By Tom Precious
ALBANY – The Assembly today passed legislation to place a two-year moratorium on the controversial fracking drilling process for natural gas, a move its Democratic leaders say is necessary to give time for a comprehensive study of the issue by a state university of New York college.
The delay would push the matter beyond the 2014 statewide campaign and state legislative campaign season, but was getting push-back from the politically powerless Assembly Republican conference whose members were arguing on the chamber floor this afternoon that the moratorium will eat into upstate job creation.
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said his conference is “profoundly sympathetic" to the need to improve the upstate economy, but said hydro-fracking has not been properly studied to ensure it is a safe drilling process.
“The health and well-being of the people must always take precedent to industry profits," Silver said. He added the natural gas underground will still be there when the proposed moratorium ends in May 2015. “We’re not going to lose it. There is time to study, there is time to act with caution and thoughtfulness," Silver said.
He added, “I am skeptical that fracking can be done safely."
While the Cuomo administration’s environmental conservation and health departments have been studying the issue for years now, Silver said he wants to bring in an unnamed State University of New York college with a public health school to do what he called an “independent" assessment of the various health issues around fracking. The proposed moratorium would ban new permits being issued in the Marcellus and Utica shale formation areas.
Brad Gill, executive director of the Independent Oil and Gas Association of New York, condemned the Assembly’s one-house proposal, calling it “ill-informed" that ignores existing science on the topic from New York and other states.
“New York’s government could work to create progress and prosperity by expanding natural gas exploration. Instead, we produce delay," Gill said.
The state has already had a moratorium on the fracking permits since 2008.
taggedAlbany | Andrew Cuomo | Sheldon Silver