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New York Governor Plans to Ban Fracking Upstate

Dec 19, 2014

After a four-year review, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said on Wednesday that the state plans to ban fracking for natural gas upstate because the review had determined that it would threaten public health and yield far fewer jobs than projected.

New York’s Health Commissioner Howard Zucker said there is no solid scientific basis to show that hydraulic fracturing drilling – fracking – is safe, Newsday reports. Both Zucker and Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joseph Martens expressed concern that the chemicals in the water pumped into shale to release gas could contaminate drinking water supplies. They also cited concerns about air pollution created by drilling and about disruption of soil from the pressure used to fracture shale. Fracking makes heavy demands on the local water supply, and drillers must arrange for the safe disposal of the chemical-laced used water, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Upstate business officials called the decision "a tremendous blow." Thomas Libous, the senator from Binghamton who led support for fracking, called the decision a blow to "fourth- and fifth-generation farmers depending on some sort of fracturing to pay their taxes." "Fracking is done in 30 other states.” Libous said he is “stunned” that New York “can't find an environmentally safe way to do it,” according to Newsday. But the health commissioner said prevention is key: “Once damage is done, it is extremely hard to fix it."

Michael Brune of the Sierra Club said the decision set Governor Cuomo apart as “a national political leader who stands up for people, and not for the interests of the dirty fuel lobby." Blair Horner of the New York Public Interest Research Group, which has opposed fracking, said this decision could make “this governor a national environmental hero," according to Newsday.

Commissioner Martens said "considerably less than 37 percent" of the Marcellus Shale in New York could be drilled because of the amount of designated park land, sensitive water sources, and local zoning laws. In June, the state's highest court ruled that communities may prohibit fracking through zoning laws, according to Newsday.

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