Wednesday, April 23, 2014

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Elected officials push for extension of fracking public comment period

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: Elected officials push for extension of fracking public comment period
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People have until Friday to comment on the DEC's revised regulations for hydrofracking. Another 30 day public comment period began in December after the state filed for a 90 day extension on the rule-making process. But some local officials are asking for extra time to submit their comments. Our Melissa Kakareka tells us why.

BINGHAMTON, N.Y. -- The clock is ticking on the public comment period for the DEC's revised hydrofracking regulations. But some elected officials feel their voices aren't being heard.

"The signal is, this is the minimum we have to do to meet the law and we don't actually care what the public or local governments think," said Tompkins County Legislature Chair Martha Robertson.

More than 560 elected officials from all 62 counties in New York are members of the group Elected Officials to Protect New York. They are calling on Governor Andrew Cuomo to extend the public comment period on the proposed fracking regulations to 90 days. They say that many municipal governments have not been able to meet over the past 30 days to draft comments.

"Because of the holidays, we can't schedule meetings because of open meeting laws. People are on vacation. It's just too short of a time to process all this information and to make proper comments," explained Elmira Mayor Sue Skidmore.

The coalition of leaders are also asking that the current draft of the SGEIS and state's health review be made public and opened for comment.

"We feel the most important process is to protect the health and safety of our residents and it's an afterthought and that’s not the way it should be treated," said Binghamton Mayor Matt Ryan.

Still, landowners and pro-fracking supporters say that it's time to stop delaying the decision.

The Joint Landowners Coalition of NY says there has already been multiple comment periods and hearings and adds, "The current comment period relates to the few changes that been made to the regulations since the last comment period- not the SGEIS."

In regards to the health review, the Landowners Coalition of NY also adds, "As we have seen in the national news, the NYS Department of Health has already reviewed the health impacts. This current review was meant to update the work that has already been done by our DEC and Health Department, not to initiate a new study."

If the state does extend the comment period to 90 days, it would push the DEC past its February deadline and the regulatory process would then have to restart.

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