ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - It's "extremely unlikely" that permits for shale gas drilling and fracking will be issued by New York regulators before 2015, state Environmental Commissioner Joe Martens said Wednesday.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo's $137.2 billion budget for the fiscal year ending in March 2015 allocates no money for regulating high volume hydraulic fracturing, Martens told a legislative panel.
"None whatsoever," he said.
Fracking has been on hold in New York since an environmental review was launched in 2008. After the hearing, Martens repeated previous statements that there is no timetable for the review to be finalized and he is waiting for an analysis by Health Commissioner Dr. Nirav Shah.
"I would say it's a good indication, because there's no funds in the proposed executive budget for '14-15, that we will not be issuing permits in the fiscal year," Martens told reporters outside the hearing room. "It's extremely unlikely. We have no plans to."
New York has had permitting on hold since 2008 when regulators began an environmental review of high-volume hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, which releases gas from deep shale deposits by injecting a well with millions of gallons of water mixed with sand and chemicals.
The technology has spurred a gas-drilling boom in other states, but Cuomo has said he won't decide whether to allow it in New York until Shah's review of potential health impacts is completed. That review, launched in September 2012, has no deadline.
"The commissioner has been on the record repeatedly acknowledging that fracking could be done safely in NY," said Karen Moreau, executive director of the New York State Petroleum Council. "What ever happened to Governor Cuomo's commitment to let science, and not politics or emotion, govern this process?"
John Armstrong of the anti-drilling group Frack Action said it's good to know no permits will be issued this year, but the group will continue to push Cuomo to permanently ban fracking.
Cuomo's budget keeps DEC's funding flat at $876 million. It increases the Environmental Protection Fund, which pays for local conservation initiatives, by $4 million, bringing it to $157 million.