Thursday, December 2, 2010

What Does the Moratorium Bill Really Say?

drilling near Troy, PA
It’s amazing how much controversy 175 words can cause. Ever since the NY Assembly passed the moratorium (Assembly Bill 11443) industry representatives have been spinning it as a move that is sure to drive the state economy into ruin.

“It’s putting drillers currently working in the state at risk,” Jim Smith said in a phone interview. Smith, who works with the NY Independent Oil and Gas Association of NY (IOGA-NY), explained that the moratorium could halt all natural gas development that uses hydraulic fracturing – not just drilling proposed for the Marcellus Shale.

“And that means vertical wells, too,” Smith said. In a press release IOGA claims that the bill, as written, could affect the vast majority of current (non-Marcellus) oil and gas exploration and development in New York State. It would bar the kind of existing safe drilling that has been in practice for many years in New York. It could also result in the potential loss of 5,000 industry jobs, threaten the future of more than 300 businesses and temporarily eliminate the $1 million in annual revenue the state collects from traditional drilling permit fees. (italics mine)

 “Did they even read the bill before they voted?” Smith asked, referring to the 93 assembly members who voted aye.

The more pertinent question is whether the good folks at IOGA-NY read the bill – it takes but a minute, maybe two if you read real slow, and is very clear about what the moratorium is.

The moratorium, explains Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton, will allow the state more time to obtain a complete picture of environmental impacts from the technology. She would rather see the state wait until after the EPA completes their study before issuing new permits… but this is what ended up on the table – er, floor of the Assembly Monday night.

It wasn’t a shoo-in, either. Assembly members engaged in lengthy discussion, bringing numerous questions to the chair.

Did they know that vertical drilling would be affected? Most assuredly, Lifton said. The bill does not specify horizontal fracturing because the concern is protecting water and the environment from the numerous toxic chemicals used in the hydro-fracking process – regardless of how the well is drilled.

Lifton set the record straight: “The moratorium does not interfere with current drilling projects or permits that are in effect.” Indeed, anyone reading the actual text of the bill would notice that the first sentence clearly states the act establishes a “suspension of the issuance of new permits”. 

Moreover, the end of the section just as clearly states that the act “shall not apply to permits issued prior to the effective date of this act which utilize hydraulic fracturing that are subject to renewal.”

So what about those scary claims by industry? Nonsense, says Lifton. “Drillers who already have permits may continue their operations and may renew their permits. This moratorium,” she emphasized, “will have very little impact on current drilling activity.”

As for those fear-mongering claims that farmers won’t be able to use hydro-fracking to drill water wells – the bill clearly states that the moratorium will affect “hydraulic fracturing  for the purpose of stimulating natural gas or oil in low permeability natural gas reservoirs”. Nothing in there about going after water for the cows…

Please take a minute and read the bill here.


  1. From watching a portion of the Assembly debate on Monday night, the IOGA is not alone in misreading the bill. Several of the Assembly people repeated the IOGA interpretation exactly in their arguments against the bill. I was also struck by the number of Assembly people who still don't know that high volume, slick-water hydraulic hydrofracking is not the same as the process used for the last half century. Why do they insist on using the industry numbers for jobs and economic benefits when there are valid economic studies proving otherwise? Why do they continue to repeat the "clean energy and energy independence matras when both of these have been disproved? Are they letting the IOGA write their speeches? How much have they taken in legal fees and/or campaign donations from the industry? Are some Assembly people influenced by the money or just too lazy/ignorant to search out the truth?

  2. On the false news stories : It isn't about the bill , it's about panicking people who don't know anything about what's going on !! The NY Farm Bureau is backing the drillers & running a website way to enable farmers to vote against this bill , which they don't even begin to understand . This way the drillers can panic people into voting against themselves & sway demographics , so it looks like they have way more backing than they do !

  3. The point is, running forward, would this moratorium stop permits to drill oil or gas wells requiring old-fashioned low-volume hydraulic fracturing?


    As written, it won't just be cutting off the new hydraulic fracturing (which most of the drilling opposition has said repeatedly is the main issue).

    It would cut off a certain as-yet-unknown amount of economic activity that has been going on for years in New York — without much (apparent) environmental impact, or public controversy.