Avella: Accident Proves Drilling Ban Needed

The spilling of several thousand gallons of chemicals at a natural gas well in northern Pennsylvania shows a ban on hydraulic fracturing is necessary, Sen. Tony Avella, D-Queens, said this afternoon.

“This is exactly the kind of situation I’m concerned of,” Avella said in an interview. “All it takes is one bad incident and then you have a disaster on your hands. One incident could harm the water for millions of New Yorkers.”

Avella is the sponsor of a measure that would ban the process known as hydrofracking, which uses a mixture of chemicals and water to access natural gas underneath. Pennsylvania is considered something of a test case for hydrofracking in New York, which is currently under review by the Department of Environmental Conservation.

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman also wants to the federal government to conduct a study into the issue, threatening to file a lawsuit if a study isn’t taken up within 30 days.

But at the same time upstaters argue that allowing hydrofracking and natural gas drilling would be a boon to the depressed upstate economy.

Avella said the real concern, however, should be clean drinking water.

“If we damage our water supply, you won’t have an economy in New York,” he said. “My primary goal is to ban it completely.” More >

Spitzer: Cuomo’s Budget Is ‘Chris Christie Light’

Former Gov. Eliot Spitzer took some shots at his successor (one governor removed), Gov. Andrew Cuomo, during an interview that will air on our sister show, “Inside City Hall” this evening, telling host Errol Louis that the much vaunted on-time 2011-2012 budget is “not a budget that I like.”

“I call it Chris Christie light,” the former governor-turned-CNN host said.

“To a certain extent, it accepted too quickly the need to cut across the board without either focusing the cuts or looking at revenue sources that could properly have been tapped.”

This isn’t the first time Spitzer has panned Cuomo’s budget.

During a recent interview with the West Side Spirit, he said it was “wrong” of the governor to oppose extending the millionaire’s tax at a time of crisis.

Spitzer also took issue with Cuomo’s strategy of putting health care players with a vested interest onto the redesign team that hashed out a Medicaid reform plan – and protected themselves in the process.

Spitzer and Cuomo have a long history of being at odds. Not long after Spitzer got onto the air at CNN, he called the newly-minted governor “the dirtiest, nastiest political player out there.” And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Louis’ interview with the former governor will air on NY1 at 7 p.m. and re-air at 10 p.m.

Cuomo To Visit With DRC

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is scheduled to host an opening reception at the Democratic Rural Conference 2011 convention this coming next Friday, April 29, according to the organization’s Website.

The event is being held this year at Proctor’s in Schenectady (so convenient! – not only for the governor, but also for the LCA).

It’s a little bit of a down year for the DRC, since there are no statewide elections this fall.

As a result, there will be no straw poll, which is traditionally the kick-off of the campaign season and a hotly contested event, despite the fact that the rural counties account for a rather small percentage of the overall weighted vote at the state convention.

As you’ll recall, there was considerable drama at last year’s DRC straw poll in Niagara Falls.

At the time, the focus was on the five-way Democratic AG primary, and there was much made of the behind-the-scenes efforts by the Cuomo campaign machine (the governor wasn’t even a candidate at the time) on behalf of Nassau County DA Kathleen Rice, who was perceived to be the preferred candidate for her ticket-balancing skills.

Rice ended up placing an unexpected second to Eric Dinallo – not that it did either of them any good come September. They both lost to now-AG Eric Schneiderman.

Cuomo-the-non-candidate made a very brief stop at the DRC and was greeted like a conquering hero. He was unanimously nominated in abstentia (not that he had any competition).

The DRC plays a significant role in Cuomo lore. It provided him with the one and only win he experienced during his ill-fated – and eventually aborted – gubernatorial primary challenge to the party favorite, then-state Comptroller H. Carl McCall, in 2002.

Operators Lose Control Of Pennsylvania Gas Well

Operators in Pennsylvania, a state that has become a test case for the use of the controversial natural gas extraction method known as hydraulic fracturing, have lost control of a natural gas well this afternoon, the AP is reporting.

The well, located in northern Pennsylvania near the New York border, spilled thousands of gallons of tainted water, forcing the evacuation of several homes.

