Tuesday, June 11, 2013

NY Senate Tosses Environmental Bills Under the Frack Truck

Three months ago, on March 6, the New York State Assembly voted 103 to 40 to extend the moratorium on high-volume hydraulic fracturing until May 2015. A week later, Senator Tony Avella  introduced a companion bill (S4236) into the NY Senate. It was referred to the Senate’s twelve-member Environmental Conservation Committee, where it’s languished ever since. And it’s not the only bill stalled in committee; there are at least five other drilling-related bills that have not been allowed to the floor for discussion and a vote:

Senator David Carlucci  introduced Senate bill 4046 that would prevent the commissioner of Environmental conservation from finalizing and publishing the revised Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (SGEIS) for at least 2 years - and requires completion of the EPA fracking study and health studies. 

Avella introduced Senate bill 673 which would amend the environmental conservation law by prohibiting hydraulic fracturing altogether and outlaw disposal and/or processing of any drilling fluids or drill cuttings in New York. That includes: drilling mud; chemical additives and frack fluid; flow back fluids returning to the surface after the hydraulic fracturing process; and any other residual liquids involved in drilling.

There are at least three bills that deal specifically with drilling wastes. Senate bill 674 would require hazardous wastes produced from oil and gas activities to be treated the same as hazardous wastes produced by other industries. Currently, Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) regulations exempt “drilling fluids, produced waters, and other wastes associated with the exploration, development or production of crude oil, natural gas or geothermal energy” from being regulated as hazardous waste. 

Senator Martin Dilan's bill (S 408) would prohibit radioactive or hazardous waste disposal or transfer stations from being sited within 1500 feet of school property. 

And just a month ago Senator Cecilia Tkaczyk introduced Senate bill 5123 that would prohibit the transportation of any waste product or byproduct from fracking operations.  

With less than two weeks left in the session it’s unlikely that any of these bills will be brought to a vote. Neither Avella nor Tom O’Mara, both of whom sit on the Senate Environmental Conservation Committee, responded to repeated requests for comments on why they’re keeping environmental legislation from reaching the floor. But Xavier San Miguel, director of communications for Avella, chalks it up to a pro-fracking Republican conference. 

“Dean Skelos and Jeff Kline control what comes to the floor for a vote, and they don’t seem inclined to promote these bills,”  San Miguel said. And that seems odd, seeing how Kline is cosponsoring two of the bills.

With 30 Republicans and 33 Democrats, one might think the Democrats could generate enough support to push these bills through. But back in December 2012, five Democrats formed an Independent Democratic conference and defected to join the Republicans, forming a coalition. They struck a deal allowing two leaders: Republican Dean Skelos and Democrat Jeff Klein. This move denied the traditional Democratic conference from taking majority control, and gives Skelos and Klein great power over which bills get a vote – and which bills get tossed under the frack truck.


  1. Senator Libous promise to control the vote by never letting a bill get to committee, seems to by working. Again, the senator thinks more of his wallet than of his constiuents.

  2. It is time we clean up the government both state and national. Vote them out of office and start over. If we all vote against incumbents we will have a new government and maybe they will get the message.