Long Delay on Fracking Decision Expected

Written by Amy Gernon  |  03. October 2012

The Nov. 29 deadline for Gov. Cuomo’s administration to decide if it will allow hydrolauic fracturing and develop statewide regulations is fast approaching.  Many outlets now expect the governor to miss the deadline, which would require the state to begin drafting all new legislation.  The missed deadline would cause an indefinite delay in reaching any major decision because a period for public comment and a review by the Health Commissioner Nirav Shah.  Hydraulic fracturing has been blamed for damaging water sources miles away from drill sites. 

Critics of the governor argue that missing the deadline allows him to play “both sides of the fence.”  In late September, the Environmental Working Group sued the Governor’s office to fully disclose its plans to permit high volume hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling for shale gas.  The group argued that drillers were granted “behind-the-scenes” access to legislative, and claimed there were gaps in the scientific analysis of the project.  
The Cuomo administration has been studying the environmental impacts of fracking since its 2010 moratorium.  Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joseph Martens, who has said there has been no decision on whether the deadline will be missed, is currently working with the Department of Health to determine the scope of the health review. 
Critics from the other side are concerned that the state has already missed the most profitable years of gas drilling.  Natural gas prices have dropped by 80 percent, costing the state billions of dollars in land leasing, drilling rigs and royalties.  The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that the 141 trillion cubic feet which would power the country for six years.  Other estimates claim the gas trapped in the marcellus shale could actually reach a volume of 490 trillion cubic feet, enough for 20 years of energy for the entire country.  
Hydraulic fracturing, a process by which vast volumes of chemically treated water is pressurized and forced to break up the shale, and release the natural gas trapped in the rock.  Gov. Cuomo supports the rights of towns to ban fracking, and so far 20 towns in the state have done so.
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