With the stroke of a pen, New York’s outgoing governor essentially crafted a compromise on the great hydraulic fracturing debate taking place in the Empire State.
On Saturday, Governor David Paterson vetoed a bill that called for a moratorium on all fracking until further study of the issue could be concluded. The now-defunct bill would have called for the moratorium to last until May 15th. Yet, the veto wasn’t the only news out of Albany this weekend. Simultaneous to the veto came an executive order from Paterson that calls for restrictions on fracking --just not all oil and gas production.
In his executive order, Governor Paterson actually extended the period for studying facking, while limiting what isn’t allowed during the fracking study period. The bill that was sent to his desk called for a moratorium on “all conventional, low-volume, vertical oil and gas wells,” in addition to high volume wells that are both horizontal and vertical. Paterson’s executive order keeps any new permits for horizontal drilling from being issued until a study period is over. This isn’t going to happen any time before July 1st 2011.
According to Patterson, his rationale for the veto was mainly based on the premise that the fracking moratorium went too far to block oil and natural gas production at the expense of the state’s already struggling economy. “With a $315 million budget gap in the current fiscal year, and a projected gap of over $9 billion in the 2011-12 sate fiscal year, New York simply cannot afford to send hundreds and perhaps thousands of jobs, and millions of dollars in capital investment to Pennsylvania and other states to our south,” read a release from Patterson’s office.
Now, while Paterson is scoring points on the economic front, and perhaps salvaging a few points by extending a more narrowly defined limit on fracking, his compromise was even welcomed by some in the energy industry. The New York Times’ green blog pointed out that his limiting the moratorium to horizontal wells isn’t much of a limit, but it still carries weight in the energy community. “Most modern wells that use fracking are, in fact, horizontal wells, but the industry welcomed the governor’s veto as staking out middle ground,” read the piece by Tom Zeller, Jr.
As for the symbolism of the original bill, Paterson just didn’t think it was important enough to warrant signing. "Symbols can have great importance, but particularly in our current terrible economic straits, I cannot agree to put individuals out of work for a symbolic act,” he said.
So now the New York fracking saga continues. Soon it will have a new character driving the headlines as Governor Andrew Cuomo will soon inherit Paterson’s executive order and the arguments on both sides of the fracking debate. The next chapter is almost here.