The "leak" to the New York Times a month ago has left us guessing where New York is going with fracking. On June 13, the Times reported that the administration was pursuing a plan to limit hydraulic fracturing to counties along the border with Pennsylvania and to permit it only in communities that "express support" for fracking. Since the draft regulations had only provided for "consultation" by DEC with the municipalities permits are proposed, the possible change in the administration's position suggests they are considering following the Middlefield and Dryden decisions discussed in the previous post.
The proposal would limit hydrofracking to the deepest areas of Marcellus shale in the state, allegedly to provide a greater separation distance between the fracking and the shallower groundwater deposits used for drinking water. This rationale would conveniently limit fracking to the southern tier of the state, where reportedly about thirty towns have passed resolutions or taken other action to show their willingness to have fracking come to town. Under the proposal, fracking would be allowed "primarily" in Broome, Chemung, Chenango, Steuben and Tioga counties, and only where the town has shown support.
Although recognition of the right of municipalities to reject fracking is a positive step, an air of politics surrounds the proposal. A blog in the Huff Post Green claims that the proposal is an example of politics trumping science. Not only did the Environmental Working Group uncover DEC's practice of sending proposed regulations to industry representatives weeks in advance of releasing them to the public, but the dialogue that ensued between the agency and the industry clearly went beyond the cost impacts the agency must explore. One must wonder what role the industry is playing in shaping the new program while those of us not representing industry wait for the proposal.