From the AP:

Operators have lost control of a natural gas well in rural northern Pennsylvania, leading to a spill of fluids used in the drilling process. Bradford County emergency officials say thousands of gallons of tainted water have spilled from a Chesapeake Energy Corp. well site near Canton since early Wednesday.

Francis Roupp is deputy director of the county emergency management agency. He tells The Associated Press there were no injuries, explosion or fire.

He says fluids have reached a small stream but “no adverse effects” have been reported. He says a cracked well casing is suspected.

Chesapeake spokesman Rory Sweeney says the company is preparing a statement.

Schneiderman’s Cheering Section

AG Eric Schneiderman’s performance during his first months on the job – particularly his tough stance on hydrofracking – has drawn praise from two supporters of his erstwhile 2010 general election opponent, Republican Staten Island DA Dan Donovan.

At about the 2:49-minute mark in the second half of last night’s “Wise Guys” segment on “Inside City Hall,” former NYC Mayor Ed Koch explained he abandoned his fellow Democrat largely because he felt there should be balance in Albany, adding:

“But that’s water under the bridge, so to speak, and no I hope that Eric proceeds with the vim and vigor that he has, and he has an enormous amount of energy and intellect. So I expect big things.

Former U.S. Sen. Alfonse D’Amato, who tried to woo Donovan into the 2006 AG’s race (without success) and backed him “very vigorously” last year, echoed Koch’s sentiment.

“I think Schneiderman so far has done an excellent job,” he said. “This thing with the federal government…Don’t leave states and our local EPAs in a position not to know. My gosh, get the body of authority of scientific experience involved in here.”

“And so he’s right to do this. And I applaud him. Very bold. Very bold. I applaud him because it’s not a Democrat going after a Republican or vice versa. He’s saying: He guys. We’re the same party, but, you know, this is an important issue.”

The third Wise Guy, former state Comptroller H. Carl McCall, was a Schneiderman supporter in 2010 and joked that he’s now glad he and his fellow commentators are in agreement.

McCall also said he believes the AG is trying to strike out into “new territory” and get out from under the successful legacies of his predecessors – Andrew Cuomo and Eliot Spitzer. “Eric has got to find a new area, and the environment is certainly an important one…This is going to be a very good issue for him,” he added.

IDC Offers SAGE Suggestions

A day after Gov. Andrew Cuomo formally announced his picks to lead a commission that would reduce the size of state government, the Independent Democratic Conference wrote a letter reminding the panel of its own bureaucracy-busting suggestions.

In the letter sent to commission co-chairman Paul Francis and Antonio Perez, Sens. Jeff Klein of the Bronx, Diane Savino of Staten Island, David Carlucci of Clarkstown, Rockland County and David Valesky of Oneida, remind them of past proposals.

These include cracking down on overtime, reviving an office within the Office of General Services that would assess risk management and consolidating the state’s “patchwork” inspector general system.

The IDC included copies of its reports, which have been released throughout the year.

From the letter:

Overall, our proposals would save more than $1.1 billion in recurring savings over the next decade. Of that, specific recommendations that would result in at least $500 million in savings fall within the SAGE Commission’s parameters.

Idc Sage Letter

Piling On Buerkle

The House Majority PAC, one of the Democratic Party’s new independent expenditure operations, has included NY Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle on the list of 10 targeted Republicans who voted “yes” last week on Rep. Paul Ryan’s 2012 budget.

The PAC is launching a six-figure radio ad campaign tomorrow that features the sound of pigs snorting and an accusation that the Ryan plan will “end Medicare as we know it,” and “have the wealthiest Americans lining up at the trough” while putting “the squeeze” on middle-class families.

Buerkle is the lone New Yorker being targeted by the PAC and also in the latest round of ads launched yesterday by the DCCC.

The Republicans insisted the buy was so small as to be inconsequential, but it’s worth noting the freshman Central NYer appears to be atop the list of Empire State freshmen on the Democrats’ 2012 hit list.

The House Majority PAC ads are targeting: AZ-01 Paul Gosar; AR-01 Rick Crawford; FL-22 Allen West; MN-08 Chip Cravaack; NH-02 Charlie Bass; NY-25 Ann Marie Buerkle; NV-03 Joe Heck; TX-23 Francisco Canseco; TX-27 Blake Farenthold; and WI-07 Sean Duffy. A sample ad (the one running against Duffy) appears below.

