Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

Breaking: Cuomo Bans Fracking in New York State

Energy

In a victory for environmental, health and community activists, fracking has been banned in New York state. That was the conclusion reached at a public, livestreamed meeting of Governor Andrew Cuomo's cabinet in Albany today. Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Conservation Joseph Martens issued the order, following a report on his own findings and a strongly cautionary report from Dr. Howard Zucker, commissioner of the Department of Health, who compared the unknown health impacts of fracking to those of secondhand smoke, once considered benign.

The hearing opened unpromisingly with Cuomo making what sounded like condescending remarks on the issue.

"I’ve been asked about 46,000 times at various decibel levels," he said as he introduced the subject. "The dialogue on fracking is an emotional one, both pro and con. You talk to anti-frackers for 30 seconds and they’re yelling and they’re passionate and emotional and scared and they’re not listening and they’re not hearing and they’re yelling. You listen to pro-frackers and same thing. This is probably the most emotionally charged issue I’ve experienced, more emotionally charged than marriage equality, more emotionally charged than the gun issue, more emotionally charged than the death penalty."

Commissioner of Environmental Conservation Joseph Martens issues decision banning fracking in New York. Photo credit: State of New York

But he added, "I'm not a scientist. I'm not a health expert. I'm not a doctor. I'm not an environmentalist. So let's bring the emotion down and ask qualified experts what their opinions is. My two cents on the matter is I will defer to these two gentlemen."

"Those two gentlemen" he referred to were Martens and Zucker. They spoke following Cuomo's remarks and their conclusion was clear: no fracking in New York.

Martens addressed some of the aspects that made fracking impractical and economically unattractive in the state, including the large areas that would be off limits to fracking due to endangering water supplies or local bans on drilling, which were ruled legal in the state by a court decision in June, finding in favor of the town of Dryden which enacted a ban. He also presented evidence that the highly touted evidence of the economic benefits of fracking to the region was questionable at best.

But it was Zucker who made the most powerful case against letting fracking go forward.

"The questions one would want answered are, is my water safe enough to drink, is my air safe to breath, can I grow vegetables in my garden, the effects on reservoirs that provide drinking water to 9 million people in New York City," he said.

He referred to numerous studies, saying that they raised concerns about water and air contamination, health impacts on those living near wells and the increase in noise, odors, traffic and traffic fatalities.

"There are many red flags, questions that remain unanswered," he said. "Bonafide scientific literature is now emerging. Most studies have been in the last two years. The bottom line is we lack long-term comprehensive studies. They're not yet completed or yet to be initiated. The science isn’t there. These concerns gives me reason to pause."

Read page 1

"Governor, you asked me for my opinion and said, let the science decide," Zucker concluded. "Would I live in a community with high-volume hydraulic fracking, based on facts I have now? After looking at plethora of reports, my answer is no. Until the public health red flags are answered by valid evidence, I cannot support high volume hydraulic fracking in the great state of New York."

Too many red flags to allow fracking, says Dr. Howard Zucker, New York's commission of the Department of Health. Photo credit: State of New York

Based on that conclusion, Martens said he would issue a legally binding statement prohibiting fracking in the state.

Following their presentations, Cuomo said, "Dr. Zucker, I found your statement especially effective. What I found most powerful in your presentation is you wouldn’t let your family live in an area with high-volume fracking. If you don’t believe your children should live there, your duty is to suggest no child should live there."

Ever the politician, Cuomo wrapped up saying, "This is self-executing between you two gentlemen. I have nothing to do with it."

So he can technically say he didn't ban fracking in New York. But for the foreseeable future, there will be no fracking in New York. The ban makes permanent a moratorium put in place in 2008 that kicked the decision down the road; it was set to expire in 2017. Cuomo said earlier this week a decision would be made by the end of the year, and some activists were afraid the governor favored letting fracking proceed.

Needless to say, environmental groups were elated that they'd won their hard-fought battle.

"Our growing national movement has persevered," said Wenonah Hauter of Food & Water Watch. "We applaud Governor Cuomo for acknowledging the overwhelming science that speaks to the inherent dangers of fracking to public health and the environment. Fracking has no place in New York or anywhere, and the governor has smartly seized a golden opportunity to be a real national leader on health, environmental protection and a future free of polluting fossil fuels."

