When Will Fracking Begin in New York?

When will fracking begin in New York? When MDN editor Jim Willis speaks with friends and family, perhaps that is the question he gets most often. Most New Yorkers and even most non-New Yorkers Jim talks with believe it’s going to happen, it’s just a question of when. Jim just has to shrug his shoulders when asked and says, “Your guess is as good as mine.”

The question on the minds of many New Yorkers is the object of endless speculation on radio talk shows and in newspaper articles. North Country Public Radio ran a segment yesterday speculating on the “when” question. They had some interesting points to make on the topic, pointing out that the New York legislature is now in recess for the rest of the year (sure wish we only had to work half a year!), and the legislature recessed without voting on key legislation that would need to be in place if drilling were going to begin this year:

If fracking is to take place, Cuomo’s Department of Environmental Conservation has said it will need to increase staff beyond the present 16 employees who are authorized to issue gas drilling permits. They also want to set up a structure of taxes and fees on the gas drilling industry to help balance the state’s budget and pay for costs incurred from the industrialization of portions of upstate New York.

“If the governor is going to go ahead and green light this anyway, then the Department of Environmental Conservation needs the resources and the staff to oversee the state’s laws and regulations,” says Katherine Nadaeu, with Environmental Advocates, who says without the additional staff the new rules would be just “words on paper.”

The legislature did not act on imposing new fees or beefing up permitting staff because Governor Cuomo did not propose anything. An advisory committee formed by Cuomo’s Department of Environmental Conservation,was supposed to come up with a tax and fee structure. But it has not met since January, though a spokeswoman for the DEC has consistently said that meetings will again take place.

Nadeau says it may be the 2013 session before any of the bills are taken up again. It’s also likely that any new permitting staff or new taxes or fees on the drilling industry will be imposed in Governor Cuomo’s next budget, which also is not due until January 2013.*

Conclusion: It’s not impossible that Joe Martens’ DEC will move forward with granting a handful of permits in 2012, but is sure seems unlikely.

*North Country Public Radio (Jul 4, 2012) – Cuomo may soon allow limited hydro-fracking