New York’s top environmental regulator said Wednesday he’s hopeful the state will make a decision on large-scale hydrofracking by the end of February.
Joseph Martens, commissioner of the state Department of Environmental Conservation, said whether or not the state will be able to make a determination ahead of an end-of-February regulatory deadline will rely on when the state Department of Health can finish its review of the state’s proposals.
Last week, the DEC opted for a 90-day extension on a Nov. 29 deadline that would have caused its proposed hydrofracking regulations to expire. The agency could have opted to miss the deadline and restart the rule-making process—which would have given the DEC at least a year to finalize the proposals—but instead opted for the three-month extension.
When asked at a Wednesday cabinet meeting if the DEC’s decision to opt for an extension is a sign the state will be able to render a decision by the end of February, Cuomo deferred to Martens.
Asked if a decision on hydrofracking would come by the end of February, Martens said: “We hope so.”
High-volume hydrofracking was first put on hold by the DEC in July 2008, when its environmental review first kicked off.
In a later interview with Gannett’s Albany Bureau, Martens said the 90-day extension is in line with the Department of Health’s review is expected to be completed. Three academic experts have been tapped to assist with the health review; two of them have contacts with the state that run through Feb. 13.
“We’ll see when we get the Department of Health’s report,” Martens said in an interview with Gannett’s Albany Bureau. “It’s an extension. It seems to fit in timing-wise with the track we were on with the Department of Health.”
State Health Commissioner Nirav Shah declined to speak about the health review when approached following the cabinet meeting, telling a reporter he’s “not going to talk about things in progress.” When asked if he’s received any materials back from the outside experts, he said: “We’re having active conversations.”