After years of study and delay, Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration said it will not allow hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, to happen in New York state.
Cuomo’s top public health official said he could not allow fracking to move forward because of the alleged health risks.
“I cannot support high volume hydraulic fracturing in the great state of New York,” said acting state health commissioner Howard Zucker, according to The New York Times.
The move was opposed by the oil and gas industry, which argue Cuomo’s administration has cost New Yorkers much-needed economic opportunity.
“Today’s action by Governor Cuomo shows that New York families, teachers, roads and good-paying jobs have lost out to political gamesmanship,” said Karen Moreau, executive director of the New York State Petroleum Council. “This is the wrong direction for New York.”
The state had a de facto ban on fracking for the last five years as public health officials completed a highly politicized study on the well-stimulation technique’s health effects. Cuomo’s decision to ban fracking came as environmentalists stepped up their opposition to oil and gas drilling.
But fracking supporters have argued allowing more drilling would help the state’s economy, especially in the upstate regions where high unemployment and lagging economic opportunities have hurt residence and caused younger generations to flee the state.
Proponents also point to the fact that banning fracking in New York does not mean the state will stop using natural gas — the state will just rely on more facked gas from Pennsylvania, which is seeing an economic boom because of drilling.
“New York is sitting on a major opportunity to help fuel America’s future,” Moreau said. “Just next door in Pennsylvania, more than $630 million has been distributed to communities since 2012 – including more than $224 million in just 2014.”
Pennsylvania has also gotten a whopping $2.1 billion in state and local taxes from fracking operations which has gone to improve roads, bridges, schools and public works systems. This does not include the huge sums of money paid out to individual landowners, many of whom are farmers that can now afford to stay on their land.
But environmentalists say the economic benefits are overstated and there is a much bigger public health threat from groundwater and air contamination.
“Governor Cuomo has kept his promise to let only sound science—not pressure from powerful oil and gas companies—be his guide on fracking,” said Kate Sinding, director of the Natural Resource Defense Council’s anti-fracking program.
“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 demonstrating both courage and national leadership on this critical issue,” Sinding said.
NRDC recently put out a report trying to link fracking operations to serious illnesses like cancer and birth defects in children. But even the NRDC’s report admits that “it is difficult to measure actual exposures to pollutants from nearby fracking operations and establish clear links to adverse health outcomes.”
Previous claims that fracking is causing cancer rates to rise have been debunked by scientists.
Anti-fracking activists have also been disappointed with federal government studies failing to link fracking to groundwater contamination. The Environmental Protection Agency has now three times failed to link fracking to groundwater contamination and the Energy Department has repeatedly said that fracking can be done safely.
New York’s fracking debate attracted b-list celebrities like Yoko Ono and her son Sean Lennon, who came up from their multi-million dollar home in New York City to protest drilling in upstate regions.
But while New York City residents may fear fracking operations taking place possibly hundreds of miles from where they live, upstate residents have been calling on the Cuomo administration to allow more drilling in the state.
“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,” Moreau said.
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