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DEC will miss Friday deadline for drilling report

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New York state is still a long way from joining states like Colorado with major drilling operations. One more step in that process will be delayed as the DEC says it won't meet the Governor's Friday deadline.

The Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) will not complete revisions on a report on hydrofracking by a Friday deadline set by Governor Andrew Cuomo.

The DEC has been working on a study on hydrofracking for natural gas for four years. The Cuomo administration had asked the agency for the second draft by July 1.

But the DEC's draft isn't finished, so the agency will be delivering a revision to the governor. DEC Spokesman Michael Bopp calls the document: "The snapshot, the status - if you will - of where our findings have come out."

Meanwhile the public will get a press release.Competing dates

The July 1 date came from a leaked memo [PDF] from the Governor's office. The DEC says it's meeting the letter of the request, but the memo asks for a draft ready "for issuance."

The agency has said it needs more time  to review thousands of comments and documents on the draft rules.

The Cuomo administration may be putting pressure on the DEC to issue rules because it's under pressure from business groups that want to see drilling.

Michael Moran of the New York State Business Council said state agencies frequently miss deadlines and he "would not be shocked" if the DEC missed this one. The Business Council and other business lobbyists have advocated for drilling in New York State as quickly as possible.

The Cuomo administration did not respond to requests for comment.

Dates vs. data

Stu Gruskin, an environmental consultant and former DEC deputy commissioner says people will talk about deadlines, but it probably doesn't matter whether the draft comes out on July 1, August 1, or in September.

"The issue here is that the state is able to address this in a way that inspires public confidence," Gruskin says. "Whatever steps they take ... to advance the public discussion and the comprehensive look at the issues, that's the important aspect of this. That's more important than applying some sort of deadline to it."

And of course what does or doesn't come out on Friday is still a long way from a drill rig, because there's still a lot more regulatory process to come, including: 

  • The actual real second draft (not just a revision);
  • A public comment period;
  • Another revision by the DEC;
  • The final draft of the study;
  • Turning the study into a permit process.

Only after all those steps can the DEC begin processing permits for gas wells. So buckle up - it's going to be an interesting ride.

Former WRVO/Central New York reporter for the Innovation Trail.
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