New York State will ban hydraulic fracturing — fracking — within its borders, officials announced Wednesday, citing potential health risks.
At Governor Andrew Cuomo’s year-end cabinet meeting, acting state Health Commissioner Howard Zucker said there need to be more studies on the health effects of fracking -- pumping water, sand and chemicals into the ground to dislodge natural gas and oil -- before the practice is allowed in New York.
“We cannot afford to make a mistake,” Zucker said, according to The Journal News. “The potential risks are too great. In fact, they are not fully known."
The Center for Public Integrity and InsideClimate News have conducted a 20-month investigation into air pollution associated with fracking in Texas, the epicenter of a massive drilling boom. Some South Texas residents who live atop the Eagle Ford Shale say drilling and related activities have taken a toll on their health with little notice from state regulators.
A recent story in the series focused on the Barnett Shale in North Texas and highlighted new research suggesting proximity to fracking sites and oil and gas infrastructure could pose health risks.
New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) will issue a legally binding statement to ban fracking early in 2015, the Journal News reported. Environmentalists praised the New York ban while many in the industry decried it as irresponsible.
“This is the wrong direction for New York,” Karen Moreau, executive director of the American Petroleum Institute’s New York State Petroleum Council, said in a prepared statement. “A politically motivated and equally misinformed ban on a proven technology used for over 60 years – throughout the country to great success – is short-sighted and reckless, particularly when New York depends on safely produced natural gas just over the border in Pennsylvania.”
Kate Sinding, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Community Fracking Defense Project, said Cuomo’s decision was based on science rather than “pressure from powerful oil and gas companies.”
“Mounting scientific evidence points to serious health risks from fracking operations,” she said. “New Yorkers have made it loud and clear that we want to keep this reckless industry at bay. With this announcement, the governor has listened—and he has demonstrated both courage and national leadership on this critical issue.”
Paul Hartman, Northeast director for America’s Natural Gas Alliance, called the ban “ill-advised” and said it has “always been a political, rather than a public health decision” that would keep New Yorkers from taking advantage of the environmental and economic benefits of natural gas.