Two municipalities in upstate New York have decided to remain neutral on the issue of high-volume hydraulic fracturing (HVHF) and will wait until the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) issues its report on the practice.

On Wednesday board members in Caton, located in Steuben County, voted unanimously against adopting a pro-drilling resolution submitted by the Steuben County Landowners Coalition.

“I think the only right answer, as far as the town trying to make a statement as one unit, is the neutral statement,” Caton Town Supervisor Kate Hughes told WETM-TV. “We don’t have a mandate from either side to go strongly in one direction or the other.”

Meanwhile, council members in Oxford, in Chenango County, were considering either a one- or two-year moratorium on HVHF but have tabled the measure after about 30 people spoke about the issue at a board meeting Wednesday night.

“We made no decision,” Oxford Town Councilman Alan Davis said Friday. “We’re waiting for the DEC to get out there with their final regulations, see what they say and go from there.”

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is reportedly close to publicly endorsing HVHF, perhaps before Labor Day (see Shale Daily, Aug. 8). The governor could also unveil a plan to allow HVHF on a limited scale initially, but under strict regulation by the DEC and only in localities that welcome it.

In June Cuomo administration officials hinted that HVHF could first be allowed in five counties along the Pennsylvania border — including Chenango and Steuben counties — provided the DEC grants regulatory approval (see Shale Daily, June 14). Meanwhile, local governments across the state have been choosing sides in the fracking debate (see Shale Daily, June 6; June 4; May 22).

DEC regulators are working to complete the final version of a supplemental generic environmental impact statement (SGEIS) on HVHF, with plans to release its findings by the end of the year. The DEC could also unveil a set of regulations for the practice.

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.