March 7, 2013

What would signal a change on hydrofracking policy?

I disappointed Angelika´╗┐ last night with my lack of enthusiasm about the New York State Assembly's 103-40 vote in favor of a two-year moratorium on hydrofracking. Why would I find something that seems so encouraging to be largely useless?

First, because the Assembly is severely gerrymandered in favor of the Democrats. That 103-40 has pretty much nothing to do with opinion across the state, which is split. It all has to do with the way they draw the lines.

Second, because the leadership has so much control in our legislature. I'll have to look at the details of who voted for and against, but I'll be surprised to see large numbers of legislators bucking their party on this.

Third, it's completely a dog bites man story. There is no surprise here - the Assembly has generally opposed hydrofracking since they woke up to what it was. The harder questions are, and have been, the Senate and the Governor.

The Senate is also severely gerrymandered. The deal since 1970 has been that the Republicans gerrymander the Senate and the Democrats gerrymander the Assembly.

However, the Senate is also severely split, because Republicans generally aren't doing very well in New York State, and because the Democrats did such an astoundingly lousy job last time they were in power that the caucus broke in two. The Independent Democratic Conference, which currently shares power with the Republicans, is in favor of a moratorium, though it's not clear if it's an identical proposal. (Language about health studies seems softer.)

If the Senate votes for a moratorium, especially for a strong moratorium, then the landscape has changed. If the Governor signs such a bill, then the reality has changed.

I would love to see a moratorium. However, we shouldn't take this vote as anything more than a sign that the house that has wanted one for a long time thought it was a good time to put it up for a visible vote. At best, this is a sign of possible change to come, not a massive shift in momentum.

(And no, I don't buy the RFK-converting-Cuomo story either. Albany politics is broken enough without that kind of celebrity superpower, and there's nothing that suggests to me that RFK's personal intervention was necessary.)

Posted by simon at March 7, 2013 6:23 AM in
Note on photos