Do-nothing NY State Senate stalling on fracking decisions

Do-nothing NY State Senate stalling on fracking decisions by Ronald Fraser, July 12, 2012, Recordonline
Fearing well documented risks to human health and the environment, more than 100 local municipalities in New York have banned or placed moratoriums on horizontal hydrofracking drilling for natural gas. How does this compare with the three branches of state government? STATE COURTS: In February, in separate cases in the Towns of Dryden and Middlefield, state supreme courts have ruled that municipalities can use local zoning ordinances to prohibit hydrofracking in their jurisdictions. While the state regulates technically how drilling takes place, the courts say the locals can determine where drilling is permitted, if at all. EXECUTIVE BRANCH: in June 2012, Gov. Cuomo’s office unofficially indicated that local communities can decide whether or not to allow the drillers in. Where local governments have taken steps to prohibit drilling, state hydrofracking permits would not be issued. STATE ASSEMBLY: The elected assembly in Albany, the branch of government closest to the people, has heard the voters’ call for action. On May 16, the Assembly passed a bill that clarifies local government’s home rule authority to control where oil and gas drilling will take place. The bill passed by a 93-46 vote. A companion bill in the Senate languishes in a committee. On Feb. 13, the Assembly passed a bill requiring that toxic drilling wastes be disposed of like other hazardous materials. Currently classified as less dangerous industrial wastes, drilling fluids can now be disposed of in ways that endanger human health and the environment. The Assembly bill passed, 105 to 38. A companion bill in the Senate languishes in a committee. On June 20, the Assembly passed a bill calling for a first-ever health impact study of horizontal hydrofracking. The bill passed with a 128 to 17 vote. The Senate has yet to introduce a similar bill. AWOL STATE SENATE: If the state Assembly can muster overwhelming majorities in favor of these three bills, what’s the problem in the Senate? Is the Senate, especially its leaders, in the gas industry’s pocket?

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