The Department of Health is in negotiations with outside experts to help assess the state’s report on shale-gas drilling and is expected to reach a contract agreement “soon,” according to New York’s top environmental regulator.
Joseph Martens, commissioner of the state Department of Environmental Conservation, told reporters Friday that the specifics of the health review are still being figured out. It is “to be determined” if that review will be completed before Nov. 29, a key deadline that—if missed—would require the DEC to reopen its proposed hydrofracking regulations to public comment.
Martens announced last month that state Health Commissioner Nirav Shah would assemble a panel of experts to review the DEC’s report on hydrofracking. That report, a set of permitting guidelines known as the Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement, has to be finalized before permits for large-scale hydrofracking can be issued in New York. It was first launched more than four years ago.
“We still don’t have contracts with (the outside experts) yet so it’s not 100 percent certain at this point what the exact scope is going to be, but they’re going to review the health portions of the SGEIS and how we’ve addressed health impacts in the mitigation measures,” Martens said Friday after speaking at a Business Council conference.
A final report on the DEC’s steps for preventing health impacts from shale-gas drilling will be prepared by Shah, Martens said. He declined to say whether he believes the DEC will hit the Nov. 29 deadline to finalize its regulations, but did say that it’s “possible.”
“That all depends on whether we finalize things sooner rather than later,” Martens said. “If we finalize them later, then we may have to go back for public comment. It really depends.”
Here’s video of Martens’ chat with reporters: