Andrew Cuomo has made it clear he wants to bring hydraulic fracturing, or hydro fracking (in which natural gas is extracted from the Marcellus Shale formation, often leaving nearby water flammable), to our state and today the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation went and released a revised draft report on the prospect. Which means we've all now got a 90-day public comment period (30 days more than usual) before this thing moves forward, so be prepared to hear a frack load more about fracking in the next three months!

As far as the DEC is concerned fracking, which is nonexplosive, is a safe and healthy way to get natural gas out of the ground. The DEC's report estimates that fracking could bring nearly 25,000 jobs and $1,7 billion in earnings to the state (not to mention another 29,174 full time jobs and $809.2 million in wages in industries that support gas drilling), which in an economy like ours (with gas prices as high as they are) is hard to scoff at. In fact, the good news in for some upstate communities could be so good that the State is considering "construction windows" to make sure that no neighborhoods are too quickly by the influx of fracking. But at the same time, it doesn't deal with a whole lot of other issues.

Sure, the report gets into lots of details about fracking regulations (here's a PDF of the relavent bits) but, as the National Resources Defense Council notes, it also doesn't even try touching some hot issues, including the effect of fracking in floodplains and the very limited protection the draft offers for the New York City and Syracuse watersheds. In the NRDC's words, "the draft study provides very limited protection, if any, to the critical aqueducts and tunnels that carry water from our reservoirs. From a public health and emergency preparedness standpoint, allowing risky drilling activities to occur near aging and vulnerable water supply infrastructure is an unreasonable risk."

This is a big report with lots to process, so it is going to take a while for people to comb through it and see what tricks the gas industry (which is very eager to get fracking in the Empire State) has gotten in there. At least for the appearance of democracy, before anything becomes official the DEC will be holding a number of public hearings on the subject in November, including one in New York City. The dates and locations of those will be released in early October, a rep for the DEC says.