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Elected officials say 6-year delay on fracking decision not long enough

Matt Richmond

A temporary ban on the controversial gas extraction method hydrofracking has dragged on for years. Even as the governor says a long-awaited study is nearing completion, a large group of local officials want the ban to continue.

Elected Officials to Protect New York, made up of more than 850 local-level elected officials, says Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration still has not properly studied fracking enough.

"A lot of people who want fracking to go forward say, in frustration, ‘Oh my gosh, we’ve studied it to death.’ Maybe we’ve talked it to death, but we haven’t studied it to death," said Julie Huntsman, a town supervisor in Otsego and co-coordinator of the group.

They sent a letter to Cuomo this week as the governor says a long-awaited and severely delayed health impact study will be completed in the next few weeks. They want an additional three to five-year moratorium on the drilling method to conduct more studies.

Huntsman says there are still many issues that have not been studied, like the effect of the drilling on agriculture and air pollution.

Members of the group, like Syracuse Common Council President Van Robinson, praise Cuomo for delaying fracking this long – and investing in renewable energy sources.

"Before we move one step further, let’s make sure that all the reports are in; all the scientific and environmental reports are in. Make sure that it will not, in the long run, cost this state," said Robinson.

Greg Young is Gloversville town supervisor. He says the state should continue the drilling ban and, instead, continue to invest in solar and renewable energy.

"So that we can look comprehensively at our energy needs as well as job and economic development needs. Help plug the brain drain and create good, lasting jobs," he said.

Cuomo has repeatedly said he will let the science decide whether fracking will be allowed in New York.

Drilling has brought jobs and economic windfalls to states like Pennsylvania, which have allowed the method. But there have been questions over how to deal with its environmental impacts, like contaminated wastewater.

New York state's environmental agency began studying drilling in 2008. Former Gov. David Paterson put in place a moratorium in 2010. That report has taken several years longer than anticipated to complete.