The Assembly vote on Wednesday follows a bill introduced Wednesday in the Senate, which would put off the decision by Gov. Andrew Cuomo for up to two years.
Each house wants to provide time for the Cuomo administration to consider state, federal, university and private sector studies. Key among them is a health review in Pennsylvania known as the Geisinger study that will compare data about residents near gas drilling wells before and after the process was allowed.
Cuomo has said he’ll await recommendations from his health and environmental conservation departments. He has not set a deadline for that process.The controversial natural gas drilling technique known as “fracking” has spawned widespread protests over the past few years.
“We will not sit idly by and endanger the health and safety of our communities by rushing necessary health and safety reviews,” said Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. “We need to better understand the broad impacts to our environment, our economy, and the health and safety of all who work and live in New York before the Department of Environmental Conservation makes its decision.”
This action would allow for a comprehensive review process, independent of industry pressure, while the Department of Environmental Conservation’s (DEC) examination of hydraulic fracking continues. Delaying the DEC’s ability to issue permits will provide the Legislature with additional time to examine all the facts including the awaited Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (DSGEIS). The measure would also require a health impact assessment to be completed by a SUNY school of public health to examine fracking’s potential public health impacts.
Concerns have repeatedly been raised about the potential impact of using horizontal drilling and high-volume hydraulic fracturing to extract natural gas from certain shale formations in New York State. This bill (A.5424-A/Sweeney) would prohibit the DEC from issuing permits for drilling in certain areas of the state including the Marcellus and Utica shale formations in order to allow for the continued examination of fracking’s potential effect on public health and the environment.
Assembly Environmental Conservation Committee Chair Robert Sweeney said, “Safeguarding the health of the public and our invaluable natural resources remains the Assembly’s priority. … A greater danger lies in haste than in the deliberate safeguarding of our clean air and water, our health and the health of the generations to come.”
The Assembly first passed a one-year moratorium on hydraulic fracturing in New York in November of 2010 that was subsequently vetoed by Governor Paterson. In June 2011, they voted to extend the moratorium until June 2012 but the Senate did not take action on the legislation. The new legislation would enact a moratorium until May 2015.