ALBANY -- State officials Tuesday pushed back a deadline for New York State to decide on high-volume hydraulic fracturing for natural gas after the state health commissioner said he needed "a few weeks" to complete his study.
Dr. Nirav Shah wrote the state environmental agency that he must assess "the health impacts of drinking water contamination," air quality and the impact on communities. Shah also said he will examine research being conducted in Pennsylvania -- which greenlighted fracking several years ago -- about asthma and other respiratory diseases, accidents, injuries and "birth outcomes" in areas where the drilling method -- sometimes called "fracking" -- is used.
Under Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, the state's Department of Environmental Conservation was expected to issue final rules for fracking last November but extended the process 90 days for the health study. Shah's letter means the state will miss a Feb. 27 deadline for issuing final regulations, though he said his review will be completed within weeks rather than months.
"The time to ensure the impacts on public health are properly considered is before a state permits drilling," Shah wrote.
DEC Commissioner Joseph Martens issued a separate statement seeking to minimize any further delays, saying his agency could issue fracking permits 10 days after it issues drilling regulations.
Pennsylvania's fracking counties have enjoyed an economic boom, but oil and gas analysts say the industry has shifted from New York to other states since 2008, when environmental concerns helped prompt former Gov. David A. Paterson to put a moratorium on fracking.