New Yorkers have become increasingly cautious about shale gas extraction, according to a poll from Quinnipiac Polling Institute, and this may make this year's moratorium bill more likely to pass.
On March 6, the State Assembly approved Assembly 5424-A which would suspend issuance of drilling permits for high-volume hydraulic fracturing in the Marcellus and Utica formations until May 15, 2015 and requires a SUNY school of public health to complete a comprehensive health impact assessment. The current de facto moratorium on fracking is based on DEC's refusal to issue drilling permits until it completes an environmental impact statement and issues recommendations. DEC's review is conditioned on a review conducted by the New York Commissioner of Health, Dr. Nariv Shah, who in turn is awaiting completion of USEPA's study and studies conducted in Pennsylvania by the Geisinger Health System and the University of Pennsylvania.
The bill was sponsored by Kevin K. Sweeney, chairman of the Assembly Committee on Environmental Conservation, as well as over forty co-sponsors, including Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver who made remarks about fracking's "unanswered questions" such as its impact on drinking water and climate change and the effect of radioactive material in fracking wastewater. Though a similar bill was introduced in the Senate by Senator David Carlucci a day before 5424-A passed the Assembly, 5242-A will face strong opposition by the Republican majority, as Senator Libous, Deputy Majority Leader, made clear with his stated goal that "no [moratorium] bill passes the Senate."
The fate of the moratorium is not clear even if it reaches Governor Cuomo's desk. Drilling supporters have been pressing hard against him but polling suggests that public opinion is shifting against fracking. Regardless of what happens with the bill, the de facto moratorium will remain effect.
For those looking to catch up on the issues surrounding hydraulic fracturing, ProPublica, the independent, Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalism non-profit, has been following the subject in-depth for several years.