By JON CAMPBELL
ALBANY -- Gov. Andrew Cuomo signaled Friday that a resolution to the state's four-year review of hydraulic fracturing for natural gas could come to a conclusion soon.
During a radio interview, Cuomo said that while there is no deadline, a decision on hydrofracking is imminent.
"We don't have a hard date, but it will be done shortly," Cuomo said on Albany's 1300-AM (WGDJ).
The state Department of Environmental Conservation first launched a regulatory and environmental review of high-volume hydrofracking in July 2008, putting all permits on hold in the meantime.
The agency released draft permitting guidelines in 2009 and 2011, and Cuomo's remarks signal that a final version is likely soon on its way.
Cuomo said he believes it's beneficial to make a final determination on hydrofracking when lawmakers aren't at the Capitol. The 2012 legislative session just wrapped up Thursday, and lawmakers aren't scheduled to return until 2013, though many expect to return before then.
"I think it's actually better that we do it when the Legislature is not here, because I don't want a political discussion," Cuomo said. "You have enough emotion around this issue already. You have emotion on both sides; you have emotion that is at such a level in some ways it's governing the conversation.
He continued: "I want to get the conversation back to facts and logic and science and information, and reduce the temperature of the conversation, pardon the pun."
A plan floated last week would allow a limited number of hydrofracking permits in five counties near the Pennsylvania border: Broome, Tioga, Chenango, Chemung and Steuben.
In addition, the municipalities would have to give an OK before a gas well would be drilled there.
The plan has received significant criticism from environmental and anti-fracking groups, with close to 100 of them joining together to oppose the plan in a rally at the Capitol on Wednesday.
Cuomo has not confirmed or denied the potential plan, but spoke Friday about the issue of "home rule" -- whether municipalities should be able to ban gas-drilling and hydrofracking within their borders.
"This is the classic balance of the state's role versus local government's role versus federal," Cuomo said. "And many times the state takes the position of, 'Thank you federal government for your opinion, but we're going to do it our way.' Many times a town or a city will say, 'That's nice, I'm glad you think that Albany, but stick to Albany, we know better. Government closest to home knows the best.'"
High-volume hydrofracking is a technique used with gas drilling in which a mix of water, sand and chemicals is injected into underground shale formations to fracture the rock and unlock natural gas.