IG: OGS Manager Hung Out In Bars On Worktime (Updated)

Inspector General Ellen Biben today announced criminal charges against an Office of General Services construction manager who would leave work early to hang out in a bar, her office charged.

Biben said Albany resident Gregory Ruth, 53, would routinely leave work early to spend most or all of his afternoon in an area bar, costing the state $5,000 in time. He was arraigned in Albany court today on felony charges of filing a false instrument, third-degree grand larceny and scheming to defraud the government.

In one instance, Ruth spent most of his Dec. 8 workday afternoon in a bar, despite filing a time card that claimed he worked from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. In another, he filed a time card on Jan. 24 stating he worked from 1 p.m. to 3:30 p.m., when he had also been in a bar, Biben said.

Biben said Ruth’s annual salary is $89,954.

Update: OGS Acting Commissioner Joseph Rabito issued a statement saying Ruth has been suspended without pay:

Mr. Ruth has been suspended without pay pending the resolution of disciplinary and criminal proceedings.  OGS is immediately undertaking an internal investigation into the matter. OGS is committed to being part of a state government New York can be proud of, so the behavior as described, if accurate, is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.

McClatchy-Marist Poll On Trump vs. Obama

Today’s McClatchy-Marist poll on President Obama’s re-election chances includes a hypothetical head-to-head match-up against the current GOP frontrunner (at least according to a recent PPP poll), Donald Trump.

Obama has a comfortable lead over the New York-based real estate developer, 54-38 with 8 percent undecided.

The strongest GOP contender continues to be Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor and 2008 presidential hopeful. He’s not statistically tied with Obama, 45-46, with nine percent undecided.

The last time McClatchy-Marist asked this question in January, Obama had a 13-point lead over Romney. At that time, a slim majority – 51 percent – said they would vote for the president while 38 percent thought they would back Romney, with 11 percent undecided.

The president has lost ground among independent voters. Currently a plurality – 45 percent – back Romney while 42 percent support Obama and 13 percent are undecided. Previously, the president held a 10 percentage point lead over Romney.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee has been gaining ground against Obama, too. He’s now trailing the president 48-43. In January, it was 50-38.

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has more or less stalled in the polls, (perhaps because she’s losing the attention of the right to Trump?). She’s at 56-34 against Obama, which is virtually unchanged from 56-30 in January.

Sliwa Takes A Break For Prostate Surgery

Radio shock jock/NY1 commentator Curtis Sliwa announced today taking a break from the airwaves that could last as long as a month to undergo prostate surgery.

The procedure will take place tomorrow, Sliwa informed reporters via a (rather explicit) statement emailed out shortly before noon.


Sliwa said he was first diagnosed via a biopsy about a year ago, and opted against surgery at that time even though it was, as he put it, the “only option” for treatment (as opposed to radiation therapy or seeds) because of scarring that took place when he was shot in 1992.

“I instead decided to try a homeopathic and holistic regimen that included everything from vitamin drips to eating raw vegetables,” Sliwa explained. “Unfortunately for me, it did not work.”

“Over the past weekend, my symptoms were such that it was determined that surgery would have to take place tomorrow (Thursday) morning at 10:00 AM. I will conduct my broadcast until 8AM and then will be transported to Mount Sinai school of Medicine.”

“Dr. David Samadi will perform the Robotic Radical Prostatectomy. If because of old scarring he is unable to get in and out, a second surgeon will perform the normal extraction of the prostate.”

“The prognosis is that I will be away from the microphones at AM 970 The Apple: minimum time a week, maximum time a month for recovery. The Curtis Sliwa plan though is with catheter in hand, I hope to be back broadcasting by Monday (April 25th).”

“I hear my enemies – The Gambinos – are already taking action on the over/under and point spread of this occurring.”

Sliwa, as you’ll recall, has been one of the few vocal critics of Gov. Andrew Cuomo over the past year.

He made a splash at the state Democratic Convention last summer as “King Cuomo” – a role he reprised at the state GOP Convention and in a bit of lasagna-inspired street theater that got him arrested.