If hydrofracking eventually gets the go-ahead in New York, the local bans on the drilling procedure adopted by a growing number of municipalities could be “a basis to deny a permit,” DEC Commissioner Joe Martens said this morning.
“Consistency with local laws, rules and regulations are one of the factors that we take into account when we assess the impacts,” Martens told Susan Arbetter on her Capitol Pressroom radio show. “So if a drilling application is inconsistent with local land use laws, and that’s one of the questions we will ask in an application, ‘Is it consistent?’ and we’ll also notify the town – again, presuming this activity goes forward, which it may or may not.”
Dozens of municipalities across the state have enacted local bans hydrofracking, a controversial form of natural gas drilling, resulting in legal challenges and criticism from the gas industry. In two cases so far, courts have ruled in favor of municipalities that enacted bans.
Martens’ Department of Environmental Conservation is currently reviewing hydrofracking, which is under a statewide moratorium. The commissioner made similar comments earlier this week on the role local bans could play in the permitting process.
But not every hydrofracking ban will necessarily stand up or have the same impact in any permitting, Martens said today.
“If the town says, ‘No, it’s not consistent,’ it’s either in a zone where it shouldn’t be, or we have a ban in place, and the ban is based on a local land use law that is not just a ban that is unrelated to everything else that is going on in the town, but if it’s a local land use law and it’s just not a permitted activity in the zoning regulations, for example, that may be a be a basis to deny a permit,” Martens said.
The DEC would not have to wait on the appeals of the two rulings to work themselves through the court system before moving ahead, he said.
He also predicted that low natural gas prices would slow down any new drilling in New York, but noted that there is still plenty of interest in hydrofracking in the state and that fuel prices would likely rise again if the economy starts to recover.
“The drilling companies are not going to be as aggressive of moving into New York and drilling, although it doesn’t seem to have slowed them down much in Pennsylvania,” he said. “They are still drilling very aggressively in Pennsylvania and the other states that are drilling for natural gas. We think there’s still going to be an interest in New York.”
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