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NY Assembly Approves Gas Drilling Moratorium: Historic Measure Now Goes to Governor to Sign

Kate Sinding

Posted November 30, 2010

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Late last night, the New York State Assembly overwhelmingly passed a critical measure that would suspend the issuance of any new permits for gas drilling using the controversial technology of hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking." The purpose of the legislation is "to afford the state and its residents the opportunity to continue the review and analysis of the effects of hydraulic fracturing on water and air quality, environmental safety and public health."

Our thanks go to Assembly Speaker Silver for bringing the measure to the floor, and especially to Assemblymember Sweeney, who carried the bill, and Assemblymembers Englebright, Jefferies, Glick, Kavanaugh, Rosenthal and Lifton, who joined him in leading the floor debate in support.

The measure - which was passed by the state Senate with strong bipartisan support back in August - now goes to Governor Paterson's desk for his signature.  Particularly in light of his pre-Thanksgiving comments about the need to go slow when it comes to new fracking in the state, expectations are high that the governor will sign the measure, which formally suspends fracking until next May, into law.

This action represents the first time any state has stood up to the big oil and gas companies and said no new fracking unless and until they can demonstrate it can be done safely.  It sends a powerful message to the rest of the nation - including states from Wyoming to Pennsylvania that are confronting the dangerous effects of inadequately regulated gas development - that a state can draw a line in the sand and insist on the protection of its citizens.

The historic measure also sends a strong message that New York's legislature agrees with the environmental and grassroots communities that the draft environmental review prepared by the Department of Environmental Conservation is fatally flawed.  The legislature has spoken clearly: a moratorium is necessary so that the state can "continue the review and analysis of the effects of hydraulic fracturing on water and air quality, environmental safety and public health." In other words, the DEC needs to go back to the drawing board and get it right.

Of vital importance, the legislature's action gives an incoming Cuomo administration breathing room to give the issue a fresh look, and to cure the grossly inadequate enviromental review before moving forward with any new drilling in the state's shale.  This means doing a full analysis of, among other things, the cumulative impacts of the hundreds or thousands of wells that would be likely to operate throughout the Marcellus Shale region at any given time, how massive quantities of toxic wastewater would be managed, and how to ensure that fracks do not intersect with natural fault lines or improperly abandoned wells to create long-term contamination risks.

All eyes will now be on Governor Paterson to quickly sign the measure into law, which would substantiate his comments of last week that, "[e]ven with the tremendous revenues that will come in at this time…we’re not going to risk public safety or water quality, which will be the next emerging global problem after the energy shortage."

You can help us make sure the governor is good for his word.  Call or email Governor Paterson and tell him to sign the moratorium into law as soon as it hits his desk.

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JOHN LEWISNov 30 2010 12:57 PM

The only trason NYS is doing it so they have time to tax the people who will receivng money for drilling on their property. NYS one more way to stick it to the people. The average person gets screwed and the rich gets richer. A Governor and Assemby that isn't worth a nickle. PA. is making out good and the average person is taken care of.

JOHN LOUIZNov 30 2010 01:05 PM

Who is NYS kidding!!!! It's another way of our leaders sticking it to us. Their dragging their feet so a tax can be put on the gas. So the average person makes a little and once again NYS gets their hands in on your money. PA. looked out for their people NO tax. They don't have our Governor and Assembly. NY Leaders shouldn't be so greedy. Take a good look at NY and this Country. Your hurting our kids and their future. I just love how these people run for office " Vote for me I'll make a difference". Sure you will maybe for yourself and your follow leaders. Wake up

Tom EricssonNov 30 2010 01:16 PM

The New Yorkers are at it again... Sticking it to the oil and gas industry and states where fracking is permitted - while at the same time using natural gas from the same industry and the same states.. The very definition of hypocrisy!

Jerry KimbleNov 30 2010 04:35 PM

NY is the best thing that has ever happened to Pa.The gas industry has saved us. Everybody that wants a job in Williamsport now has one. Also many people have doubled their pay. Thank you NY.

wadea saadNov 30 2010 09:46 PM

on the fedral level the envirnmental protect agency stated that fracturing is ssssssssssafe , now the n.y. ppoliticians want to delay and spend andstudy the risk factors to water supply , endless redundancy , land owners are holding their breath , economy needs the revenue, and apparently most opposition to drill is from those who dont own mineral rights,and envy coupled with ignorance or disrigard to science and statisticsare their dogma, drill drill drill

david steinDec 1 2010 09:36 AM

Kate - advocating for a shutdown of the natural gas industry seems inconsistent with NRDC's opposition to coal mining.

Given that natural gas is the only practical replacement fuel for coal, it seems that NRDC is, in effect, lobbying for a reinforcement of the status quo - a coal based energy infrastructure.

allan amadoriDec 4 2010 11:06 AM

typical of nys to drive out business and the possibility of new jobs and yes an increase of tax revenue to pay for all the slugs who reside here. why not ban airplanes and autos that pollute and take lives.maybe the real reason is that gas companies refuse to pay the state royalties which are intitled to landowners

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