NY Gov. Cuomo Signals Drilling Not Likely to Happen in 2012

Andrew CuomoAlthough pro-drilling groups in New York are attempting to put a positive face on it, yesterday NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the state has not yet made a determination on whether fracking will be allowed. Not “when” it will be allowed, but “whether” it will be allowed. He said, “We haven’t made that determination.” His remarks in context were about whether the state will add funding in this year’s budget (being released today) for an estimated 140 regulators that would be needed if fracking were to begin.

At a minimum, it seems Cuomo is saying that fracking won’t be a resolved issue during this budget year, although his remarks are not exactly clear.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s budget proposal will not include any funding for additional gas-drilling regulators, he said Monday.

Speaking after a Martin Luther King Jr. remembrance ceremony, Cuomo told reporters he won’t move to add the appropriate staff until the state Department of Environmental Conservation determines whether to allow high-volume hydraulic fracturing in New York.

It’s a "chicken and the egg" situation, Cuomo said.

"You would not be hiring staff to regulate hydrofracking unless you believed you were going ahead with hydrofracking," Cuomo said. "And we haven’t made that determination. So the budget won’t anticipate hydrofracking approval."

The DEC has estimated that it would need 140 additional staff members to properly regulate hydrofracking in the first year it is allowed. By the fifth year, that number would grow to 226.

Environmental groups were heartened Monday by Cuomo’s decision, while a gas-industry trade group called it "understandable."

"It’s hopeful, because it’s a sign that the administration recognizes that we’re not ready," said William Cooke, government relations director for Citizens Campaign for the Environment. "There’s no point in putting monies in the budget when obviously, in the year 2012, there’s not going to be a resolution to this issue."(1)

Another version of the same Gannett story includes this further comment from Cuomo, indicating he hasn’t closed the door on drilling just yet.

Cuomo said the state will make sure to have the right amount of regulators if the DEC ultimately determines hydrofracking can be done safely.

"If you make a decision down the road to go forward, then the state would do it appropriately and we would have the staff and the resources to do it," he said.(2)

“If you make a decision,” “unless you believed you were going ahead,” “haven’t made that determination,” “won’t anticipate hydrofracking approval,” is not the language of ringing support that landowners and drillers want to hear. Let’s hope it’s just cautious politician-speak.

(1) Ithaca Journal (Jan 17, 2012) – Cuomo: No hydrofracking funds in budget proposal

(2) Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin (Jan 17, 2012) – Cuomo: No hydrofracking funds in budget proposal