developed oil and natural gas, or provided goods and professional services to the industry in New York, for decades.
“They truly wonder what type of future they now have in this state. Our companies need a signal that their state government cares at all.”
Asked about the IOGA letter, Cuomo said, “They get paid to make an argument, and that’s what they do. Look, you have [an argument] on both sides: people need jobs, and people don’t want to be poisoned.”
Scott Kurkoski, an attorney with the Binghamton, NY, law offices of Levene Gouldin & Thompson LLP, was blunter.
“The circus continues in New York,” he told NGI’s Shale Daily on Tuesday. “It’s complicated. The entire SGEIS is not open for public comment, but the regulations that implement the SGEIS will be. So we’re going to have at least one more public hearing. We’re going to have written comments.”
Thomas West, an attorney for The West Firm PLLC in Albany, NY, who represents oil and gas companies, said it was “unfortunate that they’ve allowed the process to get out of control and get dragged out to this extent, but it doesn’t mean that they can’t start processing permits once they finish the SGEIS.
“This isn’t a disaster for the industry because you don’t need regulations to process permits once the SGEIS is complete. That’s the only impediment to the processing of permit applications. There is no legal reason why they need the rules regulations to be able to start processing permits in New York. But of course that will be up to the governor and the DEC as to whether they hold off development until they’ve done the rulemaking.”
DEC Commissioner Joseph Martens had asked the DOH to conduct a health impact analysis of HVHF in September (see Shale Daily, Sept. 24).
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). The last of four public hearings on the proposed rules was held Nov. 30. Under state law, DEC has one year after the last hearing to finalize the rules; a 90-day extension also may be filed.
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