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NY Assembly Approves Hydraulic Fracturing Moratorium

by Marie C. Baca, ProPublica

The New York state legislature refused to consider most major agenda items in Monday’s session, but they still gave their final approval to a bill that places a six-month ban on hydraulic fracturing while state and federal agencies review the practice.

The measure, which was approved by the state senate in August, was adopted by the assembly in a 93-43 vote. To become law, it must be signed by Gov. David Patterson before the end of the year.

The bill prohibits the issuing of new permits for hydraulic fracturing—the controversial drilling practice also known as fracking—until May 2011. As ProPublica reported earlier this year, the broad language of the measure does not differentiate between the different ways that fracking can be used. Industry experts say it could lead to the suspension of nearly all oil and gas drilling in the state.

Fracking shoots fluids underground at high pressures to release gas from bedrock. The practice is increasingly being used by drillers to harvest gas from the Marcellus Shale, the rock formation found in New York and several other states.

Concerns about water contamination have made fracking particularly controversial in New York, where residents receive drinking water so pure that it receives little treatment.

Gov. Patterson has signaled in the past that he supports the moratorium, and Governor-elect Andrew Cuomo has indicated that he would not support new fracking in the state unless the practice is proven to be safe.

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