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3:56 pm
Tue February 12, 2013

Health commissioner tells DEC fracking review needs more time

A gas drilling rig in Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania
A gas drilling rig in Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania
Credit Matt Richmond / WSKG

  Department of Health Commissioner Nirav Shah sent a letter to DEC commissioner Joe Martens today, asking for more time to complete a review of the public health impacts of fracking.

This means that the DEC will miss tomorrow's deadline to complete its overall environmental review of fracking (known as the SGEIS), and the regulations it's written to govern the industry will expire at the end of the month.

This development could stall a final decision on fracking for months, but in a statement Martens says his agency will still be able to issue well permits if the health review concludes that the SGEIS is adequate.

Read Martens' full statement:

Commissioner Shah advised me today that the Public Health Review of the Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (SGEIS) of high-volume hydraulic fracturing is still on-going.

The Department of Health’s (DOH) Public Health Review, which was undertaken at my request, is important to our consideration of high-volume hydraulic fracturing and I will not issue a final SGEIS until that review is complete and I have received Dr. Shah’s recommendations.  He has indicated he expects his review to be complete in a few weeks after he has had an opportunity to review recent studies underway which are pertinent to the evaluation of high-volume hydraulic fracturing impacts on public health.

The previously proposed high-volume hydraulic fracturing regulations cannot be finalized until the SGEIS is complete.  However, this does not mean that the issuance of permits for high-volume hydraulic fracturing would be delayed.  If the DOH Public Health Review finds that the SGEIS has adequately addressed health concerns, and I adopt the SGEIS on that basis, DEC can accept and process high-volume hydraulic fracturing permit applications 10 days after issuance of the SGEIS.  The regulations simply codify the program requirements.

If, on the other hand, the DOH review finds that there is a public health concern that has not been assessed in the SGEIS or properly mitigated, we would not proceed, as I have stated in the past.

In either event, the science, not emotion, will determine the outcome.

Here is Commissioner Shah's letter to Martens, requesting more time: 

Shah Letter to Martens

Watch this explainer about New York's ongoing environmental review process of fracking, which aired last weekend on New York NOW: