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Following Criticism, DEC Tries to Clear the Air on Fracking

Posted By Jon Campbell On November 30, 2012 @ 1:14 pm In Other | Comments Disabled

The Department of Environmental Conservation has drawn grief in recent days related to a decision to extend a key regulatory deadline for hydrofracking by 90 days.

Environmentalists say the agency has put the cart before the horse [1], so to speak, by issuing a newly revised set of regulations for the gas-extraction process before a much-anticipated health review [2] is completed and released. Reporters and lobbyists, meanwhile, groused publicly and privately over DEC posting those new proposals on their website [3] late yesterday with little explanation and no formal news release.

Today, the DEC is finally attempting to clear the air.

DEC spokeswoman Emily DeSantis issued a four-paragraph statement today that seeks to clarify the steps the agency is taking in the complicated rule-making process. The statement is due to be posted on the DEC’s website [3], she said.

Specifically, she stresses that no decisions have been made regarding whether to allow large-scale hydrofracking to proceed in New York. The technique has been on hold in New York since 2008, when the DEC first launched a still-unfinished environmental review, known as the Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement [4].

“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,” DeSantis said. “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.”

The newly proposed regulations, which were posted here yesterday, would allow high-volume hydrofracking to move forward with restrictions on where wells can be placed and other safety measures in place. But DeSantis said that shouldn’t reflect the DEC’s current position.

“The refiled rule does not reflect current DEC policy with respect to whether or not hydraulic fracturing can be done safely in New York,” she said in the statement. “That determination will be based on the findings of the environmental impact statement and (Health Commissioner Nirav Shah’s) public health review of that document.”

Here’s the full statement from DeSantis:

“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.”


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URL to article: http://statepolitics.lohudblogs.com/2012/11/30/following-criticism-dec-tries-to-clear-the-air-on-fracking/

URLs in this post:

[1] say the agency has put the cart before the horse: http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/ksinding/putting_the_sled_before_the_re.html

[2] a much-anticipated health review: http://polhudson.lohudblogs.com/2012/11/15/state-taps-experts-for-hydrofracking-review/

[3] new proposals on their website: http://www.dec.ny.gov/regulations/77353.html

[4] as the Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement: http://www.dec.ny.gov/energy/75370.html