Is NY Planning to Delay Fracking?

In another twist in the hydraulic fracturing decision-making process in New York, the state may postpone a decision on whether to allow shale gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing until 2013.

So, it looks like New York anglers may be able to breathe a sigh of relief that shale gas drilling won’t be happening near their favorite trout streams any time soon.

When New York state released its draft high-volume hydraulic fracturing regulations last fall, it held four public hearings—the last of which was held on November 29.  Unless the agency issues its final regulations within one year of the last hearing date, the regulations will expire and the state will have to initiate a new rulemaking process.  While the state may ask for a 90-day extension, a story in today's New York Times indicates that New York officials may be planning to delay a decision on one of the state’s biggest environmental issues in recent years.

Why the delay?  Recently, Joe Martens, the commissioner of the New York Department of Environmental Conservation, asked the state’s Department of Health to conduct a study of the impacts of fracking on public health.  In doing so, Martens said the state would not issue a final decision on whether to permit hydraulic fracturing until the health study was completed.

Trout Unlimited has long advocated that strong regulations must be in place to protect native and wild trout streams, before shale gas drilling is allowed to begin in New York.  By allowing ample time to conduct the health impact study, review its findings and make changes to its proposed regulations, the state is taking the regulation of gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing seriously.

Let’s hope that this is a good sign that if – or when – drilling is allowed to proceed in New York, the state will have the appropriate protections in place for coldwater resources, and for the health of our many TU members and other anglers who spend countless hours fishing in New York’s fabled streams.

--Katy Dunlap, Director of TU's Eastern Water Project



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