Environmental, good government, community and public health organizations applauded the State Assembly today for voting to protect New York’s drinking water by passing legislation that will enact a timeout on hydraulic fracturing for natural gas. By passing the bill, A.11443B, sponsored by Assembly Member Robert Sweeney (D-Lindenhurst), the Assembly demonstrated that it recognizes the potential dangers of the environmentally dangerous practice of hydraulic fracturing, often called “fracking.” In states such as Pennsylvania, Colorado and Wyoming gas development using fracking has contaminated drinking and groundwater sources.
The bill would suspend the issuance of permits to hydraulically fracture wells in New York State until May 15, 2011. In addition to providing the incoming governor and his administration an opportunity to take a fresh look at the issues surrounding gas development, the suspension would also provide the State Legislature with the chance to make necessary changes to New York’s oil and gas permitting program.
“Decisions regarding the safety of our water and air shouldn’t be made in haste, but should be the result of careful study and deliberation,” said Assemblyman Robert K. Sweeney. “Once the water has been polluted it will be too late. This legislation will remove any ‘time pressure’ and allow DEC to do its job correctly.”
“Both houses of the legislature have now come together in a bipartisan effort to put the brakes on the push for massive new gas drilling operations across our state,” said Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh, a prime sponsor of the bill. “We know that State and federal regulators are exploring whether drilling with high-volume hydraulic fracturing can be done safely, and we look forward to the results of their reviews. But what we’re saying with this bill is that the legislature has a role to play in determining what kind of drilling operations we’re going to permit in New York. We need to consider the effect this kind of large scale industrial activity can have on local communities, our watersheds, and the surrounding environment. We have to determine what could be done to regulate water drawn from natural sources, the drilling itself, and the use, storage, and disposal of huge amounts of highly toxic chemicals. This is an industry that has operated under extraordinary secrecy throughout the country. Here in New York, we’re determined to make our decisions thoughtfully, thoroughly, and in the light of day—and to ensuring that we don’t permit drilling processes here unless and until they can be proven safe for all New Yorkers.”
“The people of New York and the State Legislature have spoken loud and clear that we need more time to assess the risks before starting a fracking free-for-all,” said actor Mark Ruffalo. “It would be unconscionable to allow a massive drilling operation to begin when we are still waiting for the real, peer-reviewed science on this process. The legislature has taken the first step towards a sensible policy on gas drilling. I look forward to Governor Paterson finishing the job by signing the moratorium into law.”
“With this vote, the Assembly prevents New York from completing its hasty and ill-considered rush to embrace the dirty, dangerous technique known as hydrofracking, which has done so much damage in other states,” said Paul Gallay, Executive Director and Hudson Riverkeeper. “Good for the Assembly; good for the Senate, for passing this same bill earlier in the year; and, good for the thousands of New Yorkers who said: ‘not here, not now.’ This is their victory.”
“New York has shown the country that Americans have a right to stand up to big oil and gas companies,” said Kate Sinding, Deputy Director of the New York Urban Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “This is the first time any state has ever taken this kind of action to protect the health and safety of its residents from the consequences of gas drilling. It sends a powerful message that New Yorkers don’t want new fracking here unless the industry proves it can be done safely.”
“Last night the State Assembly put New Yorkers ahead of the oil and gas industry by putting a timeout on permits to hydraulically fracture natural gas wells. Kudos to all of the brave lawmakers who took a stand to protect New York’s precious waters,” said Katherine Nadeau, Water & Natural Resources Program Director, Environmental Advocates of New York. “We call on Governor Paterson to sign the timeout into law without delay.”
“New Yorkers who value health and clean air and water spoke, and to its credit much of the Assembly listened,” says Nadia Steinzor, Marcellus Regional Organizer for EARTHWORKS Oil & Gas Accountability Project. “We look forward to Governor Paterson signing the bill into law, and then to helping advance strong protections so that unsafe drilling doesn’t happen.”
“We applaud the Assembly and Senate for advancing this important moratorium on hydraulic fracturing for Natural Gas, which will ensure we have more time to develop meaningful protections for our birds, other wildlife and their habitats from this dangerous form of drilling,” said Albert E. Caccese, Executive Director of Audubon New York. “We urge the Governor to do what’s right, sign this bill into law, and give our Agencies, and the Legislature time to advance regulations and legislation to regulate water withdrawals, protect our unfragmented forests, and truly assess the cumulative impacts this expanded drilling will have across the state.”
“It is encouraging to see lawmakers requiring policy makers to take more time to evaluate the use of hydrofracking for natural gas in New York State, resisting the pressure from the oil and gas industry to hurry through permissive regulations,” said Susan Lerner, Executive Director of Common Cause/NY. “New Yorkers are grateful to see the Assembly join the Senate in making the important decision to balance economic interests with environmental concerns.”
“National Wildlife Federation congratulates the New York Assembly on acting to protect New York’s people, water, and wildlife. We urge New York to continue to be a leader in protecting its precious natural resources from the dangers of hydraulic fracturing,” said Emily Maxwell, Northeast Regional Representative, National Wildlife Federation.
“The Assembly’s vote last night was a declaration that drilling in New York, as it is currently practiced, is not safe,” said Roger Downs Conservation Program Manager for the Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter. “We applaud the Assembly for their leadership on hydrofracking and know that through their efforts the next six months of this moratorium will be a time of action, not complacency.”
“Last night the NYS Assembly took an important step to protect clean air, land, water and the health of New Yorkers,” said Sarah Eckel, Legislative Director, Citizens Campaign for the Environment. “We want to thank Speaker Silver, Assembly members Sweeney, Englebright and Lifton for their work on this important bill.”
“Last night, the New York State Assembly gave us yet another reason to be proud to live in the Empire State,” said Earthjustice attorney Deborah Goldberg. “Our state leaders have wisely recognized that protecting our air, water, and health should trump the frenzied pursuit of profits.”
“We commend the Assembly for standing up to the oil and gas industry and putting the lives of New Yorkers first,” said Susan Zimet, Director of Frack Action. “New York State has emerged as a national leader in the movement to reign in this dangerous and destructive practice. In two hours of debate last night, Assembly members showed that they understand this issue through and through, and have no intention of auctioning off our health and safety to corporate special interests.”
The State Senate recognized the potential dangers of fracking by passing the measure by a wide margin earlier this year. In an interview with WAMC Public Radio last week, Governor David Paterson said that New York State should put public safety and water quality concerns ahead of the potential profits to be made by natural gas exploration. New York is a battleground in the national debate about natural gas drilling and fracking, an environmentally dangerous technique for extracting gas from underground shale deposits. Drilling-related accidents across the country have contaminated drinking water, created air quality hazards and violations, and polluted streams.
The groups calling on the Assembly to pass the timeout for fracking include Audubon New York, Citizens Campaign for the Environment, Catskill Mountainkeeper, Common Cause/NY, Delaware Riverkeeper Network, EARTHWORKS Oil & Gas Accountability Project, Earthjustice, Environmental Advocates of New York, Frack Action, Hudson Riverkeeper, National Wildlife Federation, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club-Atlantic Chapter, and Theodore Gordon Flyfishers, Inc.