Two-year fracking ban passed by Assembly seen as possible turning point!
WAMC Northeast Public Radio 5:36 PM WED MARCH 6, 2013
By KAREN DEWITT
The New York State Assembly has approved, by a 95 to 40 vote, a two-year moratorium on hydrofracking in New York. While it’s unlikely to be passed in the Senate, the action reflects state lawmakers’ growing worries about potential health impacts from the natural gas drilling process. Capitol Correspondent Karen DeWitt reports.
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has led the way in recent days to ban hydrofracking for at least another two years in New York. The Speaker says right now, there are too many unanswered questions. He says concerns include drinking water safety, whether the release of methane gas from fracking into the atmosphere will add to climate change, and possible risks posed by radioactive materials that are brought up from underground during the drilling process.
“No one wants to harm our environment and jeopardize our water supply,” Silver said. “I am skeptical that fracking can be done safely.”
The moratorium would last until May 15, 2015. In the meantime, the Assembly bill calls for the State University of New York to conduct an independent, comprehensive health review. Fracking would be delayed even longer if the health study is not finished in two years and two months.
“Until we have the facts, no new permits should be issued for natural gas drilling in the Marcellus or Utica shale formations,” Silver said.
A similar bill to ban fracking in New York for two more years was introduced by the Independent Democratic Conference in the Senate. The breakaway Democrats are in a powersharing agreement with Senate Republicans. The GOP is against the moratorium. They prefer to wait instead for Governor Cuomo’s health commissioner to complete an on going review. So it’s unlikely that the measure will move in the Senate.
Despite that, anti-fracking groups see the Assembly’s action as a possible turning point in the years-long debate over whether to allow the natural gas drilling in New York. Katherine Nadeau, with Environmental Advocates, says the public wants a "time out."
“The people are speaking,” said Nadeau. “And they’re getting louder and stronger every day.”