The Remarks Of Speaker Sheldon Silver

Announcing Hydrofracking Moratorium Legislation

Capitol, Speaker's Conferece Room, Albany, NY
Wednesday, March 6, 2013 [10:30 A.M.]

Speaker Silver, flanked by members of the Assembly Majority at a news conference in Albany, urged the Governor and Senate to join the Assembly in enacting the moratorium on the natural gas drilling process known as Hydrofracking. The Speaker said the moratorium was needed because as of now there are too many unanswered questions about how hydrofracking affects human health.
In the interests of preserving the safety of our drinking water supply and the health of our environment, and absent conclusive scientific evidence that new natural gas drilling technologies such as high-volume hydrofracking pose no threat to public health or safety, the Assembly Majority intends, today, to take up and to pass legislation that would suspend the issuance of certain types of natural gas drilling permits in the State of New York until May 15th of 2015.

The bill, Assembly 5424-A, which I am co-sponsoring with the Chairman of the Committee on Environmental Conservation, Assembly Member Bob Sweeney, establishes this moratorium in order to give the Legislature sufficient time to more fully review the available data and to assess the findings of the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) once they are released.

The moratorium we are recommending will not apply to the permitting of the drilling of conventional vertical natural gas wells outside of the Marcellus and Utica formations.

In addition, our legislation requires that a school of public health within the State University of New York conduct a comprehensive health impact assessment - following a model recommended by the Centers for Disease Control - to identify the risks associated with horizontal drilling and high-volume hydraulic fracturing, and to develop a long-term plan for monitoring, evaluating, tracking and mitigating potential public health impacts.

Standing in support of this legislation, are several leaders from the Assembly Majority, many of whom are sponsors of this legislation. You will be hearing from Chairman Sweeney in a few moments.

My colleagues and I have listened to the arguments for and against the new natural gas drilling techniques commonly known as hydrofracking. Wherever you stand on the issue, two facts are indisputable:

One, the health and well-being of the people must always take precedence over industry profits, and two, the natural gas locked within the Marcellus Shale and the Utica Shale isn't going anywhere. We're not going to lose it.

There is time to study. There is time to act with caution and with thoughtfulness. There is time to listen to and to address the concerns of each and every stakeholder, because right now there are too many unanswered questions. For instance:

What research exists on the health effects of hydrofracking on drinking water? Will the resulting release of methane gas into the atmosphere have an impact on climate change?

What is the risk posed by the radioactive materials that are brought up in wastewater during the hydraulic fracturing process? What is the best way to handle the salt-heavy, chemically laced wastewater that is a product of this process?

No one wants to harm our environment and jeopardize our water supply, and I am skeptical that "fracking" can be done safely. However, there is a process and we are eagerly awaiting the findings of Commissioner Martens and the DEC.

We applaud the Governor for his leadership on this issue thus far, and for the caution he is taking to ensure the best possible decision is made.

Let me be crystal clear. We are profoundly sympathetic to the needs of our struggling upstate economy. Likewise, we are sympathetic to our nation's energy crisis and to the need to liberate ourselves from our dependence on foreign oil.

We are not, however, going to sign off on any process - no matter how profitable - that endangers New Yorkers, threatens our environment, or diminishes the quality of life in our communities.

Until we have the facts, no new permits should be issued for natural gas drilling in the Marcellus or Utica shale formations.

In the interests of public health and safety, I urge the Governor as well as my colleagues in the Senate to join us in enacting this moratorium. It is the right thing to do.