Gov. Andrew Cuomo has banned fracking in New York State, citing potential risks to public health.
He did so at a cabinet meeting on Wednesday December 17, soon after the state health department released a report on the practice, which involves injecting noxious chemicals combined with water in between shale layers to liberate the gas and viscuous crude trapped inside. Numerous studies have come out of late indicating that fracking not only contaminates groundwater but also pollutes the air.
Dr. Howard A. Zucker, the acting state health commissioner, told the cabinet in a presentation that his researchers had found “significant public health risks” to fracking, leading to concerns about water contamination, air pollution and the lack of evidence on the long-term impact of the practice.
"I cannot support high volume hydraulic fracturing in the great state of New York,” Zucker told the cabinet, according to Gothamist.
A fracking ban had already been in place before Cuomo’s administration, The New York Times noted. But this makes it permanent. Many communities across New York State have already banned the practice locally.
It has been banned throughout Indian country as well.
Environmentalists lauded Cuomo for seeing what they said was the scientific light.
"By banning fracking, Governor Cuomo has set himself apart as a national political leader who stands up for people, and not for the interests of the dirty fuel lobby,” said Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune in a statement from the environmental organization. “Today’s decision will shake the foundations of our nation’s flawed energy policy, and we can only expect that it will give strength to activists nationwide who are fighting fracking in dozens of states and hundreds of cities and counties.”
At the same time, the news came as a welcome shock. With New York the first state containing actual shale gas deposits to ban fracking—Vermont banned it in 2012, as Gothamist noted, but since that state has no frackable resources to speak of, it was largely symbolic—this is a pioneering move on Cuomo’s part, they said.
"This is the first state ban with real significance," said Kate Sinding, a senior attorney in New York for the Natural Resources Defense Council, to Mother Jones. "My head is still spinning, because this is beyond anything we expected."