By Jon Campbell
ALBANY -- Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday expressed support for "home rule" when it comes to natural-gas drilling, saying that a municipality's support or opposition should factor into the decision-making process.
In an interview on New York Public Radio, Cuomo addressed the issue because it has been the subject of two lawsuits and speculation as to whether local decision-making would play a role in whether drilling goes forward in a community.
"I think it's inarguable that one should take into consideration home rule, and if you have communities that have an expressed desire to proceed, I think that should be taken into consideration if you decide to go down this road at all," Cuomo said. "Obviously, if a community says that they oppose it, that should be taken into consideration."
Cuomo's comments come after state Department of Environmental Conservation officials have hinted in recent months that a community's position on hydrofracking would be taken into account when deciding where to issue permits for the technique.
High-volume hydrofracking permits have been on hold in New York until the DEC completes an environmental and regulatory review of the process, which involves the use of water, sand and chemicals injected into underground shale formations to release natural gas. Cuomo said that review should be completed "later this summer."
The debate over home rule has led to the passage of more than 100 municipal bans or moratoriums on hydrofracking or gas drilling, most of which are in the central New York and Finger Lakes region.
Meanwhile, landowner coalitions have urged town boards to pass resolutions in support of gas drilling, focusing on towns in the deepest part of the Marcellus Shale region near the Pennsylvania border.
In the end, whether municipal bans hold up could come down to the courts. A pair of state Supreme Court judges ruled that state law allows towns to ban the practice; both decisions are currently being appealed.
Cuomo is believed to be considering allowing a limited amount of high-volume hydrofracking permits in five counties along the Southern Tier in the gas-rich Marcellus Shale -- Broome, Tioga, Chemung, Chenango and Steuben. And the state may place the permits only in municipalities that favor the drilling.
Cuomo, a first-term Democrat, stressed that no final decisions have been made when it comes to whether allow hydrofracking at all.
"I know (DEC is) working very hard, but I want them to do it on a professional timetable and not a political timetable," Cuomo said.