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NY State Senator: Fracking Possible After November Election

A state senator in New York State said he believes Gov. Andrew Cuomo will come out in support of high-volume hydraulic fracturing (HVHF) after the gubernatorial election in November, and allow some form of the practice to take place, perhaps as early as January 2015.

Sen. George Maziarz (R-Newfane), who serves as vice president pro tempore and chairs the Senate Energy and Telecommunications Committee, also said he thought it would be difficult for Cuomo, or any candidate, to successfully run or serve as governor for a third term in the state. Cuomo Thursday officially accepted the Democratic Party’s nomination to run for a second term as governor, with the election to take place on Nov. 4.

Maziarz made the comments during a question and answer session on Wednesday at the Independent Power Producers of New York Inc. annual spring conference, which was held in Albany, NY.

"The senator is a strong supporter of natural gas exploration, and he did say that in his speech a couple times," Matt Nelligan, director of operations for Maziarz's office, told NGI's Shale Daily on Thursday. "But when it came to this particular question [about HVHF], he said 'I've had no direct conversations with the governor. But my political radar, my political judgment, is that he will allow it to go forward after the election.'

"He wasn't saying he had any information from the inside or any of that kind of stuff. It was just his political view on it."

Nelligan added that both he and Maziarz "can't speak directly to what may be in the decision making process on the executive side. This [debate] has been going on for quite awhile. One of the things about shale gas drilling in New York State, that anybody on either side of the debate would agree with, is that just when you think you may be coming to a resolution, you're not."

Brad Gill, executive director of the Independent Oil and Gas Association of New York (IOGA), called Maziarz a "friend to the industry" because of his pragmatic views on energy issues, but he was surprised that he said something could happen on HVHF by January.

"We feel that we're not going see a decision during the campaign cycle," Gill told NGI's Shale Daily on Thursday. "We didn't expect to see anything until after November. The industry has just been assuming we're not going to see anything happen until next March or April at the earliest. So when Maziarz says January -- well, that's a little more optimistic than what we've been.

"I think it would be within the realm of possibility. I can't imagine Cuomo wants to touch this before the election. But once the dust settles from the election, and that could be January, I don't think it's inconceivable that we could see something. Of course, the larger question that everybody has been wondering about is will Cuomo even make a decision at all then? Or are we going to be stuck with four more years of indecision and indecisive leadership?"

Cuomo will face Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, a Republican, in the general election.

"Rob has publicly endorsed safe, responsible natural gas development," Gill said. "Even though Westchester County enacted a ban [on wastewater from hydraulic fracturing], that was not entirely his doing. We firmly believe that Astarino right now is our best hope for something to happen in New York.

"Anything coming out of Cuomo camp right now is simply trying to play both sides during this upcoming campaign season."

A de facto moratorium on HVHF has been in effect in New York State, since July 2008, when then-Gov. David Paterson ordered the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to perform a supplemental generic environmental impact statement (SGEIS) on the practice.

In September 2012, DEC Commissioner Joseph Martens asked Nirav Shah, commissioner of the state Department of Health (DOH) to conduct a health impact analysis of HVHF before the DEC completed its SGEIS (see Shale Daily, Sept. 24, 2012). Shah has since resigned his post for a job in the private sector (see Shale Daily,April 11) and no health analysis has been forthcoming.

Supporters of HVHF have filed two lawsuits against state officials -- including Cuomo, Martens and Shah -- over the ongoing regulatory delays in considering HVHF (see Shale Daily, Feb. 18; Nov. 25, 2013). New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has filed motions to have the two lawsuits dismissed (see Shale Daily, March 31; March 7).

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