Gov. Cuomo Makes Sense on Fracking
Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday announced a statewide ