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The Berkshires

State expected to miss deadline for hydrofracking proposal

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Albany/HV: State expected to miss deadline for hydrofracking proposal
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The Department of Environmental Conservation faces a big deadline this week for its hydrofracking review. But the agency will not be able to get things done in time, in part because of the decision to add in a public health element. And that means it is going to be even longer before a final decision is reached. Our Nick Reisman takes a look at the review process, and what happens next.

ALBANY, N.Y. -- With the state due to miss Thursday's deadline to complete a proposed regulations for hydrofracking, environmental groups opposed to the process and industry groups who back it are wondering what's next.

Sierra Club Associate Roger Downs said, "They can extend the regulatory review for 90 days, which will mean that they will have to put out their draft revisions for the public to see and give them 30 days to comment on it, or they could let the whole process expire and really let the information drive the process."

Governor Andrew Cuomo announced last week that an extended review of the health effects of the controversial natural gas extraction process will push the state through the deadline. That could prolong the regulatory review of hydrofracking for another year.

Governor Cuomo said, "That process is going to be going on. They’re not going to get that done within the next week. But it is very important. This is a big decision for the state. It has potential economic benefits if the state goes forward with fracking, but we want to make sure that it’s safe and we want to make sure that the environment is protected and people are protected."

The Department of Health and the Department of Environmental Conservation are turning to a panel of advisors and environmental experts to assess the impacts of fracking on people, water and land. Environmental groups are unsure what the role the advisors actually will play.

Downs said, "We're concerned that they're not given the tools or the information they need to make the proper determination, and at this point it's been incredibly foggy as to what they're going to be doing, what they're going to be looking at how much influence they'll have over the process."

For the natural gas industry that wants the state allow high-volume hydrofracking, frustration is evident.

In an open letter to Cuomo sent last week, Independent Oil and Gas Association Executive Director Brad Gill wrote, "Our member companies are now well past the tipping point, and our trust in our state government now exhausted. Most of our business owners have developed oil and natural gas - or provided goods and professional services to the industry in New York - for decades. They truly wonder what type of future they now have in this state."

The advisory panel for the Department of Health is expected to reach their own findings on the health impacts of fracking by February.

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