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March 8, 2013

Seward: Frack moratorium unnecessary

By Richard Whitby
The Daily Star

---- — State Sen. James Seward said Thursday he will not vote for a bill that would formalize and extend the state’s moratorium on hydrofracturing until 2015 if such a bill comes to a vote in the Senate.

“We have a de facto moratorium in place,” the Milford Republican said Thursday, a day after the Assembly passed a bill that would impose moratorium until 2015. “There are no permits being issued.

“As long as the (Department of Environmental Conservation) and the Department of Health are going through their process, I just think the legislation is not necessary, and I would not favor any legislation of this type, particularly until the DEP and the Department of Health finish their studies and their process.”

The Assembly voted, 95-40, Wednesday to impose the two-year extension of the moratorium.

But Seward said it was too soon for the state legislature to take any action.

“Appropriately, the New York state government is taking a very cautious approach,” he said. “And DEC, for over four years now, has been going through a very exhaustive process to determine whether or not this can be done safely without ill health effects and other negative impacts on our economy.

“It’s up to them, the experts at DEC, to determine if it can be done safely and also for them to approve … regulations to show us how it could be done.”

He put no stock in the argument that extending the moratorium would give the agencies more time to consider the issue.

“They’ve been at it since 2008, and the governor has shown no inclination to rush them,” he said. “In fact, he just gave them more time, even though there was a deadline at the end of February. So, when everybody expected this to come to some conclusion, he has given them an indefinite amount of time. I don’t see this being rushed at all.”

The vote in the Democratic-controlled Assembly was along party lines.

Assemblyman Bill Magee, D-Nelson, voted in favor of the extension, while Assembly members Peter Lopez of Schoharie, Clifford Crouch of Guilford and Claudia Tenney of New Hartford — all Republicans — voted against it.

The Senate version was introduced by Sen. David Carlucci, who represents Rockland County and part of Westchester. Carlucci is a member of the Independent Democratic Conference, which has aligned itself with Republicans to share control the chamber.

In addition to the DEC and Health Department studies, moratorium supporters cite several impending studies as reasons to wait:

The Geisinger Health System, a nonprofit hospital chain in eastern Pennsylvania, is using its patient records to study how fracking may affect the health of people living near wells. The study received $1 million foundation grant last year.

The University of Pennsylvania, in collaboration with scientists from Columbia, Johns Hopkins and the University of North Carolina, also is studying the health effects of hydrofracturing.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency started a massive, nationwide study in 2011 of how hydraulic fracturing affects water quality. Preliminary reports from the agency suggest the study will continue at least through next year.