New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (“DEC”) Commissioner, Joseph Martens, spoke to legislators about his agency’s 2013-2014 budget on Monday. During the sometimes-feisty hearing, legislators peppered Martens with questions about the timeline for completion of the revised Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (“SGEIS”) and regulations for High-Volume Hydraulic Fracturing (“HVHF”). Martens confirmed that DEC may miss several key February deadlines which may cause the proposed HVHF regulations to expire. Martens reiterated his agency’s position that it has “no specific timetable” for completing the process.
The SGEIS process—which has been ongoing since 2009—was delayed back in September when Martens asked New York State Commissioner of Health, Dr. Nirav Shah, to review the SGEIS health impact analysis in conjunction with outside experts. That review ultimately caused DEC to miss its original deadline to finalize the HVHF regulations, requiring the agency to republish revised HVHF regulations for public comment and extend the deadline to finalize the regulations by another 90 days. That review is still ongoing, and Martens told legislators on Monday that he expects the health review to be completed in a “few weeks.” If the health review recommends additional measures, Martens admitted that it would be “difficult” to complete the process in February. Missing the February deadline would likely require a new rulemaking process, stretching the SGEIS process further into 2013.
If DEC does not announce its plans sooner, the regulated community and the public will likely know on February 13 whether the SGEIS saga will end, or if yet another chapter will begin. The agency must publish a notice of completion for the Final SGEIS in order to allow at least 10 days for the public to comment before DEC can make findings and issue the final HVHF regulations. The last date that DEC could publish the notice of completion in the state’s Environmental Notice Bulletin (“ENB”) (without modifying its normal weekly publication schedule), would be Wednesday, February 13.
The ENB is published on DEC’s website at http://www.dec.ny.gov/enb/enb.html