NY DEC Com. Joe Martens Now Says “If” Drilling is Allowed

On Tuesday, New York Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Joe Martens gave testimony at a legislative budget hearing in Albany about the department’s staffing needs for 2012. The conversation turned to the DEC’s lack of a request for additional staffing that would be needed to oversee permits and drilling for shale gas should hydraulic fracturing finally, after four years, be allowed in the state. Once again, Martens’ language is very telling. His responses have moved away from “when” to “if” fracking will be allowed:

New York’s environment commissioner told lawmakers Tuesday that the proposed state budget doesn’t include money for regulating hydraulic fracturing because it’s uncertain when — or if — the natural gas drilling technology will be allowed in the state.

Commissioner Joe Martens said at a legislative budget hearing that the Department of Environmental Conservation has almost 60 staffers working to review and respond to about 61,000 public comments submitted on the agency’s environmental review and proposed regulations for "fracking" in the Marcellus Shale. The state hasn’t allowed the controversial technology since the review started in 2008.

When Assemblyman Robert Sweeney asked whether the lack of any budget allocation for regulating shale gas drilling means no permits will be issued during the fiscal year that starts April 1, Martens said "It’s a bit theoretical at this point."

"It’s not a fait accompli that we will have a regulatory framework in place that will allow drilling to go forward this year," Martens said. "It’s also possible we could complete the process and that we could entertain applications," using existing staff.

Martens said if Marcellus gas development is allowed to go forward, the agency would need 140 new staffers to regulate the industry initially and possibly more than 200 by the fifth year.*

*Middletown (NY) Times Herald-Record (Feb 8, 2012) – ‘Fracking’ regs need work, official says