By Jon Campbell
ALBANY The state Assembly on Wednesday is expected to approve a two-year moratorium on large-scale hydraulic fracturing, as Gov. Andrew Cuomo's administration weighs whether to allow the natural-gas drilling process in New York.
Assembly Democrats said they will provide enough votes to pass the bill, which currently does not have a Senate sponsor. But Sen. David Carlucci, D-Clarkstown, Rockland County, introduced a similar but separate bill on Tuesday, though its future in the Senate is uncertain.
The Assembly began debate on the bill late Wednesday morning.
"We will not sit idly by and endanger the health and safety of our communities by rushing necessary health and safety reviews," Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, said.
The Assembly bill, which Silver co-sponsors, would prohibit large-scale hydrofracking until May 15, 2015. High-volume fracking hasn't yet been permitted in New York state, but could be as soon as the Department of Environmental Conservation finalizes an Environmental Impact Statement it has been crafting since 2008.
The legislation would prevent permits from going out even if the document is completed. It would also direct a SUNY school of public health to complete a full study of the health impacts of fracking before it moves forward.
The Assembly has passed similar bills in recent years, but the Senate hasn't taken up any hydrofracking legislation since 2010. That year, the Legislature passed a temporary moratorium that was vetoed by then-Gov. David Paterson, who instead directed the DEC to complete a second draft of the environmental review.
Hydrofracking has been boosted by supporters as a potential economic boon to upstate New York. Critics, however, say it could cause irreversible harm to the environment.