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New York Governor: 'Home Rule' is a Gateway for Fracking

Taking two opportunities to field questions on hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in as many days, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he supports "home rule" legislation and believes such powers would be an appropriate method for communities that support drilling to have it.

In an interview with New York Public Radio on July 9, Cuomo said the debate over fracking was intensifying in the wake of two legal challenges to fracking bans enacted last year by the towns of Dryden and Middlefield (see NGI, Feb. 27).

"I think it's inarguable that one should take into consideration home rule, and if you have communities that have an expressed desire to proceed [with fracking], I think that should be taken into consideration if you decide to go down this road at all," Cuomo said. "Obviously, if a community says that they oppose [fracking], that should be taken into consideration."

It was the Democratic governor's first comment on fracking since reports surfaced that his administration was considering a plan to allow the practice in five counties along the Pennsylvania border, but with two caveats: support by localities and endorsement by the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), which would regulate the practice (see NGI, June 18).

Cuomo touched on the DEC's role in the process during a press conference to unveil the state's new travel information system on July 10.

"I don't want to do this piecemeal," Cuomo said "It's a very important and complicated topic. The DEC has been tasked with coming up with a thorough, factual scientific report that answers all of these questions [about fracking], and answers them in an objective, nonpolitical context."

Cuomo was then asked by a reporter if, based on his recent comments, he supports fracking. "What I said yesterday was, if DEC came out with a report that said we should go ahead, then I think home rule is relevant," Cuomo said. "Home rule is one of the basic, essential elements of our democracy. If DEC said, 'you can do this; you can do it safely; we have the initial discussion and we've made the decision on the first fork in the road,' then I believe home rule is relevant. Is it necessarily determinative? No. But is it relevant? Yes."

A bill, A3245, would give local governments more zoning and land use powers. Sponsored by Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton (D-Ithaca) -- a longtime foe of fracking -- the bill passed the State Assembly on May 16 by a 93-46 vote. It was then delivered to the State Senate, and is currently before the Senate Committee on Environmental Conservation.

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