Democrats Push For Hydrofracking Health Study, Public Hearings

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Democrats in both the Senate and Assembly have been busy today on the issue of hydraulic fracturing for natural gas, announcing that the lower chamber will push for a study of the drilling process’ health impacts while those in the upper chamber are pushing for a public hearing on a list of bills.

A day after releasing a public letter to Speaker Sheldon Silver, Ithaca Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton announced today that the Assembly’s budget resolution out later this week will include $100,000 for a “comprehensive health study” of hydrofracking. While the state Department of Environmental Conservation has evaluated the technique for much of the last four years, its study has been criticized by environmental groups for not taking a strong enough look at the potential impacts on human health.

“This study will go a long way to answer the many questions New Yorkers have about what fracking would mean for their health if this goes forward,” Lifton said in a statement. “I hope the Senate will follow the Assembly’s leadership on this critical issue.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed budget didn’t include any additional funds for gas-drilling regulators, saying that he wouldn’t include such funding until the DEC made a decision on whether to allow high-volume hydrofracking.

Meanwhile, Senate Democrats this morning handed in a petition to Senate Environmental Chairman Mark Grisanti, R-Buffalo, calling for a public hearing on a list of 16 different bills related to hydrofracking. Some would place a firm moratorium on the technique, others would lay out stricter regulations for treating waste from the process, and others deal with the issue of “home rule.”

Senate rules call for a public hearing on a bill within 14 days if one-third of a committee signs a petition.

At the meeting, Grisanti accepted the petition from Sen. Tony Avella, D-Queens, and said he would “take it under advisement.” You can watch video of the meeting here, which drew just three of the committee’s 14 members.

“We’ll be in touch as far as what the next step is,” said Grisanti, who added a decision on a hearing would be made either tomorrow or early next week.

Here’s the list of bills the Senate Democrats are calling for a hearing on:

Petition for Public Forum – Hydrofracking

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