"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," said Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune. "Today’s decision will shake the foundations of our nation’s flawed energy policy, and we can only expect that it will give strength to activists nationwide who are fighting fracking in dozens of states and hundreds of cities and counties. The Sierra Club also extends heartfelt congratulations to all of the passionate anti-fracking activists in New York who were relentless in telling the truth about the dangers of fracking, persevered years of opposition from the oil and gas lobby, and ultimately prevailed."

“This is truly a monumental day," said Earthjustice managing attorney Deborah Goldberg, who represented Dryden in the June decision. "Governor Andrew Cuomo has earned a place in history. Never before has a state with proven gas reserves banned fracking. I believe that future generations will point to this day and say 'This is when the tide began to turn against the dirty, dangerous and destructive fossil fuel industry.’ We hope that this determined leadership Governor Cuomo has displayed will give courage to elected leaders throughout the country and world: fracking is too dangerous and must not continue.”

Other health professionals shared Dr. Zucker's concerns about fracking's health effects.

"Concerned Health Professionals of NY congratulates Governor Cuomo and his administration for listening to the science on drilling and fracking and putting public health first by prohibiting fracking in New York State," said the group's co-founder Dr. Larysa Dyrszka. "As hundreds of peer-reviewed papers have shown, drilling and fracking threaten to have very serious public health and environmental impacts on families and communities. Governor Cuomo put the science first and acted in the best interest of all New Yorkers and future generations. We hope that Governor Cuomo's wise decision will have ripple effects across the country and the world."

And many praised the community activists who organized, protested, rallied and lobbied.

"This victory for health and climate belongs to the thousands of grassroots organizers who led a years long fight to defend their communities from Big Oil and Gas," said 350.org’s fracking campaign manager Linda Capato. "They defeated millions of dollars in lobbying and paid misinformation with grassroots energy and bold organizing. 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. 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."

350.org founder Bill McKibben added, "This is exactly what happens when people organize with enormous skill and dedication. People, especially scattered in small towns across upstate New York—with some help from the big city—showed the whole movement how it's done. 350.org will be continuing to support the movement to stop fracking in New York and across the United States."

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Why America Should Invest in Renewables, Not Fracking

Hundreds of New Yorkers Rally Against Fracking, Call for Renewable Energy

Court Rules That New York Towns Can Ban Fracking

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Pexels

By Daniel Yetman

Bleach and vinegar are common household cleaners used to disinfect surfaces, cut through grime, and get rid of stains. Even though many people have both these cleaners in their homes, mixing them together is potentially dangerous and should be avoided.

Read More Show Less
During a protest action on May 30 in North Rhine-Westphalia, Datteln in front of the site of the Datteln 4 coal-fired power plant, Greenpeace activists projected the lettering: "Climate crisis - Made in Germany" onto the cooling tower. Guido Kirchner / picture alliance / Getty Images

Around 500 climate activists on Saturday gathered outside the new Datteln 4 coal power plant in Germany's Ruhr region, to protest against its opening.

Read More Show Less
Dr. Mark Brunswick (2R), Vice President of Regulatory Affairs and Quality, walks through the lab at Sorrento Therapeutics in San Diego, California on May 22. ARIANA DREHSLER / AFP / Getty Images

By Julia Ries

Around the world, there have been several cases of people recovering from COVID-19 only to later test positive again and appear to have another infection.

Read More Show Less

By Samantha Hepburn

In the expansion of its iron ore mine in Western Pilbara, Rio Tinto blasted the Juukan Gorge 1 and 2 — Aboriginal rock shelters dating back 46,000 years. These sites had deep historical and cultural significance.

Read More Show Less
Meadow Lake wind farm in Indiana. Anthony / CC BY-ND 2.0

By Tara Lohan

The first official tallies are in: Coronavirus-related shutdowns helped slash daily global emissions of carbon dioxide by 14 percent in April. But the drop won't last, and experts estimate that annual emissions of the greenhouse gas are likely to fall only about 7 percent this year.

Read More Show Less
Andrey Nikitin / iStock / Getty Images Plus

By Adrienne Santos-Longhurst

Plants are awesome. They brighten up your space and give you a living thing you can talk to when there are no humans in sight.

Turns out, having enough of the right plants can also add moisture (aka humidify) indoor air, which can have a ton of health benefits.

Read More Show Less

Trending

A bald eagle chick inside a nest in Rutland, Massachusetts. Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife
A bald eagle nest with eggs has been discovered in Cape Cod for the first time in 115 years, according to the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (Mass Wildlife), as Newsweek reported.
Read More Show Less