NY Fracking Advisory Panel Work Grinds to Halt

no work zoneAs part of the process to enact new drilling regulations in New York State, Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Joe Martens appointed a Hydraulic Fracturing Advisory Panel last July to make recommendations to the DEC on how to oversee, monitor and enforce new shale drilling regulations in the state (see this MDN story for background). An important part of the panel’s duty is to craft a new fee structure to generate state revenue from a potential gas-drilling boom. But the work of the panel has now ground to halt.

The panel hasn’t met since Dec. 20, and two January meetings were canceled. Since its launch in August, it has met a total of six times behind closed doors and postponed four meetings.

The infrequent schedule stands in stark contrast to the original timeline the DEC laid out for the panel. It called for recommendations on a state-level fee structure for gas drilling to be completed in November; a fee system for local governments was to be completed by February.

Since then, the agency agreed to combine the two sets of recommendations into a single report at the request of committee members. It has lifted any deadlines indefinitely.*

Anti-driller panel member Rob Moore offers this excuse:

"The panel itself generated a lot more questions than answers, so I think (the DEC) wants to give us plenty of time to really scrutinize a lot more aspects of the budgetary considerations," said Rob Moore, a member of the panel and executive director of Environmental Advocates of New York.*

DEC spokesperson Emily DeSantis says the DEC is too distracted by reviewing some 46,000 public comments that were filed on the latest draft of proposed new drilling regulations to be bothered with running more meetings of the panel right now:

"Additional panel meetings were previously scheduled, but we are reviewing that schedule as our primary focus is currently on reviewing the public comments," DeSantis wrote in an email.*

A further excuse offered by anti-drilling panel members is that other state agencies have yet to provide numbers for additional staffing to handle a ramp-up in drilling activity:

One of the major impediments to coming up with any fee proposals, some panel members said, is a lack of information on how a gas-drilling boom would affect other state agencies, such as the state Health, Public Service, and Transportation departments.

The DEC provided the committee with a detailed, five-year estimate on necessary staffing levels in September, but the other agencies have yet to provide specific estimates.

Commenting on when the budget numbers owed the panel from other state agencies will be forthcoming, DeSantis offered this helpful timetable:

"The resource needs of state agencies will be presented to the panel at a later time," DeSantis, the DEC spokeswoman, wrote. "Our primary focus is currently on reviewing the public comments."*

*Elmira (NY) Star-Gazette (Feb 5, 2012) – DEC panel wades through responses

  • Anonymous

    It shows there is no leadership. It shows apathy for the situation and the citizens concerned. Cuomo is dropping the ball on this issue and it needs to be shown publicly. He should be mandating a deadline for every agency to have their figures and studies in by a certain date. Without a deadline how can anything ever get done???  THE ONLY WAY THIS WILL HAPPEN IS TO SUE!!!! 

  • Anonymous

    As I see it , the biggest problem to resumed drilling in N.Y.S. is not the D.E.C. but the low price for nat gas which with the on going heavy drilling for the more valuable wet gas and oil with gas in Ohio,Texas , Colorado , and elsewhere in the West and Canada will continue a glut which market forces alone might take years to unwind.
     That is why it is in the interest of landowners to support HR 1380 in the House and Act 2011 in the Senate which incentivises conversion of truck fleets to LNG and CNG  as well as other uses for natural gas. Once more demand is created [ with the added advantage of making our country more secure ]  the price of natural gas will rise enough to encourage more drilling and more job creation in our area.Talk to your Congressional representatives.

  • I’m certainly in favor of NG vehicles! Good point, thanks for bringing it to our attention.

  • Anonymous

    Check: Corning Leader “Hold Drillers Responsible.”

  • Anonymous

    Apathy? with 46,000 responses to the public comment period? I think not.

  • Anonymous

    There is no problem according to the Martens and Cuomo show. Their delay tactics are working according to plan and there is no rush for any agency to move forward because there is no plans to get the ball rolling until we put a flame under their butts.I do wonder, how many of those 46,000 responses can just be simply thrown in the trash.The ones that have zero relevance for what the comment period was designed to do, enhance the SGEIS. I would even reach out to say that there  are maybe 500 comments out of the 46,000,that have any relevance and either point out flaws in the SGEIs or have great ideas to enhance it. Most comments are for No fracking or Pro fracking. I was at the Binghamton meeting in November and did here some valid comments that should be looked into, but most were the Anti antic’s show. This whole process has turned into a circus and thee is no end in sight. We pro’s must take a stand and force the hand of the DEC, Martens and Cuomo to move forward. I’m not getting that vibe yet however. Jim, you are more up to date with day to day news, any word on a Civil action, talk? JLCNY? Landowner Groups? From my perspective seems like they all are taking it on the chin and not fighting back, yet.