Two Republican state senators, key supporters of Marcellus and Utica shale gas drilling in New York, 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, NY, became the latest municipality to reject a proposed moratorium on fracking.

Jeff Bishop, spokesman for Sen. James Seward (R-Milford), told NGI’s Shale Daily 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,” Bishop said Tuesday. “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, so he asked Health Commissioner Nirav Shah to conduct a health impact analysis of the practice (see Shale Daily, Sept. 24).

In a newspaper interview, 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’s Shale Daily the town would now focus on zoning issues.

“The town needs time to get the zoning updated,” Parnell said Tuesday. “You never know if the state is going to approve anything or when. It’s better to be safe than sorry to have this amount of time to work on it. We’re forming a committee to go through all that.”

Asked if the zoning would be adequate instead of a moratorium, Parnell said the latter “was basically to do that, within a definite time limit. But now if [the state] passes anything, we don’t have the zoning updated. The reason for the moratorium was to give us that time to do the research we needed to do to make sure everything was in line to protect our community.

“I just want to make sure that what we do in our town is correct. 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 Shale Daily, Aug. 2). Lenape said York, plus the towns of Avon and Caledonia, are violating a 1981 state statute known as the Environmental Conservation Law.

But relations between York and Lenape appear to be on the mend. An editorial by the Livingston County News of Geneseo, NY, said three of York’s five board members described Lenape as a “good neighbor.”

On June 28 the Avon Town Board passed a one-year moratorium that essentially bans all oil and natural gas activities. One week later Lenape, which is the only company now drilling in the area, shuttered its wells and pipelines in Avon, which resulted in halting royalty payments and free natural gas for landowners (see Shale Daily, July 11).

Lenape’s 16 vertical wells in Avon are said to be less than 2,000 feet deep and were hydraulically fractured with small stimulation treatments, a process that is legal in New York. According to Lenape, none of the wells used HVHF.

Livingston County is just north and west of Steuben County, which is one of five counties that in June were floated by the Cuomo administration as possible localities that could be open to HVHF, provided the DEC grants regulatory approval (see Shale Daily, June 14). Meanwhile, local governments across the state have been choosing sides in the fracking debate (see Shale Daily, June 6; June 4; May 22).

The Town of Middlefield in Otsego County and the Town of Dryden in Tompkins County have also enacted local ordinances that ban fracking. In separate rulings earlier this year, county judges upheld those ordinances (see Shale Daily, Feb. 29; Feb. 23). Both cases are nearing appeals (see Shale Daily, Oct. 5).