New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced yesterday that his administration will ban hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in New York State after years of debate and concern over the practice’s potential health consequences.
At a cabinet meeting Wednesday morning, the results of a years-long study were released by acting state Health Commissioner Howard Zucker showing the public health implications of fracking. Zucker said the benefits of fracking did not outweigh the environmental and health risks, The Washington Post (Post) reported.
“The Governor based his decision on the science — not the demands of oil and gas drillers looking for a quick buck,” Representative Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) said in a statement viewed by the Post. “The public health risks posed by contamination of our air, land and water are too great to allow high-volume, horizontal fracking in our beautiful state.”
Fracking had been touted as a way to revitalize economically depressed communities along the New York-Pennsylvania border and Gov. Cuomo was once a supporter of the drilling method. Cuomo admitted, however, that fracking had always been presented to him as a necessary evil, according to The New York Times (Times).
“I’ve never had anyone say to me, ‘I believe fracking is great,’ ” he said. “Not a single person in those communities. What I get is, ‘I have no alternative but fracking.’ ”
Hydraulic fracturing involves injecting large amounts of water, sand and chemicals deep inside the earth at high pressures to release oil and natural gas from shale rock formations. Many states employ fracking to drill for natural resources and the practice has exploded in Pennsylvania and Texas. New York is the first state with abundant natural-gas resources to ban fracking, the Times reported.
The underground pipes carrying oil and gas from fracking fields to various parts of the country can corrode. Completely unprotected, they can be easily sabotaged. The massive pressure caused by the injection of the fracking mixture can spark earthquakes, and has. In July, the Associated Press (AP) reported that states where fracking occurs have seen an increase in seismic activity. In Oklahoma, 250 small-to-medium earthquakes had been reported between January 2014 and the time of the article’s publication. In 2011, Oklahoma experienced a 5.7-magnitude earthquake that resulted in the collapse of two structures.
Fracking has also been linked to construction accidents and methane-gas polluted drinking water in some areas. Environmental groups, including the Sierra Club, have applauded the Cuomo administration’s action, according to the Times.
New York had a de facto ban on fracking for more than six years. Gov. Cuomo considered approving a limited program in several Southern Tier counties, but opted instead for his administration to launch a new study on the health risks, the Times reported.