By Karen Frantz
As Gov. Andrew Cuomo wrestles with whether or not to allow hydraulic fracturing in the state, a Queens councilman has lauded him for refusing to buckle to pressure and allowing a critical deadline to pass rather than speed up a review of the controversial drilling method’s potential impact on public health.City Councilman James Gennaro (D-Fresh Meadows), chairman of the Council’s Environmental Protection Committee, said Cuomo had made it clear from his public statements that his decision on hydraulic fracturing would be guided by science and safety.
“He has lived up to his word and not succumbed to political pressure and artificial timetables,” Gennaro said in a statement. “I applaud him for that.”
He added that Cuomo is attempting to do something that has not been done before in states that allow hydrofracking, which is to regulate the practice so gas companies bear the full cost of production while ensuring that drilling is not subsidized by the degradation of water, air and land resources.
“Such resources, of course, belong to the current and future generations of New Yorkers and do not exist merely to increase the gas companies’ bottom line,” Gennaro said.
Hydrofracking is the process of extracting natural gas from shale by blasting a mix of water and chemicals into the ground. There has been a moratorium on the practice in the state since 2008 while the state Department of Environmental Conservation has been drafting new regulations and conducting an environmental impact study.
Opponents of hydrofracking argue it could potentially contaminate the city’s drinking water, but supporters contend it would create jobs and help boost New York’s economy.
Cuomo said at a news conference at the Javits Center in New York City last week that a Nov. 29 deadline for completing a state Health Department review of hydrofracking could not realistically be met. The blown deadline means a rule-making process, which includes a round of public comments on the DEC draft regulations, will effectively start over again.
Thus, new hydrofracking regulations may not be finalized for six months or more.
But Cuomo said the Health Department was simply not ready to release its findings.
“This is a big decision for the state,” Cuomo said. “It has potential economic benefits if the state goes forward with fracking. But we want to make sure that it’s safe and we want to make sure the environment is protected and people are protected and that’s why we’re doing a health assessment.”
Reach reporter Karen Frantz by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4538.