9:45am

Wed October 5, 2011
Marcellus Shale

Environmental groups ask Cuomo for more time on fracking

Environmental groups continue to ask the Cuomo administration to extend the public comment period on hydrofracking. On Tuesday, they tried to appeal to the governor himself.

The groups delivered 180 water-powered alarm clocks to Governor Cuomo’s office door. The groups say the public should have more time (get it?) to comment on the proposed rules that would allow hydrofracking in New York on some private lands.

Ever wonder what a water-powered alarm clock looks like? Wonder no more:

Time to “come to their senses”

Katherine Nadeau, with Environmental Advocates, says more time is needed to determine potential health effects of the gas drilling process, which uses chemically-laced water to bore into underground shale deposits in order to extract the gas.

“The governor can change this at any point,” said Nadeau, who implored the governor and his aides to “come to their senses.”

“This isn’t a done deal,” Nadeau says, “There are still many opportunities to influence the process.”

Sarah Eckel, of Citizens Campaign for the Environment, accuses Cuomo’s environmental agency of trying to “double dip” the public process, by simultaneously reviewing the environmental impact statement and some proposed regulations that gas drillers would have to follow.

“Not only is the public being asked to review a 1500 page document by December 12th, they’re also being asked to look at draft regulations,” says Eckel.

Four public hearings will be held in November - three in the Marcellus shale region and one in New York City - but the environmental groups say they’d also like public hearings in the Utica Shale region, further upstate, which may be the next region slated for drilling.

The box of clocks was accepted, politely, by Governor Cuomo’s press aides at the Capitol. The governor was in New York City.

Plenty of time for comment

Cuomo’s environmental commissioner has already extended the public comment period from 60 to 90 days and added four public hearings.

Spokeswoman Emily DeSantis says some of the documents have been publicly available longer than that, and that “nothing has been rushed.”

“Much of the document has actually been in the public realm now for an additional two months, so that will be giving them 150 days to review most of the document,” DeSantis says.

DeSantis adds that the environmental conservation department also believes the four public hearings are adequate, and represent a “geographically diverse area of the state.”

And she says for those who can’t make it to the hearings,  comments can be submitted online and by mail.

“All comments will be considered, no matter what form they come in,”says DeSantis.

Online outreach

DEC Commissioner Joe Martens will be available for an online chat about fracking this Saturday, October 8, at 9 a.m. on Governor Cuomo’s Citizen Connects web site.

The environmental groups say they aren’t finished yet with their requests. They plan to introduce a letter to Governor Cuomo later Wednesday, signed by over 250 health care professionals, requesting that a health impact study be completed by state officials before fracking could be permitted.