By Scott Weeden, Senior Editor, E&P A Feb. 11, 2013, article in the Staten Island Advance noted the anniversary of the “worst industrial disaster in Staten Island history.” In 1973, an explosion in an empty liquefied natural gas (LNG) tank, involving a tank repair crew, killed 37 workers when the concrete roof of the tank collapsed. The explosion was not caused by LNG, but rather gas that was trapped in the tank’s insulation. The tank had not been fully vented before repair work began. As a result of the explosion, the state legislature imposed a moratorium on using LNG throughout the state, beginning in 1978. The moratorium halted construction of LNG facilities and all intrastate transportation of LNG. However, interstate transportation of LNG was allowed to continue and three LNG peakshaving plants were “grandfathered” under the moratorium. Every two years for the next 20 years, the moratorium was extended by the legislature. It finally lapsed in 1999 except for the five boroughs of New York City where the legislature continues to approve the moratorium. Even though the moratorium is no longer in effect, no LNG facilities have been built in New York since 1999. State Senate Bill S119-2013 was introduced to exempt the storage and transportation of small amounts of LNG from the Environmental Conservation Law. The LNG would be used for fueling vehicles in the state. One accident 40 years ago has kept new LNG facilities from being built in New York. What does that have to do with hydraulic fracturing? The same legislative body, albeit with new legislators, approved a fracing moratorium in November 2010. The state assembly has extended the moratorium each year since then. The latest moratorium is scheduled to lapse at the end of February 2013. One aspect of New York moratoriums is that it takes a long time for arguments to win over state legislators. The LNG industry lobbied long and hard to prove the safety of LNG and get enough support to allow the moratorium to lapse. Even without the moratorium, though the LNG industry still faces resistance to approving LNG infrastructure. When it comes to changing attitudes in New York, the process is very long and very slow. Listing benefits is not always an effective way to get the process moving again. It is often easier for the state assembly to do nothing than to take on a controversial issue. Extending a moratorium has fewer ramifications politically than taking a positive action on the issue. After 40 years, the LNG industry in the state of New York is still comatose. The lesson for the oil and gas industry is that overcoming a moratorium can be long, expensive, and uncertain. The oil industry in New York can’t wait 40 years to get moving if the state expects to benefit from jobs, royalties, and investment. On the other hand, New York might be able to supply its own natural gas 40 years from now when other supplies have begun to decline. That’s not a bet the state should be willing to make. Contact the author, Scott Weeden, at