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Gas Drilling Ban in NY Still a Possibility in 2010

Environmental groups say anti-drilling bill has enough votes to pass New York Legislature this week

By Stacy Feldman

Aug 2, 2010

A bill in the New York Legislature that would crack down on a controversial gas drilling technique in the massive Marcellus Shale formation could reach the floor for a vote this week, after being described as a 'no-go' by some observers just days ago.

The , sponsored by two Democrats, State Sen. Antoine Thompson and Assemblymember Robert Sweeney, would impose a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, until May 15, 2011. 

"It's not dead," said Kate Sinding, a senior attorney at the (NRDC). "We are very hopeful that it will be brought to the floor for a vote in both houses tomorrow," she told SolveClimate News.

Hydraulic fracturing uses a toxic brew of chemicals to crack out gas from underground deposits.

If it passes, it would be the first such bill in the nation. Environmental groups warn that without it, New York would usher in a dangerous shale gas "gold" rush — a development that they say would threaten drinking water supplies.  

Sinding said the legislation has seen more committed 'yes' votes from both sides of the aisle in recent weeks. The legislature will reconvene on Tuesday for a rare summer session to consider the bill, among other stalled measures. 

"By our count, it has a comfortable margin to pass in the Senate, and there's really no question that it would pass in the Assembly," Sinding added.  

Katherine Nordeau, a program director at , was just as optimistic.

"We think that if this comes to the floor, [it] would pass," she told SolveClimate News.

Republican State Sen. John Bonacic told the , a local paper in New York's Hudson Valley, that "if it comes before me I am going to support it."

"I personally think there's more than enough votes for the bill to pass," Bonacic said.

Two other Republican lawmakers, State Sens. James Seward and Frank Padavan, have similarly declared their support.

Michelle Blackley, spokesperson for the (IOGA) of New York, a trade group, told SolveClimate News that she "wouldn't speculate on whether there are enough votes."

"We hope there are not," she said, calling the bill "unnecessary."

More Review Needed?

Advoocates say a moratorium is necessary to give the state (DEC) ample time to evaluate the risks of groundwater poisoning in the drilling process.

For two years, the DEC has been examining hydraulic fracturing and establishing permit conditions for horizontal wells. A final environmental impact assessment is due in the fall. The first wave of permitting is expected to follow. 

"There are very, very serious and, in our view, fatal deficiencies in the analysis that the state has undertaken," Sinding, of NRDC, said.

The IOGA said an interruption in the review would cause great "harm" at this late stage.

"We strongly believe that New York's existing regulations, combined with the pending DEC rule changes, will provide more than adequate protection to New York's natural resources," said Brad Gill, executive director of IOGA, in a .

We must respect the earth

We must respect the earth and stop being so energy hungry so we will destroy ourselves

the ban is only political.

the ban is only political. they will remove the ban in perfect step with the elections. in the mean while, those of us in pa who are working are more than happy to see the ban in place. it means drilling here in pa and a focus on the keystone state.... thanks for the money NY.

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