DECISION DAY: Citing Health Risks, Cuomo Bans Hydraulic Fracturing In New York State

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has banned hydraulic fracturing, or hydrofracking, statewide. The administration announced today that this method of extracting natural gas from shale beds underlying much of upstate New York could potentially contaminate the state’s air and water resources, and pose unacceptable risks to people.

Gov. Cuomo said that he deferred to his commissioners in reaching the decision.

“I cannot support high volume hydraulic fracturing in the great state of New York,” said Howard Zucker, the acting commissioner of health. Zucker added that he wouldn’t allow his own children to live near a fracking site. “Cumulative concerns” about fracking “give me reason to pause,” he noted at a year-end cabinet meeting held today in Albany.

Department of Environmental Conservation commissioner Joe Martens said that bans or restrictions already in place in the New York City watershed, or in local towns mean that “the prospects for [hydrofracking] development in New York State are uncertain at best.”

The decision ends years of speculation over whether New York would lift a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing. Before today’s announcement, Gov. Cuomo had been waiting on the Department of Health’s long-awaited study on the health impacts of hydraulic fracturing. The health review, which was one component of the State’s environmental impact analysis (known as a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement, or SGEIS), is a health analysis of shale development and hydrofracking in New York State. Zucker said the health review involved 4,500 staff hours reviewing anecdotal reports and a stack of existing studies.

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