After previously indicating his agency anticipated high-volume hydraulic fracturing to begin at some point next year, the state's top environmental regulator said Tuesday it's "hard to predict" whether that's going to happen.

Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joseph Martens said an agency panel will need more time to come up with a new fee structure for gas drillers. The panel's state-level recommendations had initially been expected next month, but a procedural change will likely push them back.

When asked if hydrofracking will begin in 2012, Martens didn't make a prognostication.

"It is really hard to predict," Martens said. "We have a lot of work left to do."

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