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Avella questions state on new revised fracking regs

Jeremy Buckingham (l.), member of the Australian Legislative Council, talks hydrofracking with state Sen. Tony Avella in his Bayside office earlier this year.
TimesLedger Newspapers

A state senator from Queens questioned Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state Department of Environmental Conservation on hydraulic fracturing this week, arguing the recent release of revised draft regulations on the controversial drilling method raises concerns about assurances from the administration that it will take the public health impact into account in its final decision whether and how to allow the practice in the state.

When DEC released the new set of revised regulations, it was up against a deadline that required the agency to file for an extension that included the release of revised rules with a public comment period or to restart its process for drafting regulations. It released the revised regulations and filed the extension a day before the deadline on Nov. 28.

But Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) told the Times Ledger Newspapers that rather than submitting the revised regulations, it would have been more appropriate for the DEC to allow the public health impact study to be concluded first and then release new regulations afterwards.

“We believe that if this is done properly it requires a whole new level of review,” he said.

He sent a letter to Cuomo and DEC Commissioner Joseph Martens last Thursday questioning the release of the revised regulations when the public health impact study had yet to be completed.

“We must get this decision right and it must be based on science,” he wrote in the letter.

Hydraulic fracturing, colloquially known as hydrofracking or fracking, is the process of extracting natural gas from shale rock by blasting a mixture of chemicals and water at high pressure into the ground. The state has had a moratorium on the practice since 2008 while the DEC has been drafting regulations and conducting an environmental impact study.

The revised regulations include responses to the previous round of public comments on hydraulic fracturing, which took place a year ago. The public comment period on the most recent regulations will be from Dec. 12 through Jan. 11.

The DEC said it sought the extension in order to give the public health impact study, being conducted by the state Department of Health, time to be completed. It said once the study is finished, the DEC will either decide hydraulic fracturing cannot be done safely in the state or it will adjust its regulations in accordance with the health study’s findings.

But it is unclear how the regulations would be revised and whether a new public commenting period would be allowed at that time.

Reach reporter Karen Frantz by e-mail at kfrantz@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.

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