No timetable for fracking decision in N.Y. - Cuomo

Thu Aug 23, 2012 1:16am IST

Aug 22 (Reuters) - New York has no timetable for issuing new regulations on the fracking drilling technique, Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Wednesday, keeping environmentalists and drillers in suspense as he has since June, when he said a final report would be released shortly.

The governor, a Democrat, said he understood the "passion" on both sides of the issue. "Let the science dictate the conclusion," Cuomo said, adding "We will make a decision based on the facts."

The governor spoke to reporters during a break from a policy conference as about 350 people, including environmentalists, protested outside in midtown Manhattan against allowing fracking in New York state.

In 2008, the state placed a moratorium on fracking on the grounds that it could contaminate ground water supplies, increase remissions and cause health problems.

Since then, the state's Department of Environmental Conservation has been studying fracking, which extracts gas and oil from shale by injecting large amounts of water, sand and chemicals to fracture rock.

New York is home to part of the massive Marcellus shale formation - one of the biggest in the nation - which also stretches across parts of Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia.

Pennsylvania's decision to allow fracking led to a boom, but a number of spills, well blowouts and reports of water contamination there have stoked anti-fracking sentiment in New York. Drilling companies say fracking will bring New York badly needed revenue and jobs.

Cuomo, already considered a possible presidential candidate in 2016, risks alienating some traditionally Democratic voters by allowing fracking.

"If Governor Cuomo wants the support of New Yorkers who care about clean water, their health and the environment when he runs for president in 2016, he should abandon his plan to frack New York," said Zack Malitz, the campaign manager for CREDO Action, who one of the protesters. CREDO Action calls itself a social change organization.

In June, the New York Times said Cuomo was considering a plan to limit drilling to the poorer counties in the southern tier near Pennsylvania - including Broome, Chemung, Chenango, Steuben and Tioga counties - and only allow it in towns that agree to it.

A Department of Environmental Conservation spokeswoman, when asked about this report on Wednesday, said: "Our review of high-volume hydraulic fracturing is continuing and no decisions have been made. It is premature to talk about options until the review of the science and the facts is complete."

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