New York state will ban hydraulic fracturing, commonly referred to as “fracking.”
The decision, made by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s administration, marks the first state with significant natural-gas resources to ban fracking.
Fracking, a process that involves pumping a solution of water, chemicals, and sand into a well to extract oil or natural gas, has been greatly debated as many view it as environmentally dangerous, while others see a great economic resource.
The decision by Cuomo’s administration is based on a report claiming fracking poses “significant public health risks.” Water contamination and air pollution were two cited items.
"The potential risks are too great, in fact not even fully known, and relying on the limited data presently available would be negligent on my part," New York state health commissioner, Howard Zucker said.
The New York Times reports that Zucker’s review came down to one question: Would he want his family to live in a community where fracking was taking place?
Zucker’s answer was no.
“We cannot afford to make a mistake,” Zucker said. “The potential risks are too great. In fact, they are not even fully known.”
The ruling comes as a huge blow to the oil and gas industry, as New York state sits atop a portion of one of the largest natural gas deposits in the United States, the Marcellus Shale.
Karen Moreau, the executive director of the New York State Petroleum Council, called the decision a “reckless move that would deprive the state of thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue,” reports Reuters.
Moreau said, “We are resolved to continue to fight for these benefits in New York.”
Environmental groups had an entirely different reaction.
"We hope that this determined leadership Governor Cuomo has displayed will give courage to elected leaders throughout the country and world," said Deborah Goldberg, an attorney with the group Earthjustice.
Cuomo said he did not receive a positive enough response to fracking from residents to make his decision to mark fracking as a solution for economic troubles in certain state communities.
“I’ve never had anyone say to me, ‘I believe fracking is great,’ ” Cuomo said. “Not a single person in those communities. What I get is, ‘I have no alternative but fracking.’”
Local bans on fracking in the state have been occurring for years. The Court of Appeals ruled in June that towns could use zoning ordinances to ban fracking.
The local bans, plus restrictions planned by the state, would put 63% of the Marcellus Shale off limits to fracking, said New York Environmental Commissioner Joseph Martens.
“The economic benefits are clearly far lower than originally forecast,” Martens said.
Moreau believes there are substantial economic benefits, and the ban is a loss of opportunity.
“Our citizens in the Southern Tier have had to watch their neighbors and friends across the border in Pennsylvania thriving economically,” Moreau said. “It’s like they were a kid in a candy store window, looking through the window, and not able to touch that opportunity.”
Martens will issue an order early next year banning fracking. It has been temporarily prohibited in New York state since 2008 awaiting a final decision.