State Net Capitol Journal Legislative Updates: Cuomo Wants Fracking Health Review Before Allowing Hydraulic Fracturing

State Net Capitol Journal Legislative Updates: Cuomo Wants Fracking Health Review Before Allowing Hydraulic Fracturing

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CUOMO WANTS NY PRE-FRACKING HEALTH REVIEW: New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said last week he will not issue a final decision on whether to allow hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," until the Empire State has further studied the potential impact such drilling will have on public health.

Gov. Cuomo said he does not have a timetable for the review by the state Department of Health to be completed.

"To say, 'Well, I want an answer by next week.' Well then, what happened to science and what happened to facts?" Cuomo told reporters. "Then it's a political timetable imposed on what we said was an informational, scientific process. It's done when it's done."

The governor voiced support for Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens' contention that a thorough health review now will spare the state legal troubles later, saying it could "actually be expediting the process" by cutting out "months or years" of drawn out litigation should the state decide to allow fracking.

He also lauded Health Commissioner Nirav Shah's decision to keep the review internal with some input from outside experts. Environmental groups had called for the study to be done by an outside, non-governmental group. But Cuomo said "it makes no sense" to hand the review off to a private firm that may have an opinion or an economic interest.

New York has been studying hydraulic fracturing, which involves injecting large amounts of water deep into underground shale deposits to extract natural gas and oil deposits, for almost four years. It has had an official moratorium on the process since 2010.

The state suffered a setback, however, on Tuesday when U.S. District Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis tossed out a lawsuit filed by state Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman over fracking regulations proposed by the Delaware River Basin Commission. The Commission - a state-federal compact comprised of New York, Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and the federal government - oversees water quality in the Delaware River Basin, which supplies water to about 15 million people in four states. Schneiderman said the proposed regulations would allow 15,000 to 18,000 new gas wells to be developed in the basin without a full environmental review. They would also effectively end the state's moratorium on fracking.

But Judge Garaufis agreed with the defendants, which also included the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, finding that natural gas development plans in the basin are in the early stages, making the threat of harm "speculative."

Schneiderman's office declined comment after the ruling. (BLOOMBERG BUSINESSWEEK, NEW YORK TIMES, REUTERS, NORTH COUNTRY PUBLIC RADIO, POUGHKEEPSIE JOURNAL)

Fracking Shale Natural Gas Drilling

ENVIRONMENT: NEW JERSEY Gov. Chris Christie (R) vetoes AB 575, which would have barred the treatment, storage or disposal of wastewater and other byproducts of hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," a drilling process that involves injecting large amounts of water deep underground to break up shale deposits that hold natural gas and oil. Gov. Christie noted that fracking is not currently being conducted in the state and that the federal government is still studying the matter to issue official guidance on managing the drilling process's waste products (WALL STREET JOURNAL). • CALIFORNIA Gov. Jerry Brown (D) signs SB 1219, which extends to 2020 a state law requiring retailers to provide an in-store site where customers can return clean plastic bags for recycling. The law was set to expire in 2013 (STATE NET, CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR'S OFFICE). • CALIFORNIA Gov. Brown signs SB 1221, which bars the use of dogs to hunt bears and bobcats. The law makes some exceptions, such as when a dog is guarding livestock (SACRAMENTO BEE).

POTPOURRI: U.S. District Court Judge Stephen Wilson rejects a call to block a new CALIFORNIA law barring the sale of foie gras, a culinary delicacy that requires the force-feeding of ducks and geese to fatten their livers. Plaintiffs had claimed the law is too vague and violates the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution. Judge Wilson did not offer a reason for his ruling (BLOOMBERG BUSINESSWEEK). • The Federal Railroad Administration approves a CALIFORNIA plan to build a $69 billion high-speed rail system. The state is already facing several lawsuits seeking to block the project, with more expected in coming months (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS). • NEW JERSEY Gov. Chris Christie (R) signs AB 2023, legislation banning the in-state slaughter of horses, the transport of horses to slaughter and the sale of horsemeat for human consumption. Violators face fines of up to $1,000 per horse and up to 30 days in jail (NEW JERSEY GOVERNOR'S OFFICE).

- Compiled by RICH EHISEN

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