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3:51 pm
Fri November 30, 2012

DEC Says No Fracking Decision Before Health Review is Done

The Cuomo Administration says it won’t be ruling on whether to allow hydro fracking in New York until an on going health review is finished.  The delays have resulted in the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation having to open another public comment period, which begins December 12th.

The environmental agency says it missed the November 29th deadline to finish setting rules for fracking, in order to allow more time for the state’s Health Commissioner to complete a review of health impact data. The Health Commissioner, Dr. Nirav Shah is studying the material , with the help of three outside experts hired by the state. A spokeswoman for the DEC, Emily DeSantis,  says no decisions will be made on fracking until the health review is done, and that’s why the rule making process has been extended for another 90 days.

“DEC will not take any final action or make any decision regarding hydraulic fracturing until after Dr. Shah’s health review is completed and DEC, through the environmental impact statement, is satisfied that this activity can be done safely in New York State,” DeSantis said, in a statement.

Part of the extension requires a new public comment period. Environmental groups plan to weigh in. Katherine Nadeau of Environmental Advocates says there’s still plenty to discuss.

“The previous round of regulations and the environmental review didn’t go nearly far enough to protect New York’s water and New York’s air in our communities,” Nadeau said.

The Independent Oil and Gas Association, the  lobby group for the state’s gas and oil companies say they are still going through the voluminous revised regulations, but also plan to submit comments.

DEC full statment:

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation DEC has filed a Notice of Continuation with the Department of State to extend the rulemaking process by 90 days in order to give New York State Commissioner of Health, Dr. Nirav Shah, time to complete his review of the draft Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement. This extension is necessary, in part, because Commissioner Martens requested and Dr. Shah agreed to provide an additional review, in consultation with outside experts, of whether DEC has adequately addressed potential impacts to public health.  This filing with the Department of State merely extends the rulemaking period to enable Dr. Shah to complete his review and DEC time to take into account the results of Dr. Shah’s review and continue to consider the potential impacts of high-volume hydraulic fracturing.

In order to receive the needed extension, DEC was required by law to refile the draft regulations along with responses to public comments received during the public comment period, and preliminary revisions, responsive to those comments. The refiled rule does not reflect current DEC policy with respect to whether or not hydraulic fracturing can be done safely in New York. That determination will be based on the findings of the environmental impact statement and Dr. Shah’s public health review of that document.

DEC will not take any final action or make any decision regarding hydraulic fracturing until after Dr. Shah’s health review is completed and DEC, through the environmental impact statement, is satisfied that this activity can be done safely in New York State.

If DEC decides that hydraulic fracturing cannot be safely done in New York, these regulations will not have any practical effect and the process will not go forward. If DEC decides that the process can be done safely, these regulations would be adjusted in accordance with the health and safety requirements and issues addressed in the Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement.

Response from Katherine Nadeau, Environmental Advocates:

The idea that this extension was necessary is nonsense.  DEC blames the extension on needing time to do the health review when they could have continued doing the health review without imposing an artificial deadline. 

But instead the administration is attempting to force the public to respond to inadequate draft regulations when if they're going to live up to their promises there will need to be another set of revised regs following the release of the health study anyway.  We hope and expect that the administration will realize the process they're engaged in is absurd and that the science needs to drive the decision, not artificial deadlines.

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