When former Governor David Paterson put a moratorium on horizontal hydrofracking, the controversial process used to extract natural gas from the Marcellus Shale, some thought that meant drilling was just around the corner. When the moratorium ends on July 1, the fracking begins.
But that's not so, says New York's Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), the agency writing the guidelines for "fracking" in New York State.
DEC spokesman Michael Bopp points out that until the new set of guidelines (being studied now) are in place, drilling can't begin. That's according to a close read of the moratorium put in place by Paterson.
"The moratorium is in place until the plan is finalized. We have said it won't be final until much later than [July 1]," says Bopp.
A long timeline
Governor Andrew Cuomo's new DEC commissioner, Joe Martens, was confirmed earlier this year. During his hearings, he cautioned the much-anticipated next draft of the regulations likely won't come out before late summer.
And the DEC says it will take a second round of comments from the public, setting final approval of the rules back even further.
Also on the docket: another rewrite and training for DEC staff before the department begins to grant companies the right to frack. That permitting process will also take months.
All told, Bopp says, it's likely, "maybe a year or more out before anything could possibly occur."
But just in case things move more quickly, New York State's Assembly is set to take up another moratorium bill. It would put a hold on fracking for another year, until June of 2012.