New York lawmakers vote to extend fracking ban

Michael Bastasch | Contributor

Following another delay by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo in approving hydraulic fracturing in the state of New York, the state assembly has voted to extend the moratorium on fracking until 2015 and require more environmental studies on the drilling practice.

“We will not sit idly by and endanger the health and safety of our communities by rushing necessary health and safety reviews,” said NY Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver in a statement.

“Today’s vote by the State Assembly to further delay natural gas development is tantamount to telling the people of the Southern Tier to ‘Drop Dead,’” said Karen Moreau, executive director of the New York State Petroleum Council. “Once again, Albany politicians are putting politics before science, and the special interests before the people.”

Reuters reports that the bill must pass the state Senate, where a Democratic majority might be able to pass it and send it to Cuomo. However, a power-sharing agreement between state Senate Republicans and Democrats could complicate the bill’s passage.

The fracking moratorium has been in place since 2008 and the Cuomo administration recently delayed finalizing regulations on fracking, which could already push the moratorium into 2014.

Fracking involves injecting fluids into cracks in rock formations to widen them and allow more oil and gas to escape, increasing the amounts that can be recovered.

Environmentalists have raised concerns that fracking can contaminate water supplies and argue that companies will not release important information about fracking fluid content.

However, a 2011 study by the conservative Manhattan Institute found that ending the fracking moratorium would spur more than  $11.4 billion economic growth, and see up to 18,000 jobs created in the Southern Tier and Western New York.

“We missed a golden opportunity, I believe to reshape Southern New York, upstate New York,” Tom Santulli, the executive of Chemung County, New York, told Fox News. “We need fuel and lots of it, and we’ve got the cleanest fossil fuel that there is sitting right here. We should use it, put it to work, and renovate these communities.”

To the south, Pennsylvania has seen an economic boom because of fracking.

“We’ve seen lower unemployment rates in the regions that have higher drilling activities,” said Patrick Henderson, energy executive for Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett, adding that tax revenues have grown and energy costs have fallen dramatically.

The Keystone State has also raked in about $1.7 billion in taxes directly from the oil and gas industry since 2006, according to Henderson. Impact fees, which are levied on each well, raised $204 million in the first round of collections in September 2012.

“In the end, this is Governor Cuomo’s decision,” Moreau said. “He can and must move forward with safe natural gas development and create the jobs and revenue needed to save the Southern Tier before it’s too late. The situation really is that dire, and his positive decision to allow high volume hydraulic fracturing really is the answer.”

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