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Proposed fracking rules issued; further changes likely coming

By Fritz Mayer
December 5, 2012

ALBANY, NY — When state environmental officials filed for a 90-day extension to the fracking rule-making process on November 29, by law they also had to issue the revised rules as they then existed for public review and comment. The revised rules for hydraulic fracturing were published on the website of the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) (www.dec.ny.gov/regulations/77353.html) on November 30.

The move is intended to allow NYS Health Commissioner Dr. Nirav Shah time to complete the review of health impacts of hydraulic fracturing that he is conducting with the aid of three outside experts. A statement on the site says, “The re-filed rule does not reflect current DEC policy with respect to whether or not hydraulic fracturing can be done safely in New York. That determination will be based on the findings of the environmental impact statement and Commissioner of Health Dr. Nirav Shah’s public health review of that document.”

Despite that, some environmentalists have been critical of the process.

Kate Sinding, a senior attorney with National Resources Defense Council, said, “By applying for an extension they’re forcing themselves to issue revised rules before they have the benefit of the health review, which doesn’t make any sense at all. What they should be doing is letting the deadline expire, and finish the health review. The governor has repeatedly said he’s going to let the process unfold properly and let science dictate the outcome; so let that happen. If at the end of that review they decide they need to make revisions to their regulations, they can issue those at that point, and the only difference between doing that and filing this 90-day extension is that they’d have to give an extra 15 days for public review and comment.”

The Hudson River-based Riverkeeper also found fault with the process. Kate Hudson, watershed program director at Riverkeeper, said, “What needs to be made clear is what DEC did yesterday was to file a completely revised set of fracking regulations without the benefit of vital health and environmental impact information. These regulations will be open for public comment for only 30 days beginning on December 12. Neither the health nor environmental study will be completed before public comment on the revised regulations closes. This is not a request for an extension; this is the fracking regulation train leaving the station.”