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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