ITHACA — New York State’s apparent decision to reboot its review of hydrofracking lends itself to football metaphors. But whether the Department of Environmental Conservation punted releasing a controversial decision on allowing fracking or decided to run out the clock, the delay of game is being lauded by the players.
Earthjustice, the legal organization that helped the town of Dryden defend its fracking ban against industry lawsuits, implied the likely 90-day extension could prevent the DEC from being hauled into court. One of the organization’s attorneys, Deborah Goldberg, told the Shale Gas Review the delay was “hugely important.”
Goldberg said public protest over the Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SGEIS) guidelines for issuing shale gas drilling permits and the state’s more formal regulations on fracking had become entangled and confused. By offering a new comment period with the DEC’s environmental impact analysis complete, the state can better develop fracking regulation “and might save itself some litigation.”
The threat of a lawsuit by activists was uppermost in the mind of DEC Commissioner Joseph Martens. Commenting on the state’s decision to study the potential health impacts of hydrofracking, Martens recently said the move would “ensure the strongest possible legal position for the Department given the near certainty of litigation.”
The Natural Resource Defense Council’s senior attorney Kate Sinding told Shale Gas Review’s Tom Wilbur the delay “provides the opportunity for the agencies to solicit the input of concerned statekeholders in the particular context of health impacts.” Environmental groups had complained they were shut out of the review process with the state listening more to industry representatives.
In a rare moment of humor from the industry, a representative for those wanting to drill in New York State said the DEC and Gov. Andrew Cuomo will eventually make a decision. “Hopefully sometime in my lifetime,” attorney Tom west told Gannet’s Jon Campell.