Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s budget address later this afternoon is expected to have a focus on reviving the stagnant upstate economy. It won’t, however, include anything on hydraulic fracturing, the much-debated technique proponents have touted as a potential solution for the economically challenged Southern Tier.
Cuomo’s Department of Environmental Conservation faces a Feb. 27 deadline to finalize a set of proposed regulations for large-scale hydrofracking. But in order to meet that deadline, the agency may have to release a final version of a lengthy environmental review by Feb. 13. (Some lawyers, it should be noted, think the DEC could wait until Feb. 17.)
In a radio interview last week, Cuomo said he wouldn’t include money in his budget for fracking regulators. The DEC has acknowledged it needs additional regulators in order to police the gas industry if high-volume fracking is green-lighted in New York.
“The budget presentation that I’m doing doesn’t get to staffing levels that would be germane to that,” Cuomo said on The Capitol Pressroom, a public radio show. “But it’s not going to be a budget issue. If the state goes ahead with fracking, then it’ll do it properly. If we do it, we’re going to have the money to pay the staff to do it right.”
If you’re feeling a sense of deja vu, you’re not off base. Before last year’s budget presentation, Cuomo called fracking a “chicken and the egg situation” in relation to the budget.
“You would not be hiring staff to regulate hydrofracking unless you believed you were going ahead with hydrofracking,” Cuomo said in January 2012. “And we haven’t made that determination. So the budget won’t anticipate hydrofracking approval.”
The state first put fracking on hold in 2008 to launch an environmental review. Fracking permits can’t be issued until that review is finalized.
A Siena College poll last week found that opposition to fracking has grown in New York. A total of 44 percent of those polled said they opposed the technique, up from 36 percent the previous month.
Cuomo’s budget address is scheduled for 2 p.m. today.