Individuals and groups in support of safe and responsible shale gas development in New York State face yet another disappointing delay in what already has been a long review process. During a legislative budget hearing earlier this week, Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Joe Martens forewarned that the department might miss a February 27 deadline to finalize regulations on “hydrofracking,” or the use of high volume hydraulic fracturing to extract natural gas from wells.
The DEC and Department of Health (DOH) have spent years studying the environmental and health impacts of natural gas development in the state, and most recently, the DEC requested an extension of the rule-making period so that DOH (and outside consultants) could further review DEC’s findings. Now, the DEC and DOH’s game of “hot potato” might continue past February 27, the expiration date for proposed rules.
A missed deadline means not only that the proposed rules would expire but also that another public comment period will begin. With population fleeing and jobs disappearing daily, can New York afford more delays in a decision whether or not to allow the safe development of natural gas?
Although the anti-fracking movement has become the cause de jour for some celebrities and many who live outside the potential drilling area, there are thousands who view natural gas development as a glimmer of hope to restore the Southern Tier and boost New York’s economy. Supporters point to Pennsylvania as evidence of natural gas’ promise and prosperity.
Those just over the state border have gained from high-paying jobs, outside investments, specialized-training programs, a growing skilled workforce, infrastructure and greater demand for goods and services. New Yorkers deserve the opportunity to flourish too – and they need the tax relief and reduced energy costs that will come with allowing natural gas development in the state.
According to a Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council Report, New York ranks 48th among high-energy cost states. With such a distinction, the last thing New York needs now is any new fees or proposed five year extension of the 18(a) Assessment, a 2% fee that appears on all utility bills. And despite the 2011 renewal of Article X power plant siting legislation, New York has no plans for new plants that could increase production and lower costs for residents and small business owners alike.
Access to affordable and reliable energy is critical to New York’s economic recovery, and its ability to attract business and create jobs. Continued delays in the permitting process, stagnant energy production and energy taxes only hinder progress.