Local and national environmental groups have taken out a full page ad in the Des Moines Register newspaper this week. The ad, promising Governor Andrew Cuomo that his choice, when it comes to hydrofracking, will now be "remembered forever." As Capital Tonight's Nick Reisman reports, Governor Cuomo shrugged off the ad, saying that the latest delay was not motivated by politics.
NEW YORK STATE -- New York's deadline to produce an environmental impact statement on the controversial natural gas extraction process hydrofracking came and went on Wednesday as the Department of Health says it needs to take a longer look at the health impacts. Governor Andrew Cuomo says he wants officials to take their time before coming to a decision on whether high-volume fracking can be allowed.
“I'm not going to rush anyone. This is too important to make a mistake. The Health Commissioner says he needs more time to come to an intelligent conclusion, then he needs more time to come to an intelligent conclusion,” Cuomo said.
Hydrofracking involves a mixture of sand, chemicals and water to extract natural gas from below ground. The energy industry says it could be a boon to the upstate region, especially the Southern Tier. But a vocal environmental movement has arisen to oppose fracking and its expansion into New York.
Cuomo said, “I want to take the emotion out of the fracking discussion and substitute facts and information.”
With the impact statement deadline gone and regulations not expected to be submitted this month, Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens said in a statement this week that permits for fracking could still be issued as the regulatory process is underway, should the health assessment deem the method safe. Environmental groups question the legality of that move.
“I think there's going to be pandemonium on the drill pad. I think there's substantially new regulations, new setbacks, new equipment requirements, new disclosure rules and I think there's going to be a constant battle over the regulator and the driller,” said Roger Downs of the Sierra Club.
But gas industry lawyer Tom West says it is legal for the state to move forward with hydrofracking permitting even as regulations are still be developed.
West said, “I think the permits that are being issued are going to inform the regulations. It will give them some experience. It will give them an opportunity to see how their recommendations work. If they're too tight or not tight enough and where things need to be improved. And that's really a better way for them to go about it.”
The Department of Health's report on the effects of hydrofracking is expected now in the coming weeks. An on-camera interview request with DEC Commissioner Joe Martens was refused.