New York to Ban Fracking
State health official likens concerns to those over secondhand smoke
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 17, 2014 12:58 PM CST
In this 2013 file photo, people rally against hydraulic fracturing in Albany, N.Y.   (AP Photo/Mike Groll, File)

(Newser) – New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's administration will ban fracking in the state, citing unresolved health issues and dubious economic benefits of the widely used gas-drilling technique. Environmental Commissioner Joe Martens said today that he was recommending a ban, and Cuomo said he would defer to Martens and Acting Health Commissioner Howard Zucker in making the decision. Zucker's position is clear: "I cannot support high-volume hydraulic fracturing in the great state of New York," he says, as quoted in the New York Times. New York has had a ban on shale gas development since an environmental review began in 2008.

Next steps: Martens said the Department of Environmental Conservation will put out a final environmental impact statement early next year, and after that he'll issue an order prohibiting fracking. The gas drilling boom in the Marcellus Shale, a rock formation underlying southern New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia, was made possible by fracking, or high-volume hydraulic fracturing, which releases gas from rock by injecting wells with chemically treated water at high pressure. The technique has generated tens of billions of dollars and reduced energy bills and fuel imports in the region. But Zucker said he had identified "significant public health risks" and "red flag" health issues that require long-term studies. He likened fracking to secondhand smoke, which wasn't fully understood as a health risk until many years of scientific study had been done.