New York State Bans Hydrofracking

Following years of scientific review, New York has become the first state with significant natural gas resources to ban its extraction from the ground via hydraulic fracturing.

In December 2014, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo promised to take the steps necessary to permanently ban the process of hydraulically fracturing—fracking—subterranean rock formations for natural gas extraction in New York State, claiming that the drilling technique was unsafe and would pose a health risk to New Yorkers. On Monday, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) released a 43-page document outlining their findings from seven years of studying the environmental impact the drilling practice had. 

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“In the end, there are no feasible or prudent alternatives that would adequately avoid or minimize adverse environmental impacts and that address the scientific uncertainties and risks to public health from this activity,” wrote DEC Commissioner Joseph Martens in the report.

The drilling practice has been a highly controversial topic in New York—and the rest of America—over the past few years; more than a dozen towns on the New York-Pennsylvania border have gone as far as to threaten secession from New York should fracking be banned. Proponents of the practice stress the economic benefits of natural gas extraction, including cheap gas prices and a decreased reliance on foreign energy sources. According to some projections, fracking has caused natural gas prices to drop 47 percent compared to what the price would have been prior to the fracking revolution.

Opponents of fracking counter with the environmental and health risks associated with the extraction of natural gas from shale, including poisoned drinking water, polluted air, and industrial disasters like spills, leaks, and explosions.

“This is a great day for New York State,” said Heather Leibowitz, director of Environment New York. “Governor Cuomo listened carefully to the latest science and the voices of millions of New Yorkers when he decided to permanently protect the water, health, and environment of the Empire State from the documented damage of dirty drilling. This is what true leadership looks like.”

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In a New York Post op-ed published over the weekend, Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino again hit Cuomo and his administration for their anti-fracking stance.

“I called for natural-gas extraction in New York, something the EPA just declared safe,” wrote Astorino, who ran against Cuomo in the 2014 New York gubernatorial race. “That alone would put tens of thousands back to work and create billions in revenue. Cuomo banned it.”

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