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Moratorium magic: Paterson says yes and no to fracking

You'll remember that last week we reported that the governor had until midnight tonight to make a decision about a six-month moratorium on hydrofracking in New York.  On Saturday David Paterson pulled the trigger, vetoing the moratorium as it was written - and issuing an executive order that put a different moratorium in place.  The New York Times has the details:

[Paterson] issued an executive order instituting a longer moratorium that extended until July 1, 2011, but that more narrowly defined the types of drilling to be restricted. In apparent contradiction of the laws of physics, both the gas industry and the environmentalists seemed pleased.

As a refresher, hydrofracking (or, more specifically, "horizontal hydraulic fracturing") is the process of extracting natural gas in shale by blasting a mixture of water, sand and chemicals into well bores thousands of feet below the surface of the earth. It’s controversial because opponents say the process could contaminate water tables across upstate.  Proponents argue that it's worth further study because it could open up a natural gas extraction boon in a part of the state that's sorely lacking in investment.

The new moratorium allows for vertical hydrofracking, which was banned (alongside the more controversial horizontal fracking) under the initial moratorium, passed by the legislature.  Paterson had expressed concerns about that part of the ban, saying on a radio station last week that he didn't "really understand why this was put in the bill.  Because this has been going on for a long time."  

As the Times points out, the move kicks the ball into the incoming Cuomo administration's court.  We'll keep you updated as the drama continues to unfold.

Innovation Trail alumnus Dan Bazile is former reporter for WMHT in Albany. He has covered a wide range of topics, from town board meetings, to the September 11th terrorist attacks.
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