NY State Assembly Passes Fracking Moratorium

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Lame Duck Session of the New York State Assembly Approves Moratorium on Fracking

A lame duck session of the New York State Assembly voted 93-43 on Monday in favor of a six-month moratorium on the use of hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas exploration in the state. Coupled with the state Senate?s vote for the moratorium in the summer and the current Governor?s support for the moratorium, the vote means that no gas drilling permits utilizing this method of exploration can be issued before May 15, 2011.

According to outgoing Governor David Paterson, who is expected to sign the measure into law, the environmental risks are not worth the economic boon. The Governor?s position seems to contradict the state?s energy plan issued in late 2009, which was championed by the Governor and which relies at least partly upon the development of natural gas as a fuel source for New York, calling for the doubling of natural gas production in the state.

The vote by the New York Assembly formalizes what has been a de facto moratorium on high volume fracturing and horizontal well drilling projects in New York for more than two years.

The vote brings into full view the state?s ongoing struggles to develop new rules and regulations meant to apply to high volume hydraulic fracturing and horizontal well drilling. Due to the growth in oil and gas exploration in the Marcellus shale and the use of high volume hydraulic fracturing associated with it, the state determined that new rules and regulations would be needed to address this exploration technique. New York?s Department of Environmental Conservation (?DEC?) issued a draft Supplemental General Environmental Impact Statement (?SGEIS?) for oil and gas exploration that contains new rules and regulations that would apply to high volume hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling projects. The draft SGEIS was issued on September 30, 2009, and the public comment period on the SGEIS ended on December 31, 2009, but the agency has taken no action to finalize the proposal.

Regardless of the vote taken by the Assembly, it is not anticipated that the DEC will take action on any permit requests that propose to use high volume hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling until a new SGEIS is issued in final form and becomes effective.

With the moratorium in place and the lack of a final SGEIS, the state?s drilling future shifts to Governor-elect Andrew Cuomo, who has yet to take a firm public stance on the moratorium or the DEC?s proposed SGEIS.

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