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New York State to Permanently Ban Hydraulic Fracturing in 2015

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New York, NYOpponents of fracking and those concerned over the health effects of hydraulic fracturing water contamination and similar issues are applauding a decision by the administration of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to ban fracking in the state of New York. At a press conference December 17, Cuomo noted that potential health issues and risks to the environment stemming from a state review were too compelling to ignore.

The Sierra Club, a long-recognized environmental watch dog, applauded the decision.

“The Sierra Club applauds Governor Cuomo for recognizing what the science has made consistently clear: Fracking is a hazard to human health that endangers communities wherever it is allowed,” Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune said in a statement Wednesday.
“By banning fracking, Governor Cuomo has set himself apart as a national political leader who stands up for people, and not for the interests of the dirty fuel lobby.”

Hydraulic fracking is a process characterized by the forced injection of water and chemicals under high pressure underground. The process is designed to fracture underground shale and allow trapped gas reserves to release to the surface. Fracking - which the oil and gas industry maintains has been around for some 60 years - has been touted as the next frontier in the exploration and acquisition of new gas reserves. Fracking is currently allowed in neighboring Pennsylvania and Ohio.

In New York, however, concern over fracking contamination prompted a gubernatorial moratorium on the practice since 2008, with a fracking environmental study started a year later. Municipalities in the state, for their part, weren’t about to wait for a state position, and scores of municipalities enacted individual fracking bans. The oil and gas industry challenged their authority in the state’s highest court, but a decision in June found for the municipalities.

Residents have been concerned about the potential for hydraulic fracturing water contamination, not to mention other alleged health concerns. Many landowners living close to fracking sites have claimed in fracking lawsuits that hydraulic fracturing chemicals have contaminated their wells. A plethora of YouTube videos are floating around cyberspace depicting residents turning on their kitchen faucets and igniting the water with a lighter. Various documentaries and films have also been made. Residents of New York, aware of these issues, have been concerned over groundwater issues were fracking to resume in New York State.

The statewide ban is expected to be finalized in 2015.

The report revealed that acting state health Commissioner Howard Zucker noted the existence of documented concern about the health risks associated with hydraulic fracking. He said available data minimizing the risks was insufficient.

On December 17, Zucker said “I cannot recommend high-volume hydraulic fracturing in the great state of New York.”

Cuomo, in his remarks, noted that in his view the decision to ultimately ban EPA hydraulic fracking in the state of New York is not his to make, but rather falls within the jurisdiction of the state Department of Environmental Conservation and the Department of Health.

For his part, Cuomo was coy over his own opinion with regard to fracking. “I’ve never heard…that fracking is great,” Cuomo said. “What I get is, ‘I have no alternative but fracking, and if you say no to fracking, I have no alternative.’ I think it’s important that we come up with an alternative for safe, clean economic development.”

The oil and gas industry blasted the Cuomo Administration decision to ban EPA fracking in the state of New York. “This is the wrong direction for New York,” Karen Moreau, who heads the New York office of the American Petroleum Institute, said in a statement. “A politically motivated and equally misinformed ban on a proven technology used for over 60 years - throughout the country to great success - is shortsighted and reckless, particularly when New York depends on safely produced natural gas just over the border in Pennsylvania.”

Cuomo said at the year-end press conference that he expects a litany of lawsuits coming from oil and gas interests, and that the fight is far from over…


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