The state’s de facto moratorium on large-scale hydrofracking appears poised to extend into 2015.
Joseph Martens, the state’s chief environmental regulator, told reporters Monday that it is “extremely unlikely” any permits for high-volume fracking will be issued before the end of March 2015, the close of the state’s 2014-15 fiscal year.
He was clarifying a remark made during a legislative budget hearing earlier in the day, when he said the Department of Environmental Conservation has “absolutely no plans” to issue fracking permits in response to a question about the lack of gas-drilling revenue included in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s budget proposal.
“I would say it’s a good indication, because there’s no funds in the proposed executive budget for ‘14-15, that we will not be issuing permits in the fiscal year,” Martens told reporters. “It’s extremely unlikely. We have no plans to.”
New York first put high-volume fracking—a technique used to help draw gas from underground formations like the Marcellus Shale—on hold in July 2008, when the DEC launched a lengthy environmental review that is meant to guide the permitting process. A de facto moratorium on shale-gas drilling has remained in place since, awaiting the completion of the DEC’s review.
But the finalization of the DEC’s review, known as the Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement, now awaits the completion of a separate analysis by state Health Commissioner Nirav Shah. The health review was launched in September 2012, and Shah has given no indication of when his work will be completed.
“Until Dr. Shah finishes his review, we won’t be proceeding with (high-volume hydrofracking),” Martens said. “We just await his recommendations, and there’s no timetable for that recommendation.”
The state has set numerous timelines for completion of the SGEIS, dating back to before Cuomo took office in 2011.
In November, Cuomo said he expected a decision on fracking would be made before Election Day 2014. He later walked that back a bit, saying his timeline is “whatever Commissioner Shah needs to do it right and feel comfortable.”