New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo criticized groups that support high-volume hydraulic fracturing (HVHF) in the Empire State for focusing on “hallway chatter” and said he doesn’t think two bills calling for a two-year moratorium on the practice will pass the legislature.

In an interview on March 12, Cuomo repeated that he would make a decision on whether to allow HVHF based on “facts and science,” but he said groups that support the practice weren’t using their time wisely.

“I think the landowners’ consultants and the lobbyists for the pro-fracking groups would be better advised to spend their time actually getting out information to allay the fears of the people of this state than worrying about hallway chatter,” Cuomo told the Albany bureau of Gannett Co. Inc. “Their job is to communicate to the people of the state, to say that this is a safe process, to be open and available. And that’s what they should be doing.”

Scott Kurkoski — an attorney with the Binghamton, NY firm Levene Gouldin & Thompson LLP who serves as legal counsel for the Joint Landowners Coalition of New York Inc. (JLCNY) — called Cuomo’s comments “surprising.”

“[Landowner groups] have done more to educate landowners than any other organization in New York,” Kurkoski told NGI. But he added that many groups have disbanded because of a lack of funding. “People in New York are so discouraged about the lack of movement by the state that funding has dried up and, frankly, interest has dried up by some landowners.

Last September, Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Joseph Martens asked Department of Health (DOH) Commissioner Nirav Shah to conduct a health impact analysis on HVHF. In a Feb. 12 letter, Shah told Martens that he wanted to incorporate the findings of three competing studies — led by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Geisinger Health System and the University of Pennsylvania — into his health impact statement (see NGI, Feb. 18; Sept. 24, 2012). According to the Associated Press, Shah said the health impact analysis will be completed within the next few weeks.

On March 6, the Democrat-controlled Assembly passed a bill, A5424, calling for a two-year moratorium on HVHF and other measures. The Assembly vote came one day after two state Senators introduced bill S4046, which also calls for a two-year moratorium but also orders the state to refrain from issuing permits until the EPA, Geisinger and University of Pennsylvania studies are completed (see NGI, March 4). Both bills are before the Senate Environmental Conservation Committee.

“I don’t believe that bill passes,” Cuomo said of S4046. “We’re not looking for a political resolution here.”

If New York decides to allow HVHF, development will likely occur in the state’s Southern Tier, counties along on near the Pennsylvania border. Last June, Cuomo administration officials hinted that HVHF could first be allowed in five Southern Tier counties — Broome, Chemung, Chenango, Steuben and Tioga — which overlie the Marcellus Shale (see NGI, June 18, 2012). Cortland, Otsego and Tompkins counties are also believed to contain significant shale deposits.

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