Before a skeptical panel of state lawmakers, New York’s top environmental regulator defended his agency’s proposed rules for hydraulic fracturing for nearly three hours Thursday while he was peppered with a near-constant stream of questions and criticism.

In an (amazingly) still-ongoing hearing hosted by the Assembly’s environmental committee, Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joseph Martens said he’s confident in his agency’s approach to studying the controversial natural-gas process, and that its regulations will be the strongest in the country when finalized.

The rules will “ensure that gas drilling is undertaken in a manner that protects public health and the environment,” Martens told the panel.

Twelve Assembly members questioned Martens, often times criticizing the DEC for what many of them said was a lack of depth in the agency’s report and for rushing the approval process despite concerns about the techniques.

At times, the crowd let the commissioner have it, with individual audience members yelling things like “liars” and “solar power” while Assembly EnCon Chairman Robert Sweeney, D-Suffolk County, chastised them.

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