NY Assembly Approves Gas Drilling Moratorium
What the heck???? Paterson’s last Hoorah!
The Assembly approved a temporary moratorium on natural gas drilling Monday night, with the goal of placing a hold on hydraulic fracturing (hydrofracking) until May. The bill passed, 93-43, according to the unofficial tally.
It now goes before outgoing Gov. David Paterson for his consideration before it can become law.
The bill was the subject of extensive debate in conference. Advocates wanted the bill passed during the Lame-duck session Monday so it could be law before year’s end and before a new Legislature and governor take office. The measure passed the state Senate in August.
Democratic lawmakers met privately to discuss additional items not on Paterson’s to-do list.
Although the moratorium was not on the agenda set by Paterson, the Democrats pressured the Assembly to gavel into a “regular” session to force a vote on the proposed moratorium and additional items on their private agenda. Their last hoo-rah before leaving office or losing majority control in 30 days.
Several lawmakers said the moratorium would hurt property owners in upstate New York, noting that there are a lot of small farmers, small landowners who are going to be hurt by the moratorium.
The moratorium now halts drilling of natural gas as energy companies seek to drill in the Marcellus Shale formation of the Southern Tier using a controversial extraction process known as hydraulic fracturing.
Lawmakers in favor of the moratorium hope the grace period will give the state Department of Environmental Conservation enough time to release its evaluation of the process, which is expected to be released before the end of the year.
The whole moratorium really seems like a moot point since permits should not be issued until the results of the environmental review is complete. Although 2 permits to hydrofrack gas wells have been issued to Gastem in Otsego County.
Also referred to as “fracking,” the process involves using a combination of water, sand and a small amount of chemicals to blast into the shale and fracture the rock to release the gas.
If the moratorium bill is approved by Paterson, drilling in the area would be halted until May 15 in order for the state to have a more complete picture of the extraction method’s environmental impacts.
Environmentalists and some property owners, who have fought everything from wind power, hydro-power to power lines in the region, are concerned fracking would contaminate the water table.
Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb, R-Canandaigua, Ontario County, said lawmakers should have waited for Gov.-elect Andrew Coumo to take office later this month and not pass the moratorium.
Cuomo has stated that he wants to wait for the Environmental Protection Agency to complete its report on the drilling method before allowing any permits to be approved.
Paterson, who leaves office at the end of the month, called the Legislature back to Albany earlier this month in order to take up a variety of outstanding issues — including making enough cuts in the current 2010-11 fiscal year budget to close an estimated $315 million deficit. Hardest hit in his cuts is the DEC, with several closures of state parks in Upstate New York, the closure of Rogers Environmental Center, an education center that for years hosted school children on field trips and a huge cut to the staff at the Belleayre Ski Resort, crippling its ability to operate and dooming the regions economy that relies on the resorts tourists.
The governor’s office would not comment as to whether Paterson would sign the moratorium passed by the Assembly. But in an interview last week on public radio, Paterson indicated the state is not willing to move forward with drilling in the shale formation.
“… At this point, I would say that the hydrofracking, the opponents of it, have raised enough of an argument to thwart us from going forward at this time,” Paterson said.
For now Paterson….. But 2011 brings in a new legislature.
Kellie M. Place, “The Land Expert”
“Upstate New York’s Real Estate Development Expert”
“Multi-Million Dollar Top Producer”
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