Senate passes budget and fracking moratorium in the wee hours

The New York state Senate had a few surprises up its sleeve last night, and for once, they weren't about Pedro Espada.

Not only did the senators finally pass the long overdue state budget, they then quickly debated and passed Senate Bill 8129B, which bans all hydraulic fracturing in the state until May 15, 2011.

Yup, a budget and a ban on gas drilling in the state, all in one evening.

The Catskill Mountainkeeper writes on its blog today that it was lobbying the legislators right up until the bitter end last night:

The bill passed on the senate floor at 12:30pm in a 48-9 vote. Wes Gillingham, the Mountainkeeper Program Director was in Albany on the Senate Floor lobbying for passage of the moratorium at that early hour this morning.

So far, only a few outlets, like WAMC, have the story about the moratorium. Ken Lovett at the Daily Politics blog reports that the debate over fracking was fierce, but that the final vote was decisive:

The Senate just clocked out at 12:17 a.m. after passing a bill that would impose a moratorium until May 15, 2011 on the granting of permits for upstate hydrofracking. The debate was passionate and in the end, the measure sponsored by Sen. Antoine Thompson (D-Buffalo) passed by a robust 48-9 margin.

The MidHudson News Network is reporting that 15 Republicans climbed aboard the moratorium bill to vote yes. The Don't Frack with NY Drinking Water campaign's Facebook page says that this is just the beginning of an attempt to win a permanent ban on gas drilling in New York.

The moratorium bill passed! This is an important victory in our campaign and it's all because of you. A couple of weeks ago this bill was DOA, but you rallied, wrote and called and now we have an 11 month reprieve on fracking. Let's take this moment and momentum to KEEP UP THE PRESSURE on Andrew Cuomo to support a PERMANENT BAN.

But nobody puts Pedro in a corner. The senator did get some headline-grabbing drama in last night: a fight with some tenant activists, according to the Daily Politics blog.