State delays fracking decision

Feb 13, 2013

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ALBANY – The state has decided to hold off on issuing a decision on whether to allow hydrofracking, instead announcing that because of the complexities of the issues, they will require more time to study.

“The Department of Health’s Public Health Review, which was undertaken at my request, is important to our consideration of high-volume hydraulic fracturing and I will not issue a final SGEIS until that review is complete and I have received Dr. (Nirav) Shah’s recommendations,” said State EnCon Commissioner Joe Martens. He said Shah expects his review to be completed in a few weeks after he has reviewed recent studies which are pertinent to the evaluation of fracking impacts on public health.

Catskill Mountainkeeper, one of the organizations that have been pushing for more study before a decision is made, is glad to hear of the delay.

Program Manager Wesley Gillingham said the large scale public outcry for more comprehensive study is the reason for the extension.

“Putting your voice out there in the mix and not just relying on elected officials to make decisions for us that influencing that, I think that’s what’s happened here and what that pressure has been is to look at the science”, Gillingham said.  “The groups from all over the place have seen saying look at the science, we need to look at the health impacts, and that’s what they have decided to do.”

Earthjustice Managing Attorney Deborah Goldberg said the delay is warranted. “The stakes are too high and the consequences are too serious, as our neighbors in Pennsylvania know only too well,” she said. State officials “chose wisely” to hold off on a decision pending full study of public health impacts of the process.

Riverkeeper Paul Gallay also applauded the decision to postpone. But he said his organization does not agree with Martens “that DEC may issue fracking permits without first implementing protective regulations.”