Historic vote in NY: Senate says "Time Out" on new gas drilling

The New York State Senate today took bold, first-of-its-kind action to ensure that risky new gas drilling techniques will not move forward until the state has properly evaluated the environmental and health threats, as well as determined whether, and if so how, they can be appropriately managed.

New York doesn’t have to go down the same path toward contaminated drinking water, fatal explosions, dead livestock and destroyed landscapes that Pennsylvania and other states have followed.  By passing this bill, the Senate has taken us one step closer to becoming the first state to protect residents’ health and the environment before drills break ground.

This bill puts the brakes on fracking until we can determine if it’s safe and whether we can manage it. We already know the state’s initial environmental assessment is fatally flawed – this bill says slow down, go back, and get it right this time.  It gives the new governor and incoming administration the opportunity to do it right and set an example for the rest of the nation.

The ongoing oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico is a stark reminder of what can happen when fossil fuel extraction goes unchecked and unregulated. This bill is New York’s chance to say: “Not us. Not here.”

Specifically, the measure (S.8129B) places a moratorium on new fracking permits in the Marcellus Shale and other similar formations until May 15, 2011, “to afford the state and its residents the opportunity to continue the review and analysis of the effects of hydraulic fracturing on water and air quality, environmental safety and public health.”

The measure – which, though groundbreaking, is modest in scope – passed with a huge majority (by a 48-9 vote) and strong bipartisan support.  This should send a powerful message to the governor that New Yorkers want the state to take a slow, measured approach to new gas production – unlike that undertaken in neighboring Pennsylvania, where the Marcellus Shale boom has resulted in dirty – and in some cases tragic – consequences.

Thanks go to Senators Sampson, Thompson and Schneiderman for their leadership.  But particular kudos are due to the untiring, dedicated grassroots advocates who never let up until the Senate put the measure to a vote (after midnight last night).

Now we turn to the Assembly, where the bill also enjoys strong support but it remains unclear when the body will next take up any substantive business.

You can help.  Please take a few minutes and:

  • Click here to send a letter to Assembly Speaker Silver, urging him to pass the moratorium.
  • Call Assembly Speaker Silver and your own Assembly Members (find your member here) now to tell them to bring the bill (A11443-b in that house) to a vote as soon as possible.
  • Call Governor Paterson and tell him to heed the call of New Yorkers across the state who are calling for the state to slow new gas drilling down and to make sure it can be done safely before our communities, our drinking water, our air quality and our landscapes are sacrificed.