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New York To Become First Shale State To Ban Fracking

Environmentalists have applauded the move, which comes after years of mixed messages on fracking from Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

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New York state Governor Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday he will move to ban hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in his state on the advice of his health and environment officials.

"I cannot support high volume hydraulic fracturing in the great state of New York," said Howard Zucker, the acting commissioner of health at a public cabinet meeting in Albany.

"As the acting health commissioner, I consider the people of New York as my patients," he said. "We cannot afford to make a mistake. The potential risks are too great. In fact, they are not even fully known."

The state's environmental commissioner, Joseph Martens, also advocated in favor of the ban.

"Unlike any other activity regulated by [the Department of Environmental Conservation] the potential adverse impacts from [high pressure hydraulic fracking] are wide-ranging and widespread, including potential contamination of drinking water supplies, ground water, lakes, springs, rivers, and other resources," Martens said at the meeting.

"The development and longterm operation of [high pressure hydraulic fracking] wells involves unique, unresolved environmental risks, ranging from releases, planned and unplanned, to waste disposal, to air pollution," Martens said.

A de-facto ban on fracking has been in place in the state for more than five years, although Gov. Cumo had considered approving a limited program in parts of the state in 2012.

Fracking, a process used to release natural gas from shale deposits using water and chemicals, has become increasingly controversial in the U.S. in recent years, amid concerns of its effects on public-health and the environment.

In 2012 Vermont became the first state to ban fracking in a largely ceremonial move, since the state isn't believed to have shale deposits.

As much as existing studies have found health risks, there are many red flags & questions that still need to be answered. @HealthNYGov #HVHF

Andrew Cuomo@NYGovCuomoFollow

As much as existing studies have found health risks, there are many red flags & questions that still need to be answered. @HealthNYGov #HVHF

12:24 PM - 17 Dec 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

The potential impacts of fracking on water, air, land resources, community and local services are significant. @NYSDEC

Andrew Cuomo@NYGovCuomoFollow

The potential impacts of fracking on water, air, land resources, community and local services are significant. @NYSDEC

12:07 PM - 17 Dec 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

Seth Gladstone, spokesman for the the anti-fracking group Food & Water Watch, told BuzzFeed News the decision was historic.

"New York state will be the first state to ban it where fracking was a possible reality," he said. "There are real areas of the state that were viable for fracking, where the industry was primed and ready to go... so this is very real from New York state, and this is the first time where we stood up to the oil and gas industry, where our governor listened to science and made the right decision."

Wenonah Hauter, the group's executive director, praised Cuomo as a "national leader" for his administration's decision.

"We applaud Gov. Cuomo for acknowledging the overwhelming science that speaks to the inherent dangers of fracking to public health and the environment," Hauter said in a statement. "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."

But the executive director for the API New York State Petroleum Council, Karen Moreau, said the move was "the wrong direction" for the state.

"A politically motivated and equally misinformed ban on a proven technology used for over 60 years – throughout the country to great success – is short-sighted and reckless, particularly when New York depends on safely produced natural gas just over the border in Pennsylvania," Moreau said in a statement.

"This is a missed opportunity to share in the American energy renaissance, and for New York's future prosperity," she said.

BuzzFeed News also reached out to the Independent Oil and Gas Association of New York.

Actor Mark Ruffalo was among those celebrating the announcement on Twitter and Instagram.

Moratorium! Bravo NYS! Bravo DOH! Bravo @NYGovCuomo ! Bravo NYS Antifracking movement. You worked hard and relied on science. #fracking

Mark Ruffalo@MarkRuffaloFollow

Moratorium! Bravo NYS! Bravo DOH! Bravo @NYGovCuomo ! Bravo NYS Antifracking movement. You worked hard and relied on science. #fracking

12:45 PM - 17 Dec 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

Listen to audio of the cabinet meeting announcement here, starting at approximately 45 minutes into the recording:

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David Mack is a reporter and weekend editor for BuzzFeed News in New York.

Contact David Mack at david.mack@buzzfeed.com.

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