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State Senate Deputy Majority Leader With Fracking Connections is Taking Heat

A Bloomberg story blew the lid on one state senator's ties to the fracking industry yesterday. Turns out state Senator Tom Libous (R-Binghamton), who said in March that he'd "make sure no [fracking moratorium] bill passes the Senate," has deep ties to a real-estate company leasing underground natural gas rights to a drilling company. Now, Libous is feeling the pushback.

Libous' wife founded the real-estate company, Da Vinci II LLC, and a campaign donor, Luciano Piccirilli, runs it. Da Vinci also owns 230 acres of land leased to a drilling company on top of the state's Marcellus Shale deposit. Piccirilli, meanwhile, has contributed $28,000 to Libous' campaign over the years, and jointly owns two Florida homes with Libous, according to Bloomberg.

As a result, at least two coalitions of environmentalists and community groups are calling on Libous to remove himself from taking part in the fracking discussion and asking the Senate to bring the moratorium to a vote.

"The senator should recuse himself and stop blocking legislative consideration of the moratorium bill," the New York Water Rangers, a collection of 10 environmental groups, said in a statement. Save the Southern Tier, a coalition of activists and community groups, has also asked the state Senate to vote on the moratorium.

"As leaders in the New York State Senate, we respectfully implore you to bring the two-year moratorium on fracking bill to the Senate floor for a vote and pass it. Our homes and the health of our families depend on it," Save the Southern Tier wrote in a letter to the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC) for leadership in the state Senate.

Binghamton Mayor Matt Ryan, who has criticized Libous' ethics in the past, has also expressed "outrage" with Libous' stance. "We need the Senate leadership to step up on behalf of the Southern Tier and all New Yorkers to put our health and safety above the gas industry," he said in a statement.

Libous, meanwhile, has maintained that these connections do not influence his political decisionmaking. His office did not respond to a request for comment by press time. However, "I stand to gain nothing personal from fracking, and I mean that," Libous told Bloomberg. "I'm doing what I think is right."

[@sydbrownstone][sbrownstone@villagevoice.com]


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