* Comment period for NY drilling begins Wednesday
* Period extended to 90 days from 60
* NY DEC also planning to roll out new drilling regulation
By Edward McAllister
NEW YORK, Sept 7 New York's environmental body
on Wednesday extended a public comment period on proposed rules
for natural gas drilling in the state, frustrating companies
eager to exploit its rich natural gas deposits.
The New York Department of Environmental Conservation
extended the comment period for its draft environmental impact
statement on drilling from 60 to 90 days, bowing to pressure
from environmentalists worried about the effects on water
The comment period, which begins on Wednesday, will give
parties until Dec. 12 to react to the DEC's recommendation to
end a year-long ban on drilling in New York following concerns
that an extraction technique called hydraulic fracturing, or
fracking, contaminates underground wells and aquifers.
The DEC said that the extension means the comment period
will fall in line with proposed regulations on drilling which
it plans to roll out in October.
"Extending the comment period allows us to move forward
with the draft impact statement and the regulations
concurrently and accommodates requests to allow more time for
public comment," a DEC spokeswoman said.
Last month, a collection of 76 local organizations and
environmentalists wrote to Governor Cuomo asking for an
extension of the comment period to 180 days, given the density
of the 1,000 page environmental statement which was released at
the end of June.
But drillers keen to open up New York's portion of the
gas-rich Marcellus shale deposit see this as another hurdle in
producing natural gas in the state.
"Sixty days was adequate, people have already had 60 days
to look at the report before the comment period," said Jim
Smith, spokesman for the Independent Oil and Gas Association of
New York, which represents drillers in the state.
"Over the past few years, jobs have been leaving New York.
The longer you delay, the more compounded the problem gets,"
A DEC-commissioned report today said that nearly 25,000
jobs could be created directly from drilling in New York.
The drilling technique of fracking has unlocked huge
reserves of natural gas trapped in shale by blasting the rock
underground with chemical-laced water and sand.
The process has led to a drilling boom in neighboring
Pennsylvania, home to a large stretch of the Marcellus shale
formation, but has also stoked fears about drilling fluids
escaping into waterways and into aquifers which feed major
Last year, New York placed a moratorium on drilling while
it assessed the effects of fracking. Its draft impact statement
recommends that drilling go ahead, but with conditions.
Drillers must not drill within a certain distance of watersheds
or aquifers and more stringent well construction standards must
Drilling permits in New York will not be issued until the
DEC's draft impact statement has been finalized and new
regulations are in place, the DEC said.
(Reporting by Edward McAllister; Editing by Marguerita Choy)