JAMESTOWN – A few months after Gov. Andrew Cuomo was poised to approve hydraulic fracturing in several struggling New York counties, his administration is reversing course and starting the regulatory process over, garnering praise from environmental groups and stirring anger among industry executives and upstate landowners.
The New York Times reported earlier this month that after nearly four years of review by state regulators, the governor has made the decision to conduct another study, based on pressure for thousands of environmentalists throughout the state. This study will focus on an examination of potential impacts on public health.
Neither the governor nor other state officials have given any indication of how long the study might take. But by the end of September, state environmental officials said they would restart the regulatory rule-making process, requiring them to repeat a number of formal steps, including holding a public hearing, and almost certainly pushing a decision into next year.
The move also means that after already receiving nearly 80,000 public comments, the state Department of Environmental Conservation will be soliciting more input from New Yorkers about hydrofracking, or fracking, as the drilling process for natural gas is known.
The fracking issue is the biggest environmental question, and the most polarizing, facing Albany, and New York’s decision is being closely watched nationally, as President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney have both expressed support for increased use of natural gas as a means to reduce the nation’s dependence on foreign oil.