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Fracking advisory panel calls off third meeting in three months

Marie Cusick
The panel is supposed to meet with the DEC regularly to advise the agency about how hydrofracking will impact state and local governments.

The Department of Environmental Conservation's (DEC) hydrofracking advisory panel is supposed to meet with the agency every few weeks*, but their meeting scheduled for tomorrow has been postponed.

This is the third time one of the panel's meetings has been called off since mid-October.

The group was also supposed to issue preliminary recommendations by early November, but failed to do so.

The announcement comes on the same day that the DEC is officially closing the public comment period on its review of hydrofracking, known as the Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (SGEIS).

That document will determine if and when New York moves forward to allow the controversial natural gas drilling technique.

*Update: An earlier version of this story reported that the agency meets biweekly - that is incorrect.

Yesterday, both opponents and advocates of hydrofracking delivered boxes filled with thousands of public comments and letters. The most recent official total from the DEC stands at 20,800 public comments.

While the public is no longer be able to weigh in on the SGEIS, the 17-member advisory panel, comprised of drillers, environmentalists, and local government officials is still working on its response to drilling.  It's charged with helping the DEC determine how hydrofracking will affect state and local governments. 

One effect that's already been documented: DEC Commissioner Joe Martens has said that his agency will need at least 140 new employees during the first year of drilling applications for hydrofracking.

DEC spokeswoman Emily DeSantis wrote in an email that the reason for this latest postponement was because local county health officials were supposed to make presentations at the meeting and, "[they] requested additional time to prepare."

DeSantis added that the panel members agreed to postpone the meeting, and that their recommendations are now expected sometime during the first part of 2012.

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