By Jon Campbell
ALBANY, NY-- With New York's review of large-scale hydraulic fracturing in its 55th month, the state's proposed regulations for the process are set to expire Wednesday.
State regulators signaled earlier this month they would miss the deadline as they finish a review of fracking's potential health impacts and whether the proposed rules would do enough to protect against them. But the soon-to-be-missed due date sparked another round of criticism from gas-drilling supporters and calls from opponents to open the review to the public.
"From the start, (Governor) Andrew Cuomo has tried to have it both ways on hydrofracking: simultaneously appeasing his radical environmentalist base while ostensibly appearing business-friendly," said state Republican Party Chairman Ed Cox, who sits on the board of oil-and-gas company Noble Energy.
"But by allowing politics to dominate what should have been a business decision, Andrew Cuomo has killed the competitive development of New York's natural gas reserves."
Missing the deadline means the state would have to re-propose the regulations, which would require a public hearing and a comment period of at least 45 days. State Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joseph Martens, however, signaled earlier this month that the state could move forward with fracking without formal regulations by placing conditions on each permit it issues, but only if the health review doesn't raise major objections.
Meanwhile, major environmental and health groups, including the American Lung Association of NY, have a news conference planned for Wednesday in Albany where they will call on the state to wait for three outside health studies to be completed before finalizing its own review. State Health Commissioner Nirav Shah has said he will receive briefings on the three studies -- from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the University of Pennsylvania and Geisinger Health System -- but none are expected to be completed this year.
This month, Shah said his review of fracking would be completed in "a few weeks." High-volume fracking has been on hold since July 2008, when the state first launched an environmental review of the technique used to unlock gas from shale formations, such as the Marcellus Shale in the Southern Tier.