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Enviros say gas drilling rules still "lack teeth"

Adrian Kinloch
via Flickr
New York's environmental advocates say there are problems with the Department of Environmental Conservation's latest draft of fracking rules.

Back when New York's Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) released 700 pages of its draft regulations on hydrofracking, state environmental advocates said they'd need some time to read up.

This week they released their top ten list of concerns.

Chief among them, says Katherine Nadeau of Environmental Advocates of New York, is that the new rules still "lack teeth" for protecting the state's drinking water from the controversial process used by natural gas drillers.

According to Nadeau, provisions that allow for waivers and future reviews of buffers around aquifers weaken protections.

Not tough enough

"Even with the best protections, if they're not going to be uniformly applied across the state and if there's still wiggle room and room for negotiation, then at the end of the day these aren't the hard regulations that New York needs to protect its waterways from fracking," Nadeau says. 

So far, the DEC has declined to face off with environmental groups over the their continued differences with the agency.

"All I can say is that the rules that are out there now are what's proposed to date and it's still a work in progress," says DEC spokesman Michael Bopp. "I think people should reserve judgment until they see the actual final document."

An updated timeline

Of course, that final document was expected in July. The DEC has proceeded amid much speculation over whether preparing the regulations was proving too taxing for an agency that has sustained major budget cuts. The DEC has stressed that its taking the time to "get it right."

Now Erica Ringwald, who sits on the Governor's new Marcellus Shale advisory panel, says she's hearing that additional research on how fracking will impact local economies is another source of delay. She expects the DEC won't finish its next draft of regulations until mid-August or September. (DEC spokesman Bopp says "late summer.")

Bopp also says that next draft could include other changes, and may actually incorporate some responses to recent feedback - even though official public comment won't begin until after it's released.

Bopp calls the development of the thick rule book "a process."

"It's an ongoing dialogue," he says.

Related reading

Politico takes a look at a growing split between the environmental groups that sit on the Governor's Marcellus Shale advisory panel and those on the outside, looking in.

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