Outgoing New York Gov. David Paterson took the high road on Saturday, vetoing a bill that would have codified into law a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in the state through May 15, and at the same time extending until July 1 a deadline for the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to prepare a supplemental generic environmental impact statement (SGEIS).

Paterson’s double-header decision affecting new horizontal drilling in the Marcellus Shale of New York effectively keeps the fracking question at the administrative level, subject to change by the next administration. Turning the moratorium into law would have made it easier for the state legislature to amend and extend it.

“We in government must always focus on protecting the well-being of those whom we represent and serve, but we also have an obligation to look to the future and protect the long-term interests for our state and its residents,” Paterson said.

In an executive order Paterson directed the DEC to conduct further comprehensive review and analysis of high-volume fracking in the Marcellus Shale. Permitting for vertical drilling will continue in New York “unless the DEC’s comprehensive review requires it to be stopped,” according to Peter Kiernan, counsel to the governor.

The veto was cheered by industry groups including the Independent Oil and Gas Association of New York, which had argued that the bill would jeopardize as many as 5,000 jobs.

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