News from the Associated Press - July 1, 2014

Associated Press
July 1, 2014

New York top court OKs local gas-drilling bans

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - New York's top court has ruled that local officials can approve zoning laws to ban hydraulic fracturing within their borders.

The state Court of Appeals on Monday affirmed a lower court ruling that state oil and gas law doesn't trump the authority of local governments to control land use.

The two "fracking" cases have been closely watched by drillers hoping to tap into New York's piece of the Marcellus Shale formation and by environmentalists.

Drilling opponents say more than 170 towns have passed bans or moratoriums.

A statewide moratorium on fracking has been in effect for nearly six years. Governor Andrew Cuomo has said he won't decide whether to lift the ban until a health impact review begun in 2012 is completed. There's no timetable for the review.


Fiscal year arrives without a signed Pa. budget

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - Midnight marked the arrival of Pennsylvania state government's new fiscal year, which comes with an election-year budget bill approved by the Legislature, but not Gov. Tom Corbett's signature.

The Republican, who used to boast about his perfect record in signing budgets on time, said early Tuesday morning as he left the Capitol that he wouldn't immediately sign the $29.1 billion spending plan that lawmakers sent him.

Leaders of the House and Senate Republican majorities couldn't drum up enough support for the pension overhaul Corbett wanted in conjunction with the budget. The plan would reduce future state and school employees' pensions to save more than $10 billion over 30 years.

What happens next is unclear.

Corbett says he hadn't agreed to every detail in the main budget bill before it passed, so he wants to review it first.


Fast-tracked drilling bill prompts objection

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - An environmental advocacy organization is protesting an effort by some lawmakers to attach changes in oil and gas drilling regulations to a broader budget-related bill.

The Pennsylvania Environmental Council said Monday that the maneuver works against government transparency. It asked lawmakers and Gov. Tom Corbett to reject it.

The proposal would essentially fast-track stand-alone legislation that hasn't had a floor vote.

Those bills would require state regulators to treat two types of drilling differently: deep, modern gas wells and traditional shallow wells.

But the council says it's uncertain whether conventional wells would be fully exempt from regulation.

The stand-alone bills' sponsors, Rep. Martin Causer and Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that they want to tailor rules to different industries, not lower environmental standards.


$5M state grant for U of Rochester computer center

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (AP) - A University of Rochester project on the use of computers for health research has won $5 million in state economic development funds.

The grant was one of 11 state investments totaling $22 million announced by Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday.

The university is partnering with IBM on the supercomputer project, known as the Health Sciences Center for Computational Innovation.

Another Rochester project, the $58 million Midtown Tower development, won $4 million in state funds to help cover the cost of construction. The tower is part of Rochester's downtown revitalization efforts.

Other grants include $3 million in construction funding for a hotel and conference center in the North Country, $3 million for a business computing innovation center at Marist College and $2.5 million for a hospital expansion in Onondaga County.


Deadline arrives for New York casino applications

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - Forget fax machines or email attachments. Developers hoping to build casinos in New York state are using boxes, binders and trucks to submit their proposals to gambling regulators.

Seventeen development groups submitted bids Monday, the deadline to apply for one of four upstate casino licenses expected to be awarded this fall.

Contenders include local investors and international gambling companies. The applications are detailed and long, with multiple copies required.

Traditions Resort and Casino's proposal to build a facility in New York's Southern Tier took up 485 binders.

Empire Resorts' plan for a Sullivan County casino came in 280 boxes carried in a truck and escorted by armed security.

Caesars Entertainment submitted a 6,000-page application for its proposed Orange County casino.

A state board will review the proposals before making recommendations.

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