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October 2, 2012

Landowners' group blasts Cuomo over drilling delay

COOPERSTOWN — Stung by the extension of the state’s review of hydrofracking rules, a landowners’ group sharply criticized Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday, accusing him of “ignoring the biggest opportunity we will see in our lifetimes.”

“Unfortunately, the governor has turned his back on the landowners in New York and simply doesn’t care that we are struggling to pay the highest real property taxes in the country.” the Joint Landowners Coalition of New York said in a statement.

The group was bemoaning the fact that the Cuomo administration is jettisoning what had been a Nov. 29 deadline to decide on drilling regulations and is poised to extend the rule-making process to a date that has not been specified.

The pro-drilling organization, which says it represents 77,000 landowners, said the decision would “restart the torturous public-comment period and waste even more taxpayer dollars.”

The first sign that the state rules governing fracking permits could be delayed came two weeks ago when state Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens invited state Department of Health Commissioner Nirav Shah to oversee a review of the health impacts of horizontal shale gas drilling, should it be allowed. At that time, Martens rejected calls from environmentalists to have outside “independent” experts conduct the study, contending the state was best suited to protect its citizens.

Long-time Albany observer Alan Chartock, the chief exeuctive officer of WAMC public radio, told The Daily Star that he had expected Cuomo to slow down the rule-making for gas drilling.

Noting the administration has been deluged with some 80,000 public comments on the proposed rules — much of them believed to be in opposition — Chartock said: “Cuomo is a master politician. He holds his hands up in the air, sees which way the wind is blowing and does what it takes to avoid a crisis. This issue has become so salient for many people. Cuomo is too smart a politician to not understand the consequences of this thing.”

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