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Paterson on fracking: "We have got to be right on this issue"

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Paterson says whether he vetoes or not, hydrofracking is unlikely to get underway in N.Y. until 2011.

According to a spokesperson for Governor David Paterson, Monday at midnight is the deadline for Paterson to sign or veto a moratorium on hydrofracking in New York State.  Paterson has appeared to run hot and cold on the issue, and according to the spokesperson, still hasn't made a determination on the bill.

That was evident this morning during an interview on WHCU's Morning Newswatch.  Right at the top of the show, the governor was asked if he might sign the moratorium before leaving office.  Paterson commented that he has about 48 hours to decide (he got 10 days from the day the legislation was received - that was Dec. 1 according to his spokesperson - but Sundays don't count as decision making days).  
But Paterson also noted that whether he signs or not, the Department of Environmental Conservation will likely still be mulling fracking over on May 20, 2011 (when the six month moratorium would end), given the enormous amount of feedback it received from the public during its draft environmental impact statement study:

"We cannot by any means ruin water quality or the environment any more than we have. So we have got to be right on this issue. And if it takes longer, it's gonna take longer - and it has. So that's one part of the bill."

But there's more to signing or not signing than just getting it right - there could be an economic effect.  The natural gas industry has warned that the moratorium, as it's written, would ban vertical drilling, as well as the controversial horizontal drilling practice.  That would disrupt drilling operations that are currently underway - as opposed to preventing new drilling from starting.  Paterson acknowledged that concern during his appearance:

"...the bill also puts a moratorium on a type of hydrofracking that has been used for a long time called 'vertical hydrofracking', which is a lot less intrusive ... and I don't really understand why this was put in the bill. Because this has been going on for a long time. And to delay this type of action for four months theoretically could cause us to lose jobs. So both sides are advocating strongly ... we will have come to a conclusion within the next two days, we have to."

Well, actually, he doesn't have to.  But when Morning Newswatch asked the governor what would happen if he just didn't do anything - didn't sign or veto - Paterson indicated that he intends to make a decision:

"If you don't do anything, it goes into law on its own. But I don't think in the time I've been governor I have done that. In other words, you know, you're governor, make a decision one way or another."

It's interesting to see the governor negotiate this decision as his PR team attempts to solidify his legacy as "the clean energy governor."  We'll keep you updated as the deadline draws closer.

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