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Albany, New York City Council Approves Fracking Ban

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In Albany, New York, the city council approved a fracking ban, apparently unconcerned with industry retaliation. The narrowly approved ban prohibits gas drilling within city limits, a move that Times Union said is meant to ensure that hydraulic fracturing—fracking—does not occur there. The ban unites the Albany Common Council to Buffalo, Cooperstown, and about 50 more cities, towns, and counties in New York State that have ensured fracking limits are in place even before New York environmental regulators are able to issue fracking permits to gas companies, Times Union noted. The fact that Albany is critical to New York government and is also where the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is located, is seen by some as adding more significance to an already highly controversial practice. Mayor Jerry Jennings, described by Times Union as a close ally to New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo, has not announced his plans regarding the measure; the mayor has 10 days, according to the city’s code to veto. Meanwhile, said Times Union, the Cuomo administration has allowed fracking despite criticism and resistance from environmentalists. Calling a potential Jennings veto a “disservice to democracy,” Daniel Morrisey, a founder of the anti-fracking group, Water Equality said, “We need the Honorable Jerry Jennings to understand that this is necessary to protect Albany’s air quality and clean water,” Times Union wrote. The ordinance passed by an 8-5 vote, with one council member abstaining and another absent. Backers of the ban are calling for Jennings to listen to the people and pay attention to concerns regarding the environmentally devastating practice of fracking that has led to air and water pollution and adverse reactions in human and environmental health. In a never-before-seen move, backers also talked about which of those opposing council members might be persuaded in the event Jennings vetoes the vote, noted Times Union.

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Those opposed sided with gas industry lobbyists who argued that “state law preempts local governments from regulating gas drilling,” which is, they said, a job for the DEC, said Times Union. The council passed another unanimous vote to ban Albany’s Rapp Road landfill from accepting fracking waste, said Times Union. The state’s moratorium on natural gas drilling via high-volume, horizontal fracking officially expired on July 1. The same day the ban expired, New York’s DEC issued a report recommending that fracking be allowed on most private lands in the state, with the exception of the environmentally sensitive watersheds that supply New York City and Syracuse with drinking water. Very recently, the DEC also issued a revised draft of proposed fracking regulations. If adopted, the vast majority of the the Marcellus Shale in New York would be accessible to natural gas extraction via fracking, said Governor Cuomo and the DEC have faced enormous criticism over their plans to allow fracking in New York. Environmental experts and advocates say that New York’s haste to adopt the new regulations has muddied the actual cost of fracking to infrastructure, public health, and the environment.

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