- #SenateFail: Advocates Slam Senate Leadership for Blocking Democracy on Fracking

For Immediate Release: June 5, 2013
Travis Proulx, tproulx@eany.org , 518-462-5526 x238

#SenateFail: Advocates Slam Senate Leadership for Blocking Democracy on Fracking

Albany—Advocates slammed the leadership of the Senate Majority Coalition, Senators Jeff Klein (D-Bronx) and Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre), today for letting their own chamber politics get in the way of a simple up or down vote – a basic tenet of democracy – on a fracking moratorium.

Senators are scheduled to leave Albany for the year in just nine session days: June 20.  

The fracking moratorium – common sense legislation that will allow the state the time it needs to gather science on fracking’s public health impacts – passed the Assembly in March. Governor Cuomo, who has pushed back against the multi-million dollar gas industry propaganda machine, said he believes it will pass overwhelmingly in the Senate, as well.

Unfortunately, Senators Klein and Skelos have not only stood in the way of their colleagues voting on this bill, but have even gone so far as to block other pieces of legislation from moving through the committee process. One bill that would close the loophole which allows for fracking waste to be unsafely disposed of within state lines, remains stalled in the Environmental Conservation Committee despite having 34 senators – a clear majority – signed on as cosponsors.

“Democracy is a fairly simple concept that holds voting at its core. But instead of practicing democracy, the Senate Majority Coalition is blocking votes and protecting their own power at the expense of our health and environment,” said Katherine Nadeau, water & natural resources director at Environmental Advocates of New York. “The test of leadership is not passing a single measure early in the legislative session, patting oneself on the back and heading home. Leadership requires work, every single day, on behalf of the people who pay senators’ salaries. Enough with the excuses: Senators Klein and Skelos have a job to do, and that means letting their colleagues vote.”

“What could be more important than protecting public health? At its heart, this is an issue of whether or not Albany is going to choose safeguarding the interests of New Yorkers or gas companies,” said Sarah Eckel, legislative & policy director at Citizens Campaign for the Environment. “It is time for Albany to live up to its promises of reform and transparency and bring the bill to the floor for a vote. New Yorkers deserve leadership and a clear signal that the public health is more important than profits.”

“New Yorkers are disgusted that our state has become Pennsylvania’s dumping ground for hazardous drilling waste and they want action. They also want their government to take the necessary time to fully conduct an assessment of fracking’s health impacts,” said Roger Downs, conservation director for the Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter. “Inaction on the part of the senate to vote on these critical measures represents a profound failure of leadership. When viewed in the greater context of this year’s anemic legislative session and the backlog of bills left on the table – leaders Skelos and Klein must finally prioritize the people’s business over personal power and the contributions of moneyed interests.”

“By preventing this crucial legislation from reaching the Senate floor for a vote, Senators Klein and Skelos have failed to put the health and safety of their constituents first,” said Kate Hudson, watershed program director at Riverkeeper. “New Yorkers have significant concerns about the potential negative effects of fracking on public health and the environment, a concern that has been appreciated and acted on by members of the State Assembly who have already passed the moratorium legislation which is currently before the Senate. Many Senators stand ready to do the same. Elected officials are charged with acting to protect the well-being and interests of the people, but members of the state Senate cannot perform this duty when two men stand in the way of the democratic process and prevent them from casting votes on behalf of their constituents.” 

“There is simply no excuse for this measure – popular with a bipartisan array of legislators and the public both – not to be brought to the floor for a vote,” said Kate Sinding, senior attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council. “As we have been saying for years now, New Yorkers want to be assured that any final decisions on fracking are made on the basis of the most complete and accurate science. This bill would ensure that New York continues down a course that is both deliberative and protective of New Yorkers' health and environment.”