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By CASEY SEILER
ALBANY — State Sen. Greg Ball, a Republican known for his maverick sensibility, enhanced that reputation further with his introduction Wednesday of a proposed moratorium on hydraulic fracturing, the controversial natural gas drilling technique better known as hydrofracking that’s under review by the state Department of Environmental Conservation.
The Putnam County lawmaker was joined at a news conference by Sens. David Carlucci and David Valesky, members of the breakaway Independent Democratic Conference. Also on hand were residents from Dimock, Pa., a community where drilling operations have been blamed for contaminating water wells and having other deleterious effects on the environment — claims that local drillers either deny or claim are overblown.
The moratorium, which would bar hydrofracking through June 1, 2013, is unlikely to pass the Senate due to opposition from Ball’s fellow Republicans, who so far seem content to follow Gov. Andrew Cuomo‘s lead and let DEC move ahead with its long-gestating impact statement and simultaneous crafting of regulations for its possible implementation. Many members of the conference would like to see the agency accelerate its pace, arguing hydrofracking could be a major economic booster for the Southern Tier, home to the gas-rich Marcellus Shale formation.
The state Assembly, controlled by Democrats, passed a similar moratorium last June that would have blocked fracking through May. That measure never made it to a Senate vote.
It’s highly unlikely hydrofracking will be approved for use any time in 2012; Cuomo’s budget proposal for the coming fiscal year, which begins April 1, made no provision for added staff at DEC or other agencies to monitor hydrofracking.
Ball said opposition to the technique was a cause that bridges the gap between environmentalists in the Occupy Wall Street movement and property-rights enthusiasts in the tea party. Without naming names, he added more of his GOP colleagues were coming around to the idea that the drilling process presents perils that aren’t worth the potential payoff.
Ball, who has toured Dimock and presided over legislative hearings on hydrofracking, at one point brandished a jug of allegedly contaminated water brought up by one of the Dimock residents.
“I’m very good at 30-second sound bites, (but) not on this issue, because it’s just too complex and too real,” he said.
“When you look at it, this is all about … why politics sucks in the United States of America. Because absolute power corrupts absolutely. And I don’t care if it’s the White House or the governor’s office, I don’t care if it’s George Bush or Barack Obama — it’s the billionaires and the gazillionaires that have all the access,” Ball said. (ARTICLE)