[UPDATED] Shale drilling moratorium on today's Assembly agenda

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[UPDATED AND CORRECTED 3:20 p.m.] The Assembly passed the legislation this afternoon and it was sent to the Senate's environment committee. Under the Assembly's bill, the moratorium would last through May 15, 2015, not May 15, 2014 as this blog originally stated.

Original post: About a week ago, a group of State Assembly members introduced legislation for a drilling moratorium in the Marcellus and Utica shale. The Assembly is set to vote on — and most likely pass — the legislation today.

Technically, the legislation would place a moratorium on state issuance of permits to drill in low-permeability natural gas reservoirs, including the Marcellus and Utica shale. It's not a fracking moratorium per se, but would prevent the state from issuing permits that would allow high-volume hydraulic fracturing in the shale formations.

The moratorium would last through May 15, 2015. The text says it's meant to give the state time to study "any potential effects on water and air quality, environmental safety, and public health." In fact, the bill would require the state to hire a school of public health to study the health impacts of fracking; details can be found in the legislation's text.

The bill doesn't have a match in the State Senate. But yesterday, members of the Senate's Independent Democratic Conference announced legislation to establish a two-year moratorium, though there's a catch. Speaking on the Capitol Pressroom radio program, Senator David Carlucci said the moratorium would stay in effect until two outside health studies are completed. One is the Geisinger Health System's study of fracking's impacts on health in Pennsylvania, the other is an Environmental Protection Agency study of fracking's impacts on water quality. The Geisinger study should be completed by the end of 2014 or early 2015, Carlucci said. (The Carlucci interview is available here and it lasts from the 4 minute 15 second mark through the 13 minute mark.)

Carlucci said the state shouldn't look to make a quick buck at at the expense of public health, the state's economy, and the environment.

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