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New York Assembly Approves Temporary Fracking Ban

A signature from outgoing New York Gov. David Paterson is all that is required for a temporary ban on hydraulic fracturing (fracking) to become effective in the Empire State following the New York State Assembly's approval of the measure on Monday.

The bill (A11443), which would place a moratorium on fracking permit approvals by the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) until May 15, 2011, was approved by the assembly in a 93-43 vote. The New York Senate approved the temporary drilling ban in August (see Daily GPI, Aug. 5).

Paterson, who has 10 days in which to sign or veto the bill, has not made a decision on the legislation, a spokesman told NGI Tuesday.

"The governor will review the legislation when it comes to his desk, and will solicit input from stakeholders on both sides and then make a determination based on the merits of the bill," the spokesman said.

The temporary moratorium "will provide the legislature additional time to assess the true environmental impacts of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing" in the Marcellus and Utica shales, according to the bill, and "will also allow the legislature to properly deliberate the numerous concerns that have come forward during the public comment period on the Department of Environmental Conservation's draft supplemental generic environmental impact statement [SGEIS]." Withholding fracking permits until May will ensure that lawmakers have ample opportunity to act on the issue during the 2011 legislative session, according to the bill.

The legislation had been supported by dozens of environmental groups, but industry organizations, including the Independent Oil & Gas Association of New York, warned that it could jeopardize jobs across the state (see Shale Daily, Nov. 30).

"Blocking important natural gas development and the creation of new jobs and revenues is not sound energy or economic policy," said John Felmy, chief economist of the American Petroleum Institute. "New York continues to struggle with an economic crisis, and natural gas should be part of the solution to the state's economic problems."

In July 2008 Paterson directed the DEC to prepare an SGEIS, effectively placing a moratorium on much of the Marcellus development in the state (see Daily GPI, July 28, 2008). The SGEIS was requested because the original generic environmental impact statement was completed in 1992, before current shale development technology was on the table. The SGEIS is not expected to be completed until next year (see Shale Daily, Oct. 13).

Gov.-elect Andrew Cuomo has signaled that he may not approve the use of fracking in the Marcellus Shale until "bona fide studies" indicate that it can be done safely (see Shale Daily, Nov. 23). Attorney General-elect Eric Schneiderman has said he would file a lawsuit to stop drillers from fracking wells until the "process is proven safe."

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