Fracking meeting canceled because agencies "not prepared"

Oct 14, 2011

A meeting scheduled for today, of the state's hydrofracking advisory panel, has been called off.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), which convenes the panel, confirmed that the meeting was not happening, but did not give a reason.

The 17 member advisory panel includes environmentalists, local government officials, and representatives from the natural gas drilling industry.  It's charged with giving recommendations to the DEC about how to best handle hydrofracking.

Erica Ringewald is the communications director for Environmental Advocates of New York, whose executive director, Robert Moore, is part of the advisory panel. She says the meeting was canceled because a number of state agencies did not have reports ready about how they will be affected by drilling.

"Based on conversations we've had, the meeting was canceled because the Department of Transportation, Ag and Markets, the Public Service Commission, and the Department of Health were supposed to have reports out on costs related to drilling, and they're not prepared," says Ringewald.

Michael Moran is a spokesman for the state Department of Agriculture and Markets, and he says that his agency was not supposed to be a part of the meeting.

"We've given [the advisory panel] information in the past, and I don't think we're supposed to give them anything today," he says.

The Innovation Trail has reached out to each of the other agencies for comment as well. 

UPDATE 1:10 p.m.: A spokesman for the Public Service Commission referred questions about the canceled meeting to the DEC.  

UPDATE 3:00 p.m: In response to an email inquiry about why the meeting isn't taking place, a DEC spokeswoman issued this statement:

The panel will meet in two weeks.  All necessary information will be provided to panel members. The process will continue in a timely manner.

Ringewald says the cancelation is a sign that New York should take more time before allows hydrofracking to go forward.

"This is another example of how state agencies are getting caught flat footed. They're supposed to have reports or estimates of what drilling all these wells will mean for them in terms of staff and resources," she says.

The advisory panel was appointed in July and first met in August. Its recommendations are due early next month.

Ringewald says she believes the missed meeting will not be rescheduled. Instead the group will reconvene for its next meeting on October 25th.