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The state Assembly voted yesterday for a 24-month moratorium on hydraulic fracturing, apparently emboldened by Gov. Andrew Cuomo's decision to hold off on allowing the natural gas drilling process in New York state.

In a statement defending the bill, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said a moratorium was necessary to allow for sufficient time to thoroughly study the issue. “We need to better understand the broad impacts to our environment, our economy, and the health and safety of all who work and live in New York before the Department of Environmental Conservation makes its decision," he said.

The Assembly bill also requires a health impact assessment to be carried out using a model recommended by the Centers for Disease Control.

Assemblyman Kevin Cahill of Ulster County lauded the move: “It became evident during our budget hearings that the review currently being done by the New York State Department of Health is inadequate for the protection of New Yorkers. This legislation will create New York-centered studies, taking into account our unique geology and water resources and also capitalize on the experience in other states.”

The Independent Oil and Gas Association and the Business Council both issued statements condemning the Assembly's action. “The proposed moratorium on future natural gas development in upstate New York is seriously ill-informed and ignores science and the experience in other states, and demonstrates continued disregard for farmers, landowners and small businesses in the Southern Tier,” said IOGA Executive Director Brad Gill.

But opponents of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, say the gas industry simply doesn’t have its heart in the fight because the market demand is not simply there.

“I think the industry is focusing on development in other places,” said Kate Sinding of the Natural Resources Defense Council. “Gas prices are so low that there is just not so much pressure to get into the ground in New York. We are seeing frustration from landowners who are threatening lawsuits but not sure it is practical for the industry right now.”

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The state announced on Friday it would restart the regulatory rule-making process over hydraulic fracturing, pushing back a decision about approval into next year. This comes after the move to study fracking's impact on public health. The industry is worried Gov. Cuomo may not approve the drilling after all.

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Environmental Advocates of New York have hired veteran spokesman Travis Proulx to be their new director of communications. Proulx served as a spokesman for the Senate Democrats through the good times and the bad. He even survived the fabled 2009 Senate Coup. He recently worked for the Cuomo administration.

“Travis is a great addition to our office. His years of experience in the capital, working in both the legislative and executive branches, as well as his knowledge of state government, political campaigns, and statewide media, are huge assets to our organization and the state’s broader environmental community,” said Rob Moore, executive director of Environmental Advocates.

Proulx said, “Environmental Advocates has a well-deserved reputation for not only advancing environmental protections, but also advocating visionary policies that benefit all New Yorkers. I’m excited to join the team at such an important time for our state's environment, with big decisions looming on issues such as fracking.”

You can expect to hear Proulx talking about hydraulic fracturing along with a bevy of other environmental issues facing New York in the months and years to come.