ALBANY New York's top environmental regulator today said his agency has "absolutely no plans" to issue permits for shale-gas drilling during the state's fiscal year.
During a legislative budget hearing, Joseph Martens, commissioner of the Department of Environmental Conservation, was asked whether Gov. Andrew Cuomo's $137.2 billion spending proposal includes any money for the authorization of large-scale hydraulic fracturing, the technique used with shale-gas drilling that has been on hold in New York since 2008.
"None whatsoever," Martens said.
Assemblyman Robert Sweeney, D-Suffolk County, who chairs the chamber's Environmental Conservation Committee, followed up with Martens. He asked whether that was a sign the DEC's lengthy review of fracking -- known as the Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement -- would not be finalized in the near future.
"So does the absence of either revenue or appropriations mean that the department does not plan to finalize the Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement or issue permits during the fiscal year?" Sweeney asked.
Martens responded: "We have absolutely no plans to do so."
It wasn't immediately clear which fiscal year Martens and Sweeney were referring to. The current fiscal year ends March 31, while the next runs from April 1, 2014, through March 31, 2015. The DEC's review was first launched in July 2008, and now awaits the completion of a separate analysis by state Health Commissioner Nirav Shah.
Shah has given no indication when his work will be completed, and permits for shale-gas drilling remain on hold until then. The gas-rich Marcellus Shale covers a large swath of upstate, including the entire Southern Tier.
Martens' testimony was expected to continue through much of the morning.