Today, a bill to prohibit the DEC from issuing permits for hydrofracking until after June 1, 2012 was voted out of the Environmental Conservation Committee of the Assembly. The bill, A7400, is quite similar to the one-year moratorium bill passed by both houses last year, and vetoed by Governor Paterson– except that it extends the moratorium one year forward, to June 2012. The bill’s sponsor, and Chair of the Environmental Conservation Committee, Assemblyman Sweeney, had originally favored a two-year moratorium last year, which, in effect, would have held off on the issuance of permits until June 2012. The one-year moratorium bill was passed last year by the Senate, and then the Assembly reluctantly followed suit at the end of the year (with some explanation that they thought a two-year period might be more appropriate).

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver signaled that this bill has his support by sending the following email message out, under the title “Important Hydrofracking Update”:

I want to update you on our efforts to protect New York State’s drinking water from contamination by oil and gas drilling.

Today, the Assembly Environmental Conservation Committee voted out of committee a bill (A.7400) that would prohibit the issuance of new permits for the controversial drilling practice known as hydraulic fracturing until June 1, 2012.

This is another crucial step in protecting our environment, particularly our water, from being polluted by the toxic chemicals that are often used in this drilling process, also known as “hydrofracking.”

Both the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency are studying the safety of hydrofracking and when those studies are complete, we must carefully consider the results as we develop future policy on this issue. Shortly, the Assembly is expected to vote on the one-year prohibition during the current legislative session.

We will do all that we can to make sure all New Yorkers have clean, safe water and we remain committed to leaving our children a healthier, more sustainable environment. Thank you for your interest in this issue. I will continue to keep you updated on our progress in protecting our drinking water.

Sheldon Silver