It looks like the state may not make its deadline for finalizing fracking regulations (draft regulations are here). But it could begin reviewing well permit applications after it finalizes an environmental statement on the extraction technique.
Today, state Health Department Commissioner Nirav Shah sent a letter to Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens, saying he wants more time to study the health impacts of fracking. In September, Martens asked Shah to conduct the review. In the letter, which is attached below, Shah says he anticipates submitting the completed review within a few weeks.
The DEC faces a February 27 deadline to finalize high-volume hydraulic fracturing regulations. But in order to do that, the department must first finalize its environmental impact statement on fracking and publish a findings statement in the Environmental Notice Bulletin. That would have to happen no later than February 17.
In a statement sent out this afternoon, Martens says the department will not issue the final environmental statement — officially called the supplemental generic environmental impact statement — until the health review is completed. But he also said that the department could begin reviewing well permits without the final regulations in place. From the statement:
However, this does not mean that the issuance of permits for high-volume hydraulic fracturing would be delayed. If the DOH public health review finds that the SGEIS has adequately addressed health concerns, and I adopt the SGEIS on that basis, DEC can accept and process high-volume hydraulic fracturing permit applications 10 days after issuance of the SGEIS. The regulations simply codify the program requirements.
If, on the other hand, the DOH review finds that there is a public health concern that has not been assessed in the SGEIS or properly mitigated, we would not proceed, as I have stated in the past.
In either event, the science, not emotion, will determine the outcome.