Martens Grilled On Fracking
Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens faced a nearly three-hour grilling from lawmakers today on whether the state will allow high-volume hydrofracking in the state’s Southern Tier.
The questions from lawmakers at a joint budget committee hearing on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s $142.6 billion spending proposal did include issues ranging from Superstorm Sandy relief and standard permitting that the DEC issues.
But with hundreds of anti-fracking protesters in Albany and at the Capitol, the dominate topic was fracking and the Department of Health’s ongoing review of the controversial natural gas extraction process.
Martens insisted throughout his testimony that a decision as to whether the state can properly regulate hydrofracking will come after the Health Department releases a report from three outside scientists hired to conduct an assessment of the process on human health.
“I’m waiting for (DOH Commissioner Nirav Shah’s) health review and when that comes in we’ll dictate what timetable we’re on,” Martens told reporters after testifying.
But he said that an updated environmental impact study of process could be released by Feb. 13, even if the DOH’s report isn’t out.
The hearing and protests come as New Yorkers remain split on whether to allow high-volume fracking in parts of upstate New York. With the electorate so firmly divided on the issue, it makes the issue all the harder for Gov. Andrew Cuomo to thread the needle like he has done so many other issues.
Martens also acknowledged that the DEC had contracted an expert to better understand the seismic impacts of hydrofracking.
But that didn’t sway skeptical lawmakers and the protesters who cheered, booed or clapped during much of the testimony.
“The industry isn’t safe, commissioner, in my overall point of view,” said Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton during the hearing. “That makes extremely uncomfortable, commissioner, when we talk about inviting this industry to the state of New York.”
Martens held firm, however, saying that for him it’s a question of whether the state can properly regulate the industry.
“The question is can you properly regulate them? Can you force repsonsible companies to operate in New York and that’s an open question. What I’m concerned about is whether someone can operate in New York in a way that protects health and the environment,” Martens said.
After the hearing, Martens was trailed by reporters and some anti-fracking protesters who accused Martens of lying during his testimony.
“You lied on the stand, under oath, and you’re lying again,” said Frack Action’s Julia Walsh to Martens, adding, “You’re the one that takes the brunt of the blame and your entire legacy of protecting New York state will be destroyed.”
|Print article||This entry was posted by Nick Reisman on February 4, 2013 at 1:18 pm, and is filed under Hydrofracking. Follow any responses to this post through RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.|