New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s administration said on Wednesday it will ban hydraulic fracturing in the state after a long-awaited report concluded that the gas-drilling method poses health risks.
New York Environmental Commissioner Joseph Martens said at a cabinet meeting he will issue an order early next year banning fracking, which has been under a moratorium since 2008. Once that happens, New York will join Vermont as the only states to completely prohibit fracking.
Martens made the comments after the state’s Health Commissioner, Howard Zucker, said there is not enough scientific information to conclude that fracking, which involves pumping water, sand and chemicals into a well to extract oil or gas, is safe.
“The potential risks are too great, in fact not even fully known, and relying on the limited data presently available would be negligent on my part,” Zucker said.
The oil and gas industry immediately slammed Cuomo for the decision. Karen Moreau, the executive director of the New York State Petroleum Council, called it a reckless move that would deprive the state of thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue.
“We are resolved to continue to fight for these benefits in New York,” she said.
Environmental groups, meanwhile, hailed Cuomo as a national leader on the issue.
“We hope that this determined leadership Governor Cuomo has displayed will give courage to elected leaders throughout the country and world,” said Deborah Goldberg, an attorney with the group Earthjustice.
Cuomo, answering questions from journalists, said the decision on whether to allow this kind of drilling in New York was ultimately up to Martens.
The ruling ends what has been a heated debate in New York over the benefits and pitfalls of fracking. Many in the state saw gas drilling as a key economic resource while others argued it was too dangerous. New York sits atop a part of the Marcellus shale, one of the largest gas deposits in the United States.
It also marks a defeat for energy firms which have leases in the state but until now have not been able to drill.
Cuomo said it was “probably the most emotionally charged issue I have ever experienced,” more than gay marriage, gun control or the death penalty.
(Reporting by Daniel Wiessner in Albany and Scott Disavino and Edward McAllister in New York; Editing by James Dalgleish)