- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 17, 2014

New York on Wednesday announced it will become the second state to ban hydraulic fracturing, ending a five-year moratorium and handing a pivotal win to foes of the revolutionary oil-drilling technique while fueling outrage from proponents of job growth.

At a year-end cabinet meeting, Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he accepted the decision of the state Department of Environmental Conservation, which announced it would issue a “legally binding findings statement” to prohibit high-volume hydraulic fracturing statewide as the result of a state health department review.

“I have considered all of the data and find significant questions and risks to public health which as of yet are unanswered,” said state acting health commissioner Howard Zucker. “I think it would be reckless to proceed in New York until more authoritative research is done. I asked myself, ‘Would I let my family live in a community with fracking?’ The answer is no. I therefore cannot recommend anyone else’s family to live in such a community either.”

New York Republicans promptly denounced the move, arguing that it caters to environmental alarmists at the expense of the state’s struggling upstate communities, where the Marcellus Shale formation holds vast deposits of largely untapped natural gas.

Fracking has sparked an economic boom and revived failing communities in states such as Pennsylvania and North Dakota, while sparking a major shift in the global energy production race.

“Andrew Cuomo has given in to the radical environmental Luddites in his own party to leave New York as the only one of the 35 states with extractable natural gas to be missing out on the hydro-fracking boom,” said state Republican Party chair Ed Cox in a statement.

“To New Yorkers across upstate struggling for economic growth: New York’s governor has failed you,” Mr. Cox said.

Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb asked if the Cuomo administration was relying on more casinos to replace the jobs that would have come with fracking, adding, “Our economic well-being should not depend on the success of blackjack tables and slot machines.”

Vermont Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin signed a bill banning fracking in 2012, saying that the process threatened supplies of clean water. But the legislation was seen as an empty gesture, given that Vermont has no significant shale deposits.

Climate-change group 350.org cheered the New York decision, calling it a “victory for health and climate,” and predicted other states and localities would follow its lead.

“This is also a huge win for the anti-fracking movement nationwide. The same health and environmental concerns that led to the ban in New York are present everywhere,” said 350.org campaign manager Linda Capato in a statement. “Once they have the facts, people across the country will clearly agree with New Yorkers that it is more important to put the health of our children and climate over industry greed.”

The Environmental Protection Agency has never found groundwater contamination from fracking, but environmental groups have argued that the process, which lasts about three days in the life of a 30-year well, poses a danger to public health.

The American Petroleum Institute decried the state’s decision, saying that the industry already operates under “robust regulations” and that “New York families, teachers, roads and good-paying jobs have lost out to political gamesmanship.”

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