It’s rare that both sides of the contentious natural-gas drilling debate will agree on much, but Gov. David Paterson seemed to have done that today.
They didn’t get the moratorium bill they wanted, but environmental groups said they are pleased with Paterson’s decision to issue an executive order to ban hydrofracking until at least July 1.
And business groups said Paterson’s veto allows current drilling to continue.
Brad Gill, executive director of the Independent Oil and Gas Association, said, “We are grateful to Governor Paterson for his courage and clear-headed judgment in vetoing S.8129-B (Thompson)/A.11443-B (Sweeney). This bill would have had far-reaching consequences to the state’s oil and natural gas industry, and to the communities in which our member companies work.”
Environmental groups applauded Paterson’s decision, saying he set a national precedent and provided a “timeout on horizontal wells for fracking for natural gas.”
Still, the groups cautioned that the state Legislature’s moratorium bill was stronger and urged incoming Gov. Andrew Cuomo to take an aggressive stance on the issue. Cuomo has said that drilling should only be allowed if it is deemed safe.
“Governor Paterson has signaled that he understands fracking is a dangerous process that poses serious health and environmental threats,” a coalition of environmental groups said in a statement.
“The moratorium makes New York the first state to insist on protecting the health and safety of its citizens and drinking water, before allowing drilling to proceed.”
But Senate Democratic Leader John Sampson, D-Brooklyn, ripped Paterson for vetoing the bill, saying the governor “caved” to the oil and gas companies. He warned that the executive order is too limited and pointed to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico this year as a reason to move cautiously with any drilling.
He claimed much of the state, including the Southern Tier, Hudson Valley and New York City, draws its drinking water from areas that will not fully protected by the governor’s order.
“Allowing the special interest influence of the few to outweigh the public safety interests of so many is disappointing,” Sampson said.
Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo, D-Endwell, Broome County, said Paterson struck the right balance in his decision.
“I voted against the moratorium bill for the very reasons that he vetoed it,” Lupardo said in a statement. “The May 15th moratorium deadline was pointless given the current pace of the DEC’s review of horizontal hydraulic fracturing and that the bill would have inadvertently suspended the issuance of new permits for vertical wells.”