JLCNY In the News
October 09, 2012
drillNatural gas drilling in New York's Marcellus Shale could be delayed again, angering landowners and lessees looking to profit off the economic boom 'fracking' could bring to their districts.

Late last month the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation issued a statement that has left the possibility of meeting a crucial deadline in doubt, likely pushing the finalization of hydraulic fracturing regulations into next year.

The DEC has been sifting through approximately 80,000 public comments submitted to them as late as January, and they would likely be receiving many more if the rulemaking process restarts Nov. 29. That date, which marks one year from the final public hearing for the original fracking Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement, is the last day for the DEC to file final regulations without the regulatory process starting over in compliance with the State Administrative Procedures Act.

Emily DeSantis, a spokeswoman for the DEC, said the possibility of the process beginning anew is becoming increasingly more likely.

"Given that DEC has said no regulations or final decision will be issued until the completion of [New York State Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Nirav] Shah's review, should high-volume hydraulic fracturing move forward, it is expected that a new rulemaking process would be undertaken. That process is required to include a public comment period and a public hearing," DeSantis said in a statement from Sept. 28.

The law states the DEC now must hold at least one more hearing, and accept more public comments, if the deadline is not met. The DEC can file for a 90-day extension if it feels it can finalize regulations for the highly controversial drilling process. But DeSantis said she would not speculate on whether or not the DEC would choose to do so.

Speaking at a press conference in Syracuse last Tuesday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the soon to be delayed rule-making process is "no step back."

Although the elongation of the regulatory adoption process is not technically a step back, the road to fracking in New York state now has no clear end in sight.

Members of the Independent Oil and Gas Association of New York, made up of more than 400 members and approximately 5,000 employees, have had to look for work elsewhere, in other states, according to the organization's spokesman Jim Smith. He said previous delays already caused uncertainty about fracking plans in New York's future and that members had to act accordingly.

"For us, four and a half years, should have been sufficient enough," Smith said about the lengthy fracking debate in New York.

Smith said fracking regulations could have been adopted while then Gov. David Paterson was in office, and he said while the organization respects the DEC's attempt to ensure the protection of the environment, he wants regulatory clarity for his members about the future of drilling in New York state.

The attorney for the Apalachin Landowners Group, and 37 other members of the Joint Landowners Coalition, Scott Kurkoski said members are fed up with watching counties like Susquehanna, in Pennsylvania, prosper from economic growth from fracking, while Cuomo ignores the chance to bring jobs to upstate New York.

Kurkoski said lessees have been holding onto land for more than four and half years, waiting for the chance to participate in the economic boom fracking would create. "In our view the governor has paid a lot of attention to the Hollywood elites, and turned its back on New York," Kurkoski said.

Kurkoski said the new delay for fracking regulations is just another stalling tactic by those who oppose fracking. He said there will always be a new study that the other side requests before horizontal fracking is legal, but, his concern is that he believes the government is "buying in" to the strategy.

"We talk about the science. We want them to keep to the science. But it seems pretty clear to us that we're caught up in politics right now." Kurkoski said. "And apparently its politics as usual in New York."

Cuomo has said repeatedly he plans to let science determine the eventual outcome of whether New York allows fracking to happen inside state lines.

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