PEEKSKILL, N.Y. – Justin Wagner, Democratic candidate for the New York Senate, held a press conference Wednesday at Peekskill's Riverfront Green to call for a statewide ban on hydraulic fracturing, better known as "fracking." Wagner decried what he described as state Sen. Greg Ball's (R-Patterson) lackluster legislative performance on regulating the technique, which injects chemicals and water at high pressure deep into the ground to extract natural gas.
"Senator Ball takes a lot of pictures with fracking activists, but in Albany his record is one of not getting it done," said Wagner, who is challenging Ball for the 40th Senate District seat in November.
State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Queens) was on hand to lend Wagner support on banning hydraulic fracturing statewide. Avella is sponsor of a bill to prohibit the practice in New York. Currently, there is a de facto moratorium on hydraulic fracturing as the state Department of Environmental Conservation studies its effects.
Responding to Wagner's criticism, a spokesperson for Ball wrote in an email that, "Attacking Gov. Cuomo and aligning with the one Senator who has so polarized himself from this good Governor is not the way to move forward on this complicated issue. We must partner with Gov. Cuomo, appealing to his fairness, to institute a proper moratorium until the funding, manpower and regulations are in place to safely oversee this industry."
The statement said Ball supports a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing, not a ban such as in Avella's bill.
Avella has been the sponsor and co-sponsor of several bills attempting to address the drilling technique, most of which have died in the Republican-led Senate. Both at the press conference Wednesday and in televised speeches on the Senate floor, Avella said Republican leaders of the Senate will not allow legislation addressing hydraulic fracturing to come to a vote.
A bill sponsored by Ball, for example, will not come to a vote until after the DEC decides whether the drilling technique is safe.
The legislation, S5879, or the "Property Owners Bill of Rights," was referred to the DEC along with another, more widely supported, home-rule bill sponsored by Sen. James Seward (R-Oneonta). The bills are unlikely to return to the Senate until the DEC rules on environmental safety.
Seward's bill gives municipalities home rule over oil and gas drilling, allowing local zoning boards to issue or deny special permits for the practice. Ball's bill requires three independent appraisals of property to be leased by gas companies, disclosure to the DEC of chemical compounds used in drilling, and lifetime health benefits for homeowners who can prove they were sickened by the process.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo told Albany-based reporters Tuesday that whatever the DEC decides, he expects legal and political challenges.
Another water-centric bill sponsored by Ball, now on its second pass through the Senate, makes "unlawful defilement of the water supply" a felony, unless the poison is introduced to the water supply by industry, government or agriculture. Language in the bill says it seeks to deter terrorists.