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New York GOP Anxious For Progress on Fracking

Two Republican state senators in New York, key supporters of Marcellus and Utica shale gas drilling, are anxious to see Gov. Andrew Cuomo's administration move forward with the process to establish rules for drilling and high-volume hydraulic fracturing (HVHF). Meanwhile, officials in the Town of York in Livingston County, became the latest municipality to reject a proposed moratorium on fracking.

Jeff Bishop, spokesman for state Sen. James Seward (R-Milford), told NGI the senator would like to see the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) move forward with its recommendations. "The process has been going on for quite some time. We would like to see the process move forward at this point. Sen. Seward has always been supportive of what's been taking place, to let the DEC do their job. Then, if science dictates that drilling can be done safely, it should move forward."

Last month DEC Commissioner Joseph Martens said he anticipated an eventual legal challenge to any rules the agency creates for regulating HVHF in the state and asked Health Commissioner Nirav Shah to conduct a health impact analysis of the practice (see NGI, Sept. 24).

State Sen. Thomas Libous (R-Binghamton) said the Cuomo administration should come to a decision over HVHF before the end of the year. Otherwise, he warned, the decision-making process could be complicated by the next legislative session, which opens Jan. 9. "My sense is that something has to be decided by the end of this year," Libous told the Democrat & Chronicle of Rochester, NY. "To go beyond that, I think, becomes extremely problematic."

But Bishop indicated that it probably wouldn't matter if the legislature had reconvened. "So far, at least from the Senate's and Sen. Seward's standpoint, they have tried to stay as removed from it as possible and to let the experts work through the process," he said.

At its last meeting on Sept. 27, the York Town Board voted 3-2 against a proposed one-year moratorium on HVHF. Councilwoman Lynn Parnell, who cast one of the dissenting votes, told NGI the town would now focus on zoning issues. "The town needs time to get the zoning updated," Parnell said. "You never know if the state is going to approve anything or when. If the state approves fracking, we can't stop it."

York is one of three Livingston County municipalities that are in the crosshairs of Lenape Resources Inc., which has threatened to sue the DEC if the agency doesn't advise the towns that they lack the authority to enact local drilling bans (see NGI, Aug 6). Lenape said York, as well as the towns of Avon and Caledonia, are violating a 1981 state statute known as the Environmental Conservation Law.

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