New York State Assembly Passes Moratorium on Hydrofracking | Governor Vetoes Bill

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New York State Assembly | Speaker Sheldon Silver (2010)






Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Environmental Conservation Committee Chair Robert K. Sweeney announced the passage of legislation (A.11443-B) that would suspend the issuance of new permits for natural gas or oil drilling involving hydraulic fracturing, known as hydrofracking, until May 15, 2011.

"This moratorium will help ensure that the hydrofracking process will only be allowed in New York after a thorough, deliberate and unrushed analysis of the process is complete," said Silver (D-Manhattan). "By preventing the state from issuing new permits to oil and gas companies until further review, we have protected our water supply and served notice to the industry that the health and safety of New Yorkers is our top priority."

Hydraulic fracturing involves pumping water and chemicals under pressure to create fractures in rock containing natural gas or oil. The resulting fractures permit the natural gas or oil to be captured. Concerns have been raised about the potential environmental and health impacts of the chemicals contained in the hydraulic fracturing fluid. Currently, the Environmental Protection Agency is conducting a study to investigate the possible relationships between hydraulic fracturing and drinking water.

"Decisions regarding the safety of our water and air shouldn't be made in haste, but should be the result of careful study and deliberation," said Sweeney. "If the water has been polluted it will be too late. This legislation will remove any 'time pressure' and allow DEC to do its job correctly."

Will Governor Patterson Veto this Bill?


“Even 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,” he told WAMC-FM radio last week. “At this point, I would say that the hydrofracking opponents have raised enough of an argument to thwart us going forward at this time.”


Zeller, Tom. "New York Governor Vetoes Fracking Bill." The New York Times: Greenwire, December 11, 2010.

Gov. David A. Paterson of New York on Saturday vetoed legislation intended to curtail natural gas development using the technique called hydraulic fracturing until a closer review of its effects can be undertaken.

Instead, the governor issued an Executive Order instituting a moratorium that extends until July 1, 2011 — beyond the date specified in the legislation — and that more narrowly defines the types of drilling to be restricted.

“This legislation, which was well intentioned, would have a serious impact on our state if signed into law,” Mr. Paterson said in a prepared statement. “Enacting this legislation would put people out of work – work that is permitted by the Department of Environmental Conservation and causes no demonstrated environmental harm, in order to effectuate a moratorium that is principally symbolic.”

See: Sue Smith-Heavenrich. The Marcellus Effect. December 15, 2010. "No Moratorium And No Horizontal Hydro-Fracking".

Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton explained that an Executive Order, no matter how good, is second best to legislation. A statute, she points out, would not face the risk of being rescinded by Governor Cuomo when he takes office.

“There was also a lot of misinformation from the industry,” Lifton said. Regardless of how safe people insist the current drilling technology is, there are problems with vertical wells. That’s why the moratorium included vertical wells, Lifton said. Indeed, it was vertical Marcellus wells that contaminated the drinking water wells in Dimock, PA.

What does the Executive Order really say? Not much, when you really read it...

See: Sharon Wilson. December 15, 2010. Bluedaze. "The giant loophole NY Gov. Patterson gave industry".

I've kept quiet on the Patterson executive order to hault fracking because something smelled funny about it. Why veto the moratorium then issue an EO? That didn't make sense to me.

The Marcellus Effect blog explains how Patterson is having his cake and eating it.

His giant loophole allows vertical fracking so watch for a big rush on vertical permits. Industry will chop down a bunch of trees and get their vertical pad sites all ready for when the EO expires. Then all they have to do is apply for a change of permit.

There's always a loophole.

See: Energy in Depth. Dec. 2, 2010. "Live From New York…"

See: Sarah Hoye. Dec. 2, 2010. CNN. "New York could be first state to ban controversial drilling practice".

See: Peter Mantius. Dec. 1, 2010. DC Bureau. "New York Assembly Delays Fracking Until May 2011".


See: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA): Comment on the Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (dSGEIS) sent to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) during the public comment period closing 12/31/09.

See: DemocracyNow! Interview with Walter Hang. Watchdog: New York State Regulation of Natural Gas Wells Has Been "Woefully Insufficient for Decades."