Skelos Says Republicans Will Block a Vote on N.Y. Fracking Ban

Dean Skelos, a Long Island Republican and co-leader of the New York Senate, said he will block a vote on a bill to extend a ban on fracking.

“It’s unnecessary,” Skelos said today in an interview in Albany. “The governor has a process that’s been going on and I think that’s where we should leave it.”

Governor Andrew Cuomo has kept in place a four-year moratorium on hydraulic fracturing for natural gas until an environmental review is complete. That review hinges on an analysis by Health Commissioner Nirav Shah, who is considering two outside studies: one by Danville, Pennsylvania-based Geisinger Health System on thousands of people who live near wells and another by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Shah said he won’t wait until those studies are complete to make a decision. The Senate bill would require him to do so.

“I anticipate we’ll be done in the next few weeks,” Shah said today at press briefing. “We are learning more information as we go, and we want to make sure we cover all the ground and not rush through this.”

The Senate bill was introduced March 5 by the Independent Democratic Conference, a group of five breakaway Democrats who share power with Republicans. The next day, the Democratic-controlled Assembly passed a separate measure that would create a two-year ban. Cuomo, a Democrat, said today he doesn’t believe the legislature will pass any ban.

Fracking, in which water and chemicals are injected into shale formations to free trapped oil and gas, poses a dilemma for Cuomo, 55, who must balance prospects for the type of economic development seen in Ohio and Pennsylvania against environmentalists’ warnings that it may damage water supplies and make farmland unusable. Last month, Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joseph Martens said the state would begin issuing fracking permits before creating regulations if the Health Department says natural-gas drilling is safe.

“We’re not looking for a political resolution,” Cuomo said. “We want a conclusion based on the science.”

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