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New fracking law questioned

Republican lawmakers claim lack on environmental review compromises law

— The Albany County Legislature passed a local law last week to keep hydrofracking waste out of the county, but some members of the Republican minority are asking the county executive to veto the law on procedural grounds.

Local Law C, which passed by a vote of 30-7, bans the use of hydrofracking waste for de-icing wintry roads in the county and prohibits the treatment of fracking brine in the county’s wastewater and sewage treatment facilities. Yet legislators such as Christine Benedict, R-Colonie, believe the law was too broad in its explanation and that a SEQR (State Environmental Quality Review) should have been conducted prior to a vote. Processing a SEQR would determine the overall environmental impact of the law and how it would affect the county.

“It goes deeper than just, ‘Do I want hazardous wastes on our streets?’ No, I don’t,” Benedict said. “But the law was poorly written.”

Benedict said an environmental review should have been done in order to consider the environmental impacts of the hydrofracking waste before it was brought to the legislature.

Legislator Bryan Clenahan, D-Guilderland, the law’s primary sponsor, said he was disappointed issues were raised on the night of the vote while the law was introduced in April.

“I (asked) the Republican minority and counsel if they had any ideas or suggestions in July … I followed up in their office and didn’t get a call back,” Clenahan said. “I was incredibly disappointed I didn’t hear feedback until the floor of the debate.”

Albany County now joins at least nine other counties in the state that have passed a similar law. Clenahan said none of the other counties conducted a SEQR, nor had issues with their laws.

As for the law being written broadly, Clenahan said he worked very closely with environmental groups to have details and specify the importance of passing the ban in “five paragraphs of legislative intent.” Clenahan also held two public hearings on the law.

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