Assembly moving forward with hydrofracking moratorium

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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.

A hydrofracking moratorium has not moved forward in the Republican-led Senate, but now the Senate’s control is shared by Democrats and Republicans.

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.

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8 Comments

  1. Dave Colavito on

    It’s difficult not to appreciate the assembly’s intention to extend the moratorium, just as it is to not appreciate the Governor’s recent announcement to hold off on his fracking decision until the health studies are complete. But this is politics, however otherwise Mr. Cuomo would prefer we believe. And for that reason, I can’t help appreciating something else: that Mr. Cuomo’s latest “check-point” is another example of his failure to lead on the issue, to kick the can down the road beyond his “must win” 2014 relection campaign. Call me cynical, but the timing couldn’t be better for him — delay his decision until after he’s presumably reelected, and then evolve towards whatever national campaign politics he perceives is necessary for a presidential run in 2016. Sorry, but I’m not ready to drink the Kool-Aid.

  2. Joanne Corey on

    Besides passing the two year moratorium, the Legislature should also fund an independent, comprehensive Health Impact Assessment, completed to national and international standards and using local NYS input. The current process of the DEC doing the health document and then having it reviewed by DOH and three outside experts is inadequate and does not follow the proper scientific research protocol.

  3. Steven Handwerker on

    Amen to Joanne Corey’s comment…and WE the citizens and NYS residents MUST keep pressure on until the day ethical science prevails to preserve the environment and the resources of our state!

  4. Hugh Kimball on

    The moratorium makes a lot of sense especially following DEC’s backward and secretive “health impact study” and the opening and closing of comments on the regulations before we saw the results of the study and before the SGEIS was released. We can only assume that the SGEIS still contains many of the flaws that have been pointed out to DEC over a four year period.

    It is also clear that even if the regulations were perfect, DEC is in no way prepared with enough trained personnel to even begin to oversee drilling in the field.

  5. Why wait? Let’s drill now so we don’t have import any more oil from the middle east than we have too. And let’s not forget about all the jobs this will create. We desperately need abundately cheap energy to drive our economy.

  6. The assembly is going in the right direction. To shore up the facts about fracking.

  7. Hugh Kimball on

    Bill, that sounds like a really simple solution as long as you ignore methane venting and leaking into the atmosphere creating a much more potent risk of global warming than CO2 and ignore air, water, and ground pollution and the impacts on people and both domestic and wild animals, fragmenting of forests, truck traffic, and the fact that the proposed regulations are flawed and that NYSDEC has no trained people to supervise the drilling in the field.

  8. Hugh what’s with the doom & gloom attitude?

    You write as if the world will end when the 1st drill bit hits the ground.

    Plenty of places already allow this type of drilling/fracking & I’m sure there will be plenty of oversight so I don’t see what all the fuss is about.

    Get off your high horse & stop it with the BS. We need the jobs and the energy, not to mention the tax revenue it’ll bring in.