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Fracking for Natural Gas Underneath NY Delayed

October 27, 2011

ALBANY, N.Y. - The state Department of Environmental Conservation has indicated it will not meet a deadline for an advisory report on fracking. As a result, the expectation that drilling permits would be issued next year seems in doubt.

Commissioner Joe Martens said a DEC advisory panel will miss its Tuesday deadline for a report - likely by months.

Bridget Lee, an Earthjustice associate attorney, is among critics of the process for extracting natural gas - which risks contaminating water - who welcomed the news.

"Gov. (Andrew) Cuomo and the state are showing a willingness to slow the rush to drill and allow the impacts of fracking to be fully considered."

Brad Gill, executive director of the Independent Oil & Gas Association of New York, says it would be prudent to wait until all the information is in, but remains optimistic that drilling will start next year. Hydraulic fracturing - or fracking - uses pressurized water and chemicals. Gill says natural gas is a safe, efficient and environmentally sound industry, and sees permits being issued for fracking in 2012.

"The short answer to that is I hope so. The industry certainly is of the opinion that we've waited long enough. This thing has been looked for over three years now."

Lee says Earthjustice continues to call for more opportunity for public participation.

"What we'd like to see happen is, first off, DEC extend the comment period and allow the public an additional 90 days to review this over-1,500-page document and submit comments on it."

Gill remains hopeful fracking will get the green light.

"The panel should complete its work in a timely manner, and we certainly hope that 2012 will see permits flowing and wells drilled."

A statewide Quinnipiac poll last month showed 54 percent of upstate voters in proposed drilling areas are growing more concerned about the environmental and public-health impacts of fracking.

Mark Scheerer, Public News Service - NY