ALBANY -- A health impact review of shale gas drilling by national experts will make it impossible to meet a looming deadline for new fracking regulations, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said yesterday, pushing a much-delayed decision on the contentious issue into 2013.
The Department of Environmental Conservation has been doing an environmental impact study and drafting new regulations for high-volume hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, since 2008. Shale drilling has been on hold since then amid health and environmental worries surrounding fracking, which stimulates a well's production by injecting huge volumes of chemical-laced water to crack deep, gas-rich shale deposits.
The deadline for finalizing regulations is Nov. 29 under the state Administrative Procedures Act, which says a proposed rule expires 365 days after the last public hearing unless it's officially adopted by then.
If the regulation isn't finalized by the deadline, the agency has 90 days to submit a new notice of rule-making, and another 90 days to complete the job. That could potentially delay a final decision for six months. The public would have the opportunity to comment during that time.
A panel of three nationally recognized public health experts was named last week to review the state's health impact study of fracking.
Cuomo told a radio interviewer yesterday he sees no way the panel's work can be completed by the end of next week.
Asked about it at a news conference at the Javits Center in Manhattan, Cuomo said he doesn't have a timeline for completion of the health review and fracking regulations, but he doesn't expect it to be finished within the next week.
"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 it's safe and we want to make sure the environment is protected, people are protected and that's why we're doing a health assessment."
The experts chosen for the health review were John Adgate, chairman of the Environmental and Occupational Health Department at the Colorado School of Public Health; Lynn Goldman, dean of George Washington University's School of Public Health and Health Services; and Richard Jackson, chairman of the Department of Environmental Health Sciences at the University of California Los Angeles' Fielding School of Public Health.
Industry groups have criticized the choice of health experts to review the state study, saying they're biased against the industry.