If Democrats take majority, Senate would take up fracking bills
ALBANY—A number of bills to restrict fracking in New York State could make their way to the Senate floor if Democrats win control of the upper chamber in November.
The state has had a moratorium on fracking for six years. At the same time, Governor Andrew Cuomo has ordered the state health department to study the health risks of fracking but has not said when, or if, the study would be released. He also has shown no indication he will lift the moratorium—or decide whether to allow or ban fracking—any time soon.
In the Senate, where the breakaway Independent Democratic Conference and Republicans control the chamber, a number of anti-fracking bills have died in committee in recent years. But Democrats, particularly those in New York City whose constituents would not directly benefit from fracking-related jobs, have been waiting for years to get those bills to the floor.
I.D.C senator Tony Avella of Queens has long pushed for an outright ban on fracking, but acknowledges that is unlikely.
However, he said he and his colleagues plan to introduce a number of bills in January that would restrict fracking, regardless of who controls the chamber.
First, Avella said, he'll push for votes on a bill to make it illegal to transport fracking waste into New York from other states. He said he'll also introduce a bill to provide strong worker protections for those who work in the fracking industry, in case it is ever allowed here.
“If we don't do those things, I'm going to go screaming on the floor of the Senate,” he said.
The strongest of the bills would extend the state's moratorium on fracking for three years. That would delay the conversation about a longer-term state position for years, and give Cuomo more cover to avoid the politically fraught decision he's managed to duck until now.
Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins of Westchester, who would become co-leader of a Democratic Senate, said she would not allow a ban on fracking to come up for a vote. But she said she supports extending the moratorium.
“There should be a moratorium until we get all the information we need in to ensure there is no possible health risk or any other risk,” she said. “We need to make sure everything is absolutely studied before we go forward.”
Stewart-Cousins said there are a number of members who are eager to bring legislation to the floor that would restrict fracking. She knows that those bills will likely be some of the first a Democratic Senate would address.
“There are a lot of things around fracking people want to vote on, want to articulate, want to take a stand on,” she said.
A number of anti-fracking bills have passed in the Democrat-controlled Assembly over the years. The Assembly will likely remain under Democratic control, making it highly likely all of those bills would pass again.