New York Governor Cuomo to Ban Fracking in State, Citing Health Threats

Brendan DeMelle DeSmog

Several news outlets and the Twittersphere are abuzz with the news that New York State is set to ban fracking in 2015. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s administration announced the forthcoming ban — making permanent the existing moratorium — during a year-end cabinet meeting. 

The primary reason cited by the Cuomo administration is health concerns related to the extremely controversial, water- and chemical-intensive fracking process. According to The New York Times, the acting state health commissioner Howard Zucker, said, “I cannot support high volume hydraulic fracturing in the great state of New York.” 

Zucker then made a simple argument in support of the decision. 

“Would I live in a community with [fracking] based on the facts that I have now? Would I let my child play in a school field nearby? After looking at the plethora of reports behind me … my answer is no.”

The commissioner of the NY Department of Environmental Conservation also made the point that the current restrictions on the ban on fracking in the New York City watershed as well as fracking bans enacted by local municipalities mean “the prospects for [hydrofracking] development in New York State are uncertain at best.”

Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Twitter account chimed in with some tweets of explanation.

State residents and environmentalists have spent several years rallying for a ban on fracking, and they are celebrating this breaking news. 

Dr. Anthony Ingraffea, the Dwight C. Baum Professor of Engineering Emeritus and Weiss Presidential Teaching Fellow at Cornell University, told DeSmogBlog: 

“I never lost confidence in Gov. Cuomo.  Add a chapter to ‘Profiles in Courage’ for him.  And I never lost confidence that the prowess of my health professional and science colleagues would reveal shale gas development for what it would have been: a big net loss for the people of New York State.  If shale gas extraction in a populated place like New York can’t ‘make it in there’ maybe it can’t make it ‘anywhere’.”

This is a breaking news story and will be updated regularly throughout the day. Co-reported by Justin Mikulka, Steve Horn and Brendan DeMelle.

Food & Water Watch executive director Wenonah Hauter issued this statement,

“Our growing national movement has persevered. 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.”

Earthjustice Managing Attorney Deborah Goldberg, who represented the Town of Dryden, NY in its precedent-setting fracking ban case, issued this statement:

This is truly a monumental day. 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.’  This is a hard-fought victory that belongs to the brave people of New York who refused to give up, refused to give in. Now all New Yorkers can enjoy the safety and peace of mind that the 80 New York communities that have banned fracking already have. 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.”

Industry Reacts

Not surprisingly, reactions from the oil industry are less enthusiastic.

The American Petroleum Institute says the industry will continue to fight. “We are resolved to continue to fight for these benefits in New York.” 

Brad Gill, Executive Director of IOGA of NY, an industry trade group, issued a statement of disappointment:

“We are disappointed – but not entirely surprised – to hear of the Governor’s decision to further prohibit much-needed exploration for natural gas in New York. After six years of delay and much debate, those many companies who have left New York for greener pastures in Pennsylvania, Ohio, or elsewhere know they made the right decision. While industry will find opportunity elsewhere, our hearts go out to the famers and landowners in the Southern Tier whose livelihoods in New York State are in jeopardy. For the time-honored natural gas industry, “the new New York” is not open for business.”

America’s Natural Gas Alliance (ANGA), the national industry lobbying tour de force, also has issued a reaction

“This is an ill-advised decision that denies New Yorkers the opportunity to take advantage of the many environmental and economic benefits that natural gas offers,” said Paul Hartman, the Northeast director for ANGA and former head of government relations for The Nature Conservancy. “The decision to prohibit hydraulic fracturing is based on data that does not justify the Cuomo administration’s conclusions. Natural gas has been responsibly produced in communities across the country and we are proud of our industry’s safety record.”

More Reactions

Catskill Citizens for Safe Energy, a grassroots group which has fought against fracking and shale gas production in New York state for years, provided a statement to Earthworks.

“New Yorkers are so fortunate to have decision makers who have listened to the public and the emerging science, and are not willing to sacrifice communities, public health and local, sustainable economies,” said Jill Wiener of Catskill Citizens. “This courageous decision in the face of industry pressure strengthens our resolve to help all our neighbors nationwide who are living with the nightmare of drilling–and who equally deserve protection of their air, water, and health. The power of grassroots activism and collaboration is alive and well today”

Earthworks has compiled statements from activists across the country in states ranging from California, Colorado, Pennsylvania, and Texas.

CREDO Mobile, progressive cell phone service company and grassroots activist group, also offered a national context through which to view Cuomo’s decision.

“Governor Cuomo has now set the national standard,” said Zack Malitz, campaign manager at CREDO. “The governors of states like California and Colorado, who are facing the same pressure from concerned citizens that pushed the Cuomo administration to take action, must now decide whose side they are on: the side of their state’s citizens or the fossil fuel industry.”

Actor and anti-fracking activist Mark Ruffalo has released a Facebook video praising New York’s anti-fracking movement and the Cuomo Administration on the decision. 


Not happy with the role high profile activists have played in the anti-fracking battle, the industry front group Energy in Depth‘s Steve Everly has offered his own take on Twitter.

Steve Everly Energy in Depth Cuomo Fracking Ban

In response, Deborah Rogers, author of the report “Shale and Wall Street,” tweeted out her own quip.

Deborah Rogers New York Fracking Ban Response

Zephyr Teachout, Democratic Party candidate who opposed Cuomo in her run for Governor in New York’s primary elections, also issued a reaction on Twitter.

Zephyr Teachout New York Fracking Ban founder Bill McKibben noted in reaction to Teachout’s statement that Cuomo likely knew which way the wind was blowing in public opinion, probably playing a large part in his ultimate decision on fracking.

Cuomo lost may votes in both the primary to Teachout and general election to Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins due to his ambiguous stance on fracking. Hawkins, who got 170,000 in the election and 5-percent of the total votes, has also issued a response on Twitter.

Howie Hawkins New York Fracking Ban Response

Image credit: Ban fracking protest via Shutterstock.

Brendan DeMelle DeSmog
Brendan is Executive Director of DeSmog. He is also a freelance writer and researcher specializing in media, politics, climate change and energy. His work has appeared in Vanity Fair, The Huffington Post, Grist, The Washington Times and other outlets.

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