New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens suggested Monday that the state may miss a February 27 deadline to complete its proposed fracking regulations. And that could stall a decision on gas drilling for months.
At a budget hearing Martens told legislators that there’s no timetable for his agency’s environmental review of fracking, known as the Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (SGEIS).
He says the DEC is still waiting for the state Department of Health to finalize its public health review.
Senator Tony Avella (D-Queens), an outspoken opponent of fracking, grilled Martens and criticized the agency for not handling the issue well.
“Everybody was under the understanding that the SGEIS would be done in February. So are you saying that is not happening?” Avella asked.
“I have to wait until I get the health report until we make any decisions about whether we move forward or not," Martens replied.
The room was packed with fracking opponents holding signs. They cheered and hissed at Martens as several other Democratic lawmakers questioned him.
“I’ve read the reports, and it just seems that it glosses over a lot of these issues, and I am trying to find answers to them," said Senator Terry Gipson (D-Poughkeepsie) as the crowd cheered.
Industry groups on the other hand, have complained that the DEC’s four-year review process has taken far too long.
Meanwhile, the governor’s budget proposal doesn’t allocate any additional funding to deal with gas well permits, and Martens stressed that if fracking is allowed, it will be a slow process.
“We are not gonna invite thousands of wells into New York simultaneously or overnight,” Martens said.