Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.  New York State has taken a step forward – albeit a very small one – to authorize the use of natural gas development through high volume hydraulic fracturing (HVHF).

Last Thursday, the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) released a revised set of proposed regulations relating to HVHF.  It’s been a full year since DEC’s last public hearing was held on its proposed regulations.

Unfortunately, drilling permits will not be issued any time soon.  DEC said that the revised document allows it to extend the review process, and to take consider the findings of a pending analysis by the state Department of Health.

The good news is that the state has done something.  The bad news is that many of the concerns expressed by the drilling industry have not been addressed, such as overbroad setback requirements that will remove nearly 80 percent of the potential shale from use.  This will result in much of the developable shale gas in the Southern Tier being inaccessible.

Someday, perhaps in our lifetimes, Upstate New Yorkers will get a chance to experience what many other small towns and rural areas are experiencing today – an economic resurgence resulting from natural gas development.