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Lawmakers to natural gas industry: fracking has to wait

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Hydrofracking has to wait. That’s what state lawmakers said during a special legislative session in Albany on Monday.

The Assembly voted to put a moratorium on hydrofracking until May 2011. The bill already passed the Senate. It will now go to Governor David Paterson for final approval.

Hydrofracking is a controversial process for extracting natural gas, in which water is mixed with chemicals and sand, and then shot thousands of feet below ground at high pressure to open up gas deposits in shale.  Many are worried the process will contaminate water supplies.

Environmental lobbyists from Sierra Club, Catskill Mountainkeeper and Citizen’s Campaign spent most of Monday at the State Capitol trying to convince Assembly members to vote "yes: on the moratorium. Bill Cook from Citizen’s Campaign says the bill will put hydrofracking on hold long enough for governor-elect Andrew Cuomo to take a good look at it.

“It would stop it long enough for the new administration to get into place to bring in their people to look at a real science-based look at the issue before permits [for drilling] are issued,” Cook says.

Hydrofracking is already on hold, as the Department of Environmental Conservation finishes an environmental impact study about the technique.  But supporters of hydrofracking say the economic opportunities that could come from drilling shouldn't be ignored.

“It can create jobs and generate tax revenue. In these economic times, we need to create opportunities. This should not be a political football,” Assemblyman Tom O’Mara (R - Big Flats) says in the Assembly Chamber. “Do I have concerns? Sure I do. It has been shown in states across the country that the negatives are minimal. This moratorium is unnecessary. We’re overstepping our bounds here. DEC is going through a scientific process. We should let them do their work."

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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