ALBANY – The issue of natural gas hyrdofracking was once again the subject for debate in Albany yesterday. The Times-Union is reporting this morning that the commissioner of the Department of Environmental Conservation met with state lawmakers on Monday to go over his 2013-2014 budget, but the conversation quickly turned to a three-hour grilling session dominated by the issue of hydrofacking.
The lawmaker took DEC Commissioner Joseph Martens to task for an unreleased DEC assessment of the potential human health impacts of hydro-fracking. After natural gas opponents repeatedly called for a health study, the DEC decided late last year that its unreleased review would be studied by the state Department of Health. As a result, three outside experts were brought in to conduct the study – which has yet to release any of its findings. Critics question why the DEC review remains secret, as does the DOH review.
Martens repeated past statements that his agency has no timetable to finish its proposed shale gas drilling rules, which could require changes based on potential findings from the Health Department study.
Yesterday’s three-hour meeting with Martens took place in a hearing room packed by hundreds of hydrofracking opponents. When he left, several dozen people followed Martens out into the hallway, peppering him with questions.
Marten’s testimony came as the Siena Research Institute released its latest polling on public attitudes toward hydrofracking, which continued to roughly divide New Yorkers down the middle — with 40 percent opposed, 40 percent in favor, and the rest unsure.
Hydrofracking is a controversial drilling technique, which uses a high-pressure blend of chemicals, water and sand to break up gas-bearing rocks deep underground.