DEC closes comments period on drilling

Staff reports

The state Department of Environmental Conservation has received more than 18,000 written comments on the latest draft of its new regulations for shale gas drilling, according to DEC spokeswoman Emily DeSantis.

The comment period began in early September and closed Wednesday, after the DEC extended the deadline a month.

The written comments are in addition to 13,000 comments filed on the first draft of the DEC rules, which Commissioner Joe Martens said will be the most stringent in the U.S.

DeSantis said the it’s the most comments the DEC has ever received on such a set of environmental rules, and reflect a wide range of viewpoints on the controversial issue, she said

The regulations, a work in progress since 2008, are being updated to account for the technique of high-volume, horizontal hydraulic fracturing.

The DEC has also been studying the potential socioeconomic impacts of an anticipated drilling boom

The main document, the draft Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement – which guides permitting for gas wells – is posted online at www.dec.ny.gov along with a comment form, fact sheets and other documents such as a map of areas in New York to be off-limits to drilling

The SGEIS will be the basis for a separate but closely related set of drilling regulations that will be codified into state law.

The DEC’s mineral resources staff is already reviewing and categorizing the comments and will prepare a response for each topic raised in the comments, DeSantis said.

The final documents, including comments and responsed is expected to be released in 2012

At that point, permitting could begin, barring legal challenges or an extended moratorium imposed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo or the New York State Legislature.