DEC head: No ‘timetable’ on fracking decision

ALBANY – In order for a decision to be made on whether to pass the state’s planned regulations for hydraulic fracturing, the environmental impact review, dSGEIS, on which the regulations are based must be published by next Wednesday.

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens confirmed during a legislative budget hearing Monday that if dSGEIS is not released next week, the state’s proposed regulations for hydraulic fracturing will expire Feb. 27, further postponing the possibility of the controversial practice, which involves the injection of treated fluids into shale rock formations thousands of feet below the ground in order to release and harvest natural gas.

Though it is still possible for dSGEIS to be released on time, Martens responded when asked by New York Senator Tony Avella as to when the impact review would be released, “We do not have a timetable.”

“I am hoping that the DEC commissioner doesn’t allow the dSGEIS to be released on February 13 so that the February 27 deadline is not met,” said Logan Adsit, a Pharsalia resident and cofounder of a recently-formed anti-racking group called Save the Southern Tier. Adsit, along with many other members of the group, was in Albany during Monday’s hearing.

The Save the Southern Tier group announced itself last Thursday during a press conference in which they were joined by Binghamton Mayor Matt Ryan, who has in the past vocalized his opposition to hydraulic fracturing. The group claims to be formed out of a network existing activist groups from five counties near the Pennsylvania border including Chenango, Broome, and Tioga counties. Further setting the group apart from other activist organizations is a pledge to preform acts of “civil disobedience” should Governor Cuomo permit hydraulic fracturing.

“If hydrofracking is allowed into New York State, there are over 6,000 plus residents that have signed the pledge against fracking,” said Adsit. Signers of the group’s pledge promise that should hydraulic fracturing be permitted, they will take part in non-violent acts of protest including demonstrations as well as other unspecified non-violent actions.

Save the Southern Tier member Isaac Silberman-Gorn promised during last Thursday’s press conference that the group’s “civil disobedience” would be directed towards Governor Cuomo should hydraulic fracturing be allowed.

Hundreds of gas-drilling opponents packed the Albany hearing room and repeatedly interrupted with applause, groans, or hissing. Many held small signs with slogans such as "No shale gas," although security guards made them leave larger placards outside.

Before the hearing began, Sandra Steingraber, a leader of New Yorkers Against Fracking, confronted Martens and demanded the environmental review and regulations be put on hold and a comprehensive health impact analysis be done by an independent investigator. She went to a seat after guards threatened to arrest her.

At the end of Martens' testimony, the protesters stood and chanted "Not one well!" before heading to the Capitol for a rally. Arun Gandhi, grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, joined the protesters to sign a "pledge of resistance" to fracking and discuss utilizing civil disobedience if shale gas development is permitted.

Cuomo's proposed budget for the fiscal year that starts April 1 makes no mention of fracking. Martens said it would be premature to allocate money to regulate something that hasn't even been approved to occur in the state. Cuomo has said the decision on whether to allow fracking will depend on whether the science shows it can be done safely.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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