What does compulsory integration mean to you?

This is the bottom line on compulsory integration in New York: If you're a landowner with natural gas on your property, even if you don't sign a drilling lease a company might still be able to take that gas. But, it has to pay you for it.

Those situations and remedies are covered under the New York Oil, Gas and Solution Mining Law, in a section commonly referred to as compulsory integration.

What makes compulsory integration noteworthy and necessary is the horizontal drilling process associated with development of the Marcellus Shale. After companies bore underground about a mile to reach the Marcellus, they turn horizontally and, tentacle like, drill in any direction.

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The fight over the Senate offshore drilling “spill bill” shifted Wednesday from the Gulf of Mexico to the mountains of western Pennsylvania, as Republicans slammed the last-minute inclusion of language to regulate a controversial technique to extract onshore natural gas.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) added the language Tuesday requiring natural gas drillers to disclose the chemicals they pump into the ground as part of the hydraulic fracturing, or hydrofracking, process.

Republicans are wary of the addition, which comes on Page 404 of the 409-page spill response bill that Reid wants the Senate to take up before the recess. The language is not in the bill the House will vote on by Friday.

GOP objections to any portion of the larger bill could stall Senate progress, since senior Democratic staff indicated that Reid will not allow amendments.

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Binghamton, NY (WBNG Binghamton) Iberdrola, the parent company of Energy East, which owns NYSEG, is pushing for increased electric and gas rates by about $7.21 per month.

Those changes could take effect as soon as September.

A top executive of Iberola, Kevin Walker, told WROC in Rochester, that he understands paying for heat and electricity is hard for some customers.

But Walker also believes raising the rates now will make energy more affordable down the road.

Residents in the Southern Tier can weigh in on the increases.

The Public Service Commission, which must approve the rate hike, will hold a public hearing on Monday, August 2 at the Broome County Public Library from 5 to 8 pm in the Decker Room.

On December 1st, 2009, The New York State Power Authority submitted a request for proposal to potentially build an industrial wind farm off the shores of Lake Ontario, Lake Erie, or both.

This proposal would see the construction of 40-166 450ft industrial wind turbines 2 miles off shore at depths not to exceed 150 feet, stretching through Parma, Greece, Rochester, Irondequoit and Webster with a possible power plant and storage facility location in Irondequoit Bay. There are several other potential projects targeting Niagara, Ontario, St Lawrence Counties, and the Town of Hamburg and Evans off Lake Erie.

The negative environmental aspects of these farms are too numerous to list here, but include:

An Experimental Project - never attempted in fresh water and all for 1% added to the power grid.

Winter ice storms could destroy turbine structures, crashing hundreds of tons of metal into the lake and spilling oil into our fresh water (~215 gallons/turbine with 40,000 gallons in electric service platforms.) Hardly clean energy! Will not reduce our reliance on foreign oil. Where does the used oil go? How are the oil changes done w/o leaks and spills? Who pays for it? Who supplies it? THESE ARE INDUSTRIAL TURBINES, NOT WINDMILLS!

Will negatively impact property values as the lake becomes devalued, esp. after turbines become disabled and rusted.

Noise pollution from turbines and fog horns will impact quality of life for humans and wildlife.

Flashing red lights all night on turbines will disrupt life far beyond the shoreline.

Recreational boating and the fishing industry will diminish as Coast Guard regulations prohibit boats from within at least 100ft.

Risk of boat collisions increase at night as depth perception is distorted on the water.

Serious impact on fish & Fowl, esp. to migratory birds crossing the lake. Lake Trout spawning grounds.


Do YOUR Own Research

You may also visit the NYPA website to get more information on the project proposal. PLEASE NOTE, Their disclaimer is in bold:

The New York Power Authority(NYPA) "makes no guarantees concerning the accuracy or completeness of the information from technical studies made available by the Authority. Respondents are encouraged to verify the sources and methodologies employed in the technical studies made available by the Authority through independent means." www.nypa.gov

Unsettling glimpse of Tiers' future

This time next summer odds are that hydro-fracking deep below the earth's crust and perhaps dangerously near Southern Tier aquifers will be a reality, one that many in the Southern Tier fear. A recent foray into Pennsylvania near Wellsboro gave me a glimpse of the drilling future of the Southern Tier and the Finger Lakes.

I didn't like what I saw or heard.

What hits the onlooker instantly is the noise, the smells and the never-ending stream of truck traffic that has transformed beautifully quaint Wellsboro into a miniaturized Times Square environment. Replace New York City's cars and cabs with dump trucks and tanker trucks, odors peculiar to large cities with the smell of diesel, tar, gas and drifting mini-clouds of dust, and you get a picture. The quaintness is still there but it is no longer memorable.

Drive south a few miles and take nearly any rural byway in the shadows of Pennsylvania's Grand Canyon, once pristine, now rutted with dusty, muddy byways, depending on the weather. Along the way you'll see dozens and dozens of roadside signs: No Stopping, Keep Driving, No Dumping, Do Not Discharge Waste Here, Keep Out and the occasional No Frack signs. You get the feeling that not everyone is happy with the drilling.

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The New York State Public Service Commission (Commission) seeks public comment on a Joint Proposal to set electric and natural gas delivery rates for New York State Electric & Gas Corporation (NYSEG) and Rochester Gas and Electric Corporation (NYSEG) for the period September 26, 2010, through December 31, 2013.

The Joint Proposal is the result of negotiations in which all parties to the NYSEG and RG&E rate cases were free to participate. The Joint Proposal is intended to resolve all outstanding issues in these cases. The Joint Proposal may be adopted, modified or rejected by the Commission.

Under the Joint Proposal, a typical NYSEG residential electric customer would see an average monthly bill increase in the first year of the rate plan of approximately $1.45 or 2.2 percent. For RG&E electric customers, it would be $3.70, or 5.0 percent. Residential gas heating customers would see monthly bills increase by an average of $6.53, or 6.2 percent in NYSEG's service territory and $3.51, or 3.8 percent in RG&E's service territory. For the first three years of the rate plan, the proposed increases for typical residential customers are shown in the following table:

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MADRID (Dow Jones)--Spanish renewable energy company Iberdrola Renovables SA (IBR.MC) Monday said grants it has received in the U.S. for renewable energy now amount to $867 million.

The latest grant paid to the company by the U.S. government totaled EUR170 million for investments in the Cayuga Ridge wind park in Illinois.

Iberdrola Renovables is a unit of Spanish utility Iberdrola SA (IBE.MC), and is the world's biggest wind-power generator.

Just when you thought the Marcellus Shale and hydraulic fracturing debate was leveling off, a Washington think tank has come up with 6 billion new reasons that are sure to push the debate to higher levels.

That's $6 billion, which represents the tax revenues for local, state and federal governments that would be generated over the next decade if the formation is fully developed in the states it runs under -- primarily West Virginia, Pennsylvania and New York. In addition, the study predicts that 280,000 new jobs would be created across the three-state region that can be directly linked to developing the play.

This latest study, "The Economic Impacts of Marcellus Shale: Implications for New York, Pennsylvania and West Virginia," was released last week by the American Petroleum Institute. It presents a dollar-and-cents look at the growing natural gas industry in each of the three states. It pays virtually no attention to the environmental issues that are fueling the debate in New York, but what would one expect from a group representing the energy industry?

However, the numbers they offer are eye-popping -- 280,000 new jobs, a $24 million total economic benefit to the three states through business-to-business spending, lease and royalty payments to landowners and wages paid.

INDIANA TOWNSHIP, Pa. -- Police say that two people are dead after a gas well in a wooded area exploded.

The blast happened Friday at around 9:50 a.m. in the township about 15 miles northeast of Pittsburgh.

Police say the well is still actively burning.

VESTAL -- For the second time in four days, a small energy company from Denver found itself at the center of a controversial hearing in Broome County.

Nearly 60 people crammed into Vestal Town Hall for a Zoning Board of Appeals meeting on whether the town should allow the construction of a natural gas metering station that would measure and depressurize gas before connecting with NYSEG pipelines. The station would require a special permit because it would be located along Owego Road near the Vestal Parkway, a residential area.

MegaEnergy, a Colorado-based oil and gas company, was named as the applicant on the permit, but it was the company's business partner that showed up at the hearing: Inflection Energy.

Inflection had offered Broome County a $16 million signing bonus and 20 percent royalties for drilling rights to 5,610 acres of county land, but County Executive Barbara J. Fiala rejected the deal Tuesday after the public spoke against the deal at a hearing the day before and several legislators withdrew their support.

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NYSEG cuts size of proposed rate hike

New York State Electric & Gas Corp. has cut the size of the rate increase it is seeking for its electric and natural gas customers to a fraction of its original proposal.

NYSEG’s latest proposal, reached in conjunction with the State Public Service Commission’s staff, would increase electric rates by an average of $3.27 a month, or about 5 percent, during the course of the three-year agreement.

Electric rates would rise by 2.2 percent in the first year, followed by a 1.2 percent increase in 2012 and a 1.5 percent hike in the final year of the proposal.

NYSEG provides service to about 175,000 customers in suburban and rural portions of Western New York. NYSEG’s natural gas customers, who are primarily in portions of Niagara, Orleans and Genesee counties in Western New York, would pay about $13.61 a month more—an increase of nearly 13 percent— by the end of 2013 under the latest proposal.

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SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- State auditors want an investigation into whether upstate New York customers of National Grid are paying an unfair share of the British utility's corporate costs in the Northeast region.

National Grid is proposing to boost electric rates in upstate New York by $369 million annually. The company says that would mean more revenue, but not higher bills for most customers as some debt due in 2011 would be refinanced and paid over four years.

The state Public Service Commission has not acted on last week's recommendation by its auditors for an investigation into National Grid's shared corporate services. The auditors said upstate New York customers were being assigned corporate costs that have nothing to do with utility operations locally.

Utility officials declined to respond to specific criticisms, saying they'll respond in written briefs.

The state Public Service Commission will hold a public hearing on proposed rate increases by New York State Electric & Gas Corp. from 5 to 8 p.m. Aug. 2, at the Broome County Library in Binghamton.

The utility has proposed to increase delivery charges for electricity and natural gas by a total of $104.3 million over three years.

Electricity rates would go up by 1.3 percent this year and 2.3 percent in both 2011 and 2012. Natural gas rates would rise 2.1 percent this year and 2.2 percent in the following two years.

A similar public hearing on Rochester Gas and Electric Corp. proposed hikes is planned on Aug. 3 in Rochester.

The public can comment at the PSC website. Go to www.dps.state.ny.us and click on "Electric" and/or "Natural Gas."

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The New York State Public Service Commission has initiated a proceeding to determine what regulatory policies will best promote development of the smart grid. Commission Chairman Garry Brown says, “The smart grid and the modernization of the electric grid hold great potential for the state’s ratepayers. However, the Commission must be very thoughtful and deliberate before it decides whether to invest ratepayer money in the smart grid over the next decade. This proceeding will help us discover the opportunities and pitfalls that might exist.”

The Commission will solicit input from both the public and power industry for suggestions on shaping and building the smart grid. In addition to soliciting comments from traditional utilities, the Commission also wants to talk to telecommunication companies, computer software and hardware providers, internet developers, consumer advocates and other interested parties as it moves forward with developing its smart grid technology road map.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) has funded and accelerated the modernization and technological enhancement of the smart grid, including several New York projects which all together received $256 million in stimulus money.

Chairman Brown says the smart grid promises “the deployment of new technologies that could help utilities become more efficient and help modernize the existing transmission and distribution grid. If done smartly, with a close eye toward future possibilities, this modernization will help utilities streamline and manage their operations while empowering consumers with a far-greater ability to control electricity consumption and costs. This would clearly be a win for all parties.”

When the proceedings are finished, the Commission’s findings may be obtained by going to the Documents section of the Commission’s Web site at www.dps.state.ny.us and entering case number 09-M-0074 or 10-E-0285.

BINGHAMTON -- In the highly polarizing debate about the natural gas rush in the Southern Tier, environmentalists and landowners don't agree on much.

On Monday, they were nearly unanimous in their opposition to a proposed lease deal between Broome County and a Denver energy company. Of 22 people who spoke at a public hearing on a $16 million land deal before the county legislature, 18 were against it.

Inflection Energy, a small company based in Denver, has offered the county $3,000 an acre over five years for the drilling rights to 5,610 acres of county-owned land. The county also would receive 20 percent royalty payments with minor deductions, and the company would pay for an "environmental monitor" who would report to the county and make sure proper regulations are being followed.

The deal includes an option, which could be exercised by the company, for an additional three years at another $3,000 an acre.

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New York State Electric and Gas Corp. and Rochester Gas and Electric Corp. have again reduced the size of the rate increases they are seeking.

The sister companies, both based in Rochester, had initially sought large increases in what they charge households and businesses for delivering electricity and natural gas.

They sharply reduced the requests after public comment sessions in late April and now have cut them again after negotiations with the staff of the state Public Service Commission.

In a document released Thursday, NYSEG revenue would go up by a three-year total of $104.3 million, down from the $369 million it had been seeking over that span.

RG&E proposes to raise revenue by a total of $71.7 million over three years, down from its most recent request of $50 million per year, or $150 million over three years.

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Busloads of activists - both for and against drilling for natural gas in Pennsylvania - converged on the Delaware River Basin Commission Wednesday to plead their cases.

Heckling and jeering characterized three hours of public comment, with so many people attending that the meeting was moved from commission headquarters in West Trenton to a nearby fire hall.

Even then, the crowd exceeded the room's 400-person capacity, and about 165 people had to wait outside.

Many had driven several hours from northeastern Pennsylvania, where contention about drilling for natural gas in the productive Marcellus Shale geologic formation has polarized residents.

While drilling is moving forward elsewhere - the state has issued nearly 1,500 Marcellus permits this year - the commission has effectively halted most drilling in the sprawling river basin by deciding that regulations specific to natural-gas activities must be developed first.

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Authorities in charge of the reliability of New York State's power supply warn a policy to protect aquatic life could threaten the dependability of electricity supplies and increase air pollution.

The New York Independent System Operator, which oversees the grid, and the New York State Public Service Commission are encouraging state regulators to proceed cautiously as they finalize new water-use guidelines for power plants. The proposed policy, first released by the state's environmental regulator in March, would phase out a practice by which plants continually draw water from rivers and bays for cooling. Instead, they would be required to have closed systems with cooling towers.

"A broad, hard look at potential impacts of policy implementation on system reliability and emissions should be taken," wrote the commission, which regulates utilities in New York.

So-called once-through cooling is a growing issue in the power industry. California is taking steps similar to New York, and federal regulators are expected to issue new, national rules late this year.

The New York Independent System Operator, or NYISO, warned in a recent filing to the Department of Environmental Conservation that the policy could force power plants to be shut while not leaving enough time for replacements to be built. It estimates the policy could affect more than half of the power plants in New York and potentially leave certain areas such as metro New York City short of power. The conflict over once-through cooling has been especially contentious as Entergy Corp. (ETR) seeks relicensing for its Indian Point nuclear power plant on the Hudson River that supplies roughly a quarter of the power for New York City.

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Gas drilling moratorium explored

Finger Lakes, N.Y. — A state senator from downstate is tallying resident’s calls about whether to have a moratorium on gas drilling. Geneva-based Finger Lakes Zero Waste Coalition, an environmental-activist group, wants people who support a moratorium to call Sen. John Sampson, in hopes he will bring a bill (S7592A/Addabbo) on a moratorium to the Senate floor for a vote. Call (518) 455-2788.

They can't vote and they can't even discuss one of the biggest issues ever to come before the Broome County Legislature.

That's the situation four of 19 Broome legislators find themselves in as the county considers a potential $15.9 million land deal with a natural gas company.

Suzanne Gorman Messina, D-6th District; Marchie Diffendorf, R-7th District; Stephen Herz, D-9th District; and Ronald Keibel, R-11th District, will have to recuse themselves "on all matters and resolutions pertaining to the leasing of county-owned property for oil and natural gas exploration," Chairman Daniel Reynolds said in the memo.

In May 2009, County Attorney Joseph Sluzar recommended that legislators with a stake in the natural gas rush be barred from shaping county policy regarding the issue. Sluzar said his recommendation was "very conservative advice." Politics, possible conflicts, and large sums of money are "classic ingredients" in prosecutions against public officials, he said at that time.

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Senator Writes Letter Of Protest

State Senator Cathy Young is co-chair of the state senate’s administrative regulatory review commission, and Senator Young is opposed to the possible rate increase that New York State Electric and Gas wants to implement. "I'm totally against any kind of rate increase. People can't afford it right now, they're already having a hard enough time paying their bills, and this is especially hard after last year when Albany raised the utility taxes and so this is really bad timing," Senator Young told WLEA/WCKR News. Sen. Young also says she will be writing a letter of protest against this idea.

A spokesman for the New York State Public Service Commission says that New York State Electric and Gas might possibly be increasing their rates. NYSEG and RG&E will be filing a document with the commission this week.

Attempts to reach NYSEG before newstime were not successful.

After initially proposing large rate increases, New York State Electric & Gas Corp. and its sister company, Rochester Gas & Electric Corp., appear to be on track to win approval of smaller increases from state regulators.

The staff of the state Public Service Commission is working on a joint proposal with NYSEG and RG&E, and the sides believe they will reach agreement this week, according to commission spokesman James Denn.

At stake is how much residents and businesses pay for the delivery of electricity and natural gas. Delivery charges account for almost one-third of a customer's monthly bill. The majority of the bill -- supply costs and taxes -- are not part of these rate cases.

What has been striking about the cases is a lack of strong opposition, perhaps because the utilities haven't been granted rate increases since 1996. During that 14-year period, overall consumer prices have risen 39 percent.

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After initially proposing large rate increases, Rochester Gas and Electric Corp. and its sister company, New York State Electric and Gas Corp., appear to be on track to win approval of smaller increases from state regulators.

The staff of the state Public Service Commission is working on a joint proposal with RG&E and NYSEG, and the sides believe they will reach agreement this week, according to commission spokesman James Denn.

At stake is how much Rochester-area residents and businesses pay for the delivery of electricity and natural gas. Delivery charges account for almost one-third of a customer’s monthly bill. The majority of the bill — supply costs and taxes — are not part of these rate cases.

What has been striking about the cases is a lack of strong opposition, perhaps because the utilities haven’t been granted rate increases since 1996. During that 14-year period, overall consumer prices have risen 39 percent.

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Agriculture officials have quarantined 28 beef cattle on a Pennsylvania farm after wastewater from a nearby gas well leaked into a field and came in contact with the animals.

The state Department of Agriculture said the action was its first livestock quarantine related to pollution from natural gas drilling. Although the quarantine was ordered in May, it was announced Thursday.

A mere taste of what's to come from natural-gas fracking in the Marcellus Shale, folks.

With fracking, or hydraulic fracturing of rock formations to extract natural gas, we're setting ourselves up for an environmental disaster of epic proportions -- and much of it the result of an inability to develop rural economies. Residents in upstate New York and central Pennsylvania are desperate for income, and the gas companies are happy to write checks for mineral rights. Meanwhile, Pennsylvania and New York are in the middle of state budget crises. The prospect of tax revenue from fracking is apparently more than enough to offset environmental concerns.

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U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today called on the New York State Public Service Commission (PSC) to block a 20% electricity delivery rate hike requested by National Grid Power. Schumer said that for almost a decade consumers and businesses have been expecting a rate cut once National Grid paid down the debt it took on after its purchase of Niagara Mohawk. Over the past ten years, New Yorkers have paid a "competitive transition charge" totaling $4.8 billion to finance this debt, which is scheduled to be paid down in 2011.

The delivery rate hike approved at the time of the purchase, in 2002, has caused the Central New York region to have some of the highest electricity rates in the country, acting as an anchor around the neck of economic development efforts. Now, instead of providing their customers with the relief they deserve, National Grid is asking for yet another increase. Schumer said that while this delivery rate increase will not cause an increase in customers' bills, it will wipe out any relief they would have seen and leave electricity costs in the region sky high.

"For almost a decade, electricity prices far above the national average have been a burden to ratepayers and a yoke around the neck of economic development efforts in Central New York; it's time for the Public Service Commission to send a loud and clear message to National Gird that this classic game of bait and switch is fooling no one," Schumer said. "In 2002 customers were hit with big rate hikes and they expected relief when the debt was paid off - well that day is here and it's time for National Grid to deliver rate relief for its customers instead of coming back for another massive increase."

In 2002, National Grid took over Niagara Mohawk Power Corporation and assumed responsibility for Niagara's debt. Over the past ten years, New Yorkers have paid a "competitive transition charge" to finance this debt, which is scheduled to be paid down in 2011. For families forced to shoulder the burden of this debt through higher utility bills, the year 2011 was to mark a significant decrease in their electricity payments. Unfortunately, National Grid has applied for a 20% percent delivery rate increase beginning in 2011, meaning residents will receive no relief in their utility bills.

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A planned severance tax on gas extracted from the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania needs to be "fair," so that it doesn't discourage gas drilling, according to the director of the Marcellus Shale Coalition.

"The Marcellus Shale is not the only shale play that is under development" in the United States, said Kathryn Klaber, president and executive director the Marcellus Shale Coalition. "There is a lot of competition for dollars" to develop gas wells, she said.

Pennsylvania needs to stay "ahead of the curve in terms of investment" in gas drilling, Klaber said in a conference call with reporters on Tuesday.

The state budget bill that Gov. Ed Rendell signed on Tuesday sets up action this fall on a natural gas severance tax.

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Howie Hawkins, the Green Party candidate for governor of New York, called for a ban on drilling in the Marcellus Shale last week.

A geologic formation containing an estimated 168 trillion to 516 trillion cubic feet of natural gas — about ten percent of which might eventually be recoverable — the Marcellus Shale has turned large parts of northern and western Pennsylvania and the southern tier of New York into what some have dubbed the “Saudi Arabia of natural gas.”

Hydraulic fracturing is a process that requires injecting a fracturing fluid, mostly water but also containing hundreds of chemicals, into the shale at a very high pressure to fracture or “open up” the rock. Oil and gas industry spokesmen contend that the benefits outweigh the risks and that the natural gas, chemicals and contaminated water flow up to the wellhead where they are captured for production or remain trapped in the shale rock thousands of feet below the surface, while environmental critics argue that the gas and fluids can flow into the groundwater supply or the air, polluting both, while potentially creating dry beds out of streams, ponds and rivers.

Likening heavily-favored Democrat Andrew Cuomo to Goliath and his Republican opponent to David, the lifelong third-party activist — a veteran of Dr. Benjamin Spock’s 1972 presidential campaign — jokes that he’s the pesky “mosquito they are both swatting at.” In announcing his candidacy a few months ago, Hawkins told the Syracuse Post-Herald that he hopes to raise approximately $100,000 for his uphill campaign.

The Green Party needs 50,000 votes for governor to gain permanent ballot status in New York.

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The Legislature has yet to act on two bills that would enact a moratorium on natural-gas drilling in the state's portion of the Marcellus Shale formation, increasing the likelihood that they won't be taken up before legislative session ends

The bills would place a temporary ban on the use of hydraulic fracturing, a controversial extraction technique in which a mixture of water, chemicals and sand is blasted deep underground to break up the rock formation and make natural gas more accessible. One bill would place a moratorium on the practice until May 15, 2011. The other would ban the practice until 120 days after a federal Environmental Protection Agency study is completed, which is expected to take at least two years.

The legislation sits in committee in both the Senate and the Assembly, and a spokesman for the Senate Democrats said it is unlikely the bill will be taken to the Senate floor for a vote this week. Lawmakers are expected to leave Albany shortly after a state budget is passed, which could come as soon as Thursday.

"I think both bills have some challenges," said Sen. Antoine Thompson, D-Buffalo, the sponsor of bill that would provide the one-year moratorium and the chair of the Senate Environmental Conservation Committee. "The Senate Democrats have not conferenced those bills to the best of my knowledge, and I have not been asked to shed insight in the conference setting, so that's the answer I can give at this point."

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