New York Bans Hydraulic Fracturing


The ban comes in light of a report from the New York State Department of Health claiming there is insufficient information to understand the health risks.

On December 17, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo's administration announced that the State of New York will ban hydraulic fracturing in response to conclusions presented in a report prepared by the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) and comments made by the Acting Health Commissioner and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) Commissioner.

In 2009, the NYSDEC was directed to determine the suitability of hydraulic fracturing and to prepare a Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement. Under New York law as interpreted by NYSDEC, an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is required to accompany permit applications for horizontal drilling and natural gas well completions. A Generic Environmental Impact Statement (GEIS) can be used to fulfill this requirement and to prevent the need for an individual EIS for each natural gas well permit application. In 2012, as part of this process, the NYSDEC requested an opinion from the NYSDOH on the health risks associated with hydraulic fracturing. At a year-end cabinet meeting, the Acting Health Commissioner announced that he could not support hydraulic fracturing, and NYSDEC Commissioner Joseph Martens said that a five-year study by NYSDEC on fracking will be released next year. Mr. Martens is quoted as stating, "I will then issue a legally binding findings statement prohibiting [fracking] in New York State."

Acting New York State Health Commissioner Howard Zucker announced the NYSDOH conclusion and also commented personally that he would not allow his family to drink tap water in an area where hydraulic fracturing occurred, a comment that apparently garnered no mutual support at the cabinet meeting. The NYSDOH report itself is inconclusive. The report's executive summary states the following:

[I]t is apparent that the science surrounding HVHF [High Volume Hydraulic Fracturing] activity is limited, only just beginning to emerge, and largely suggests only hypotheses about potential public health impacts that need further evaluation . . . . As with most complex human activities in modern societies, absolute scientific certainty regarding the relative contributions of positive and negative impacts of HVHF on public health is unlikely to ever be attained. In this instance, however, the overall weight of the...

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