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As proposed, fracking should not be moving forward in this state now.

With hydrofracking comment period over, proponents impatient, opponents concerned

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The public comment period for the Cuomo administration's proposal for natural gas hydro fracking is now over. Opponents are left wishing they had more time, while supporters say they'd like to see drilling begin soon. In Albany, Karen DeWitt has more.

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Karen DeWitt
NYS Capitol Correspondent

As the deadline neared for the end of the public comment period for the hydrofracking proposal, advocates and opponents staged events at the State Capitol for one last chance to sway public opinion and influence policy makers. Environmental groups, who have been warning that the evaluation process should proceed cautiously, carted up boxes of thousands of petitions and delivered them to Governor Cuomo’s office at the State Capitol.  
 
Katherine Nadaeu, of Environmental Advocates, says so far the assessment has been incomplete and “fatally flawed.” “They’re horribly inadequate,” Nadeau said of the draft Environmental Impact Statement. “As proposed, fracking should not be moving forward in this state now.”
 
She says the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation still needs to evaluate health effects of fracking and the full impact of the industry on rural areas. Other environmental groups are seeking a total ban on fracking.
 
The gas industry and pro fracking groups held their own events as well. A newly formed coalition includes drilling companies, labor unions including the Pipetrades Association and some landowners who want to lease their property for drilling. They cite figures from the Department of Environmental Conservation that say as many as 50,000 jobs could be created in depressed upstate regions. They also say they believe the DEC’s environmental regulations will be “stringent” and ensure that drilling would be “developed safely and responsibly.”

Kate Watson, who runs a 340 acre organic farm in Sharon, says for some, the possibility of a drilling lease offers a financial lifeline. “I personally know a lot of farmers who say that this is probably the last shot at saving the family farm,” said Watson. “They just can’t afford to keep going.”

The state’s Independent Oil and Gas Association,the lobby group for drilling companies, submitted its comments hours before the public comment period was to end.  The group says the proposed rules “will not result in environmental protection,” but will instead “set an unreasonable bar” for drillers and make New York uncompetitive with other states. The Association says the regulations would prevent gas companies from drilling on 50% of land parcels that they have already identified in the Southern Tier as desirable for drilling, and could unnecessarily delay drilling.
 
With just a few hours left in the comment period, DEC Commissioner Joe Martens issued a statement. He said there had been an unprecedented response and that the agency had received tens of thousands of comments. Martens says “if” fracking moves forward in New York, it will do so “with the strictest standards in the nation” to protect drinking water and the state’s other natural resources and he says he expects “additional improvements” to be made in the final report.

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