NY Budget Hearing Draws Fracking Opponents as Feb. Deadline Approaches
New York's Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens met with state lawmakers for a budget hearing, which turned into a three-hour hydraulic fracturing discussion. The commissioner suggested Monday that the state may miss a Feb. 27 deadline to complete its proposed fracking regulations, further delaying the four-year review process.
If the Health Department recommends significant changes, the DEC process will be delayed by months. And if not finalized by the February deadline, DEC's proposed rules expire and would have to be reissued and subjected to another round of public comment.
At the hearing, Martens told legislators that there isn't a timetable for the Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement's (SGEIS) environmental review of fracking, reported the Albany Times Union. Martens said that DEC is still waiting for the Department of Health to finalize its public health review.
"Everybody was under the understanding that the SGEIS would be done in February. So are you saying that is not happening?" Senator Tony Avella (Queens Democrat) asked Martens at the hearing.
"I have to wait until I get the health report until we make any decisions about whether we move forward or not," Martens replied.
The room that housed the hearing was filled with fracking opponents holding signs and openly commenting to Martens testimony, as well as politicians that have long opposed the procedure.
Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton, from Ithaca, stated, "people are extremely unsusceptible, to say the least, about the ability of New York state or any other state … that this industry can be adequately regulated … It is in fact dirty – it isn't a clean fuel. New York shouldn't be another guinea pig."
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