After previously indicating his agency anticipated high-volume hydraulic fracturing to begin at some point next year, the state’s top environmental regulator said Tuesday it’s “hard to predict” whether that’s going to happen.
Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joseph Martens said an agency panel will need more time to come up with a new fee structure for gas drillers. The panel’s state-level recommendations had initially been expected next month, but a procedural change will likely push them back.
When asked if hydrofracking will begin in 2012, Martens didn’t make a prognostication.
“It is really hard to predict,” Martens said. “We have a lot of work left to do.”
“When we’re ready and when we have a really firm set of recommendations from the panel, we’ll figure out how to move from there.”
Originally, the 18-member panel was tasked with coming up with a pair of reports: one that made recommendations on how the state could pay for additional regulatory resources through fees and other methods, and another that looked at local government costs.
Now, the group has asked to combine those reports into one because the state and local costs go hand in hand and it was too difficult to separate them, according to panel members.
Martens said it was “unlikely” the panel would have its recommendations finished by the time Gov. Andrew Cuomo puts out his budget proposal early next year. The panel has meetings scheduled through January, when Cuomo makes his budget address.
“We’re asking the advisory panel to look at both issues simultaneously, come up with one report, one recommendation, which we hope they will have sometime next year,” he said. “There is no firm timetable. We’re going to be informed by them about what they need.”
The advisory committee is made up of representatives from industry and environmental groups, as well as a pair of state lawmakers and local officials.
High-volume hydrofracking – which involves a high-pressure mix of water, sand and chemicals injected into gas-rich shale formations — has been on hold in New York ever since the DEC launched an environmental review in 2008.