Assembly Democrats are expected tomorrow to pass a two-year hydrofracking moratorium, the second time in two years that the chamber has sought to block the controversial drilling practice.
And today, the five-member group of breakaway Democratic senators proposed legislation for an additional 24 months to review the potential health impacts of hydrofracking in New York, Gannett’s Haley Viccaro reports.
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, said the bill by the Independent Democratic Conference is not much different than the one the Assembly is set to pass.
“It’s a finite difference,” Silver said.
The Assembly recently amended its bill to extend a moratorium from one year to two years, with its expiration on May 15, 2015. It was initially set to expire on May 15, 2014.
The bill is similar to one passed by the Assembly last year, but with some key differences. The new legislation specifically would prohibit the state from issuing permits to drill in the Utica and Marcellus shales, the two formations where high-volume hydraulic fracturing would be used to unlock gas.
Sen. David Carlucci, D-Clarkstown, Rockland County, said an Environmental Protection Agency study and the Geisinger Health System study are underway and should be completed by the end of 2014 or early 2015. They should be finished before hydrofracking moves forward, Carlucci said.
“We believe that these studies, particularly the Geisinger study, will be of utmost importance if fracking is decided to move forward that these regulations are the strongest and the strictest in the nation to protect the health of all New Yorkers,” Carlucci said during a press conference. “That is the bottom line.”
Hydrofracking groups and advocates expressed their support for the proposed legislation and said the state is not ready to move forward with hydrofracking due to the lack of scientific studies about the issue.
Julia Walsh, a representative of Frack Action, said there have been cases of health complications due to hydrofracking in other states. She said reported illnesses include nausea, nosebleeds, cancer and other life-threatening illnesses.
“New York must continue to play a leadership role in this issue by considering the very important information on why people are getting sick before any decisions are made,” Walsh said.
The commissioner of the state Health Department is conducting his own public health review and is also evaluating additional comprehensive studies in collaboration with outside experts. Carlucci’s proposed legislation would require the commissioner to take 24 months to complete the studies.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo said yesterday that no decision on hydrofracking will be made until the health review is complete. The state already missed a regulatory deadline because the review is still underway.
“I said to them get it done quickly, but get it done right,” Cuomo said.