Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, may be a darling of the energy industry at the moment, but plans for oil and gas extraction using the controversial drilling method in New York are getting fractured, at least for now.
The New York State Assembly last week approved a two-year moratorium on the process. Actually, the action extended a de facto fracking ban that has been in place since 2008. The moratorium, if approved by the State Senate and signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, will extend to 2015.
It’s a blow to the oil and gas industry’s plans to begin fracking operations in the New York portion of the Marcellus Shale basin.
This is the third time the Assembly has passed moratorium legislation, with similar bills passing in 2010 and 2011, but they then languished and died in the Senate and never reached the Governor’s desk, meaning a de facto moratorium has remained in place.
The new legislation requires a full review, including a new study to look at the potential public health impact of fracking.
“We will not sit idly by and endanger the health and safety of our communities by rushing necessary health and safety reviews,” Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said in a statement before the Assembly’s vote.
So will this third attempt make the unofficial moratorium official? Quite possibly: the bipartisan Independent Democratic Conference bloc of the Senate—which shares control of the Senate with the Republicans—has come out in support of the bill’s passage, according to the Associated Press.
It could be a temporary victory for environmental activists however: Alex Beauchamp of Food & Water Watch told the Albany Times-Union, “Hundreds of New York health professionals agree with the State Assembly that we should not move forward without a full, comprehensive examination of the health impacts of fracking … Moving forward would simply enrich oil and gas companies that want to ship their gas overseas and their profits to Texas at the expense of New York’s public health and environment.”
Of course the oil and gas industry, takes a different, if somewhat odd, view of the situation. “The vote by the Assembly to further delay natural gas development is tantamount to telling the people of the Southern Tier to ‘drop dead,’” said New York Petroleum Council Executive Director, Karen Moreau. “Once again, Albany politicians are putting politics before science, and the special interests before the people. The people of New York deserve better, to say the least.”
Fracking benefits “the people”? Explain, please. That’s a strange tack—a scientific review might just have some benefit in determining the health and environmental effects of fracking on the people most impacted by it.
[Credit: No Fracking Way by Melissa Youngern via Flickr CC]