Opponents of natural gas drilling in the Southern Tier’s Marcellus Shale formation today are cheering the state Senate’s approval of a short-term moratorium late Tuesday night.
The measure sailed through the Senate, 48-9. If approved by the Assembly and Gov. David Paterson, permits to drill for natural gas in the formation would be delayed until May 15, 2011. Now focus turns to the Assembly, where supporters of the drilling moratorium believe it could be taken up soon.
“I think it has overwhelming support in our house,” said Assemblyman Robert Sweeney, D-Bablyon, Nassau County. “We were waiting to see the Senate move the bill forward.”
Sweeney said the Democratic-led Assembly could return to Albany in September to take up the measure.
The process, known as hydraulic fracturing, uses a mixture of water and chemicals to blast through rocks in order to access the gas. Proponents believe the drilling is safe and would be lucrative to the economically depressed region.
Jim Smith, a spokesman for the Independent Oil and Gas Association, an industry lobby group, blasted the moratorium.
“Our lawmakers would rather raise taxes and fees than generate some real revenue,” Smith said.
He added that the bill goes further than intended and would hinder drilling projects that have already been approved.
“We’re hopeful that the Assembly will take the more objective and scientific approach to this discussion,” Smith said.
Those opposed to drilling in the Southern Tier are concerned the process will wreak environmental havoc.
“This is a huge step forward to protecting our water in New York state from the dangers of natural gas drilling,” said Katherine Nadeau of Environmental Advocates of New York. “We’re very excited for the Assembly to take it up.”
Here’s Sen. Liz Krueger, D-Manhattan, discussing why she voted for the moratorium.