New York State Assembly votes to block fracking until 2015

NEW YORK Wed Mar 6, 2013 3:02pm EST

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver applauds New York Governor Andrew Cuomo after the New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act was signed in Albany, New York January 15, 2013. REUTERS/Hans Pennink

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver applauds New York Governor Andrew Cuomo after the New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act was signed in Albany, New York January 15, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Hans Pennink

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - The New York State Assembly passed legislation on Wednesday that extends the moratorium on high-volume hydraulic fracturing in the state until May 2015 and requires further studies on the environmental impact of the practice known as fracking.

A moratorium on fracking has been in place in the Empire State since 2008 because of concerns that the practice, which involves pumping chemical-laced water and sand deep below the surface to extract natural gas from shale, can contaminate water supplies.

The current legislation applies to the Utica and Marcellus shale gas deposits, some of the most significant in the country. It requires a full review process, including a new study to look at the potential public health impact of fracking.

"We will not sit idly by and endanger the health and safety of our communities by rushing necessary health and safety reviews," Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said in a statement before the vote.

The New York State Assembly, where Democrats outnumber Republicans by a ratio of about 2 to 1, passed the legislation by an unofficial count of 95 to 40.

The legislation passed by the Assembly must still be approved by the state Senate, where its passage might be complicated by a power-sharing arrangement between Republicans and Democrats. But a Democratic majority in the Senate may be enough to send it to Governor Andrew Cuomo, who is also a Democrat, for final approval.

(Reporting by Edward Krudy; Editing by Jan Paschal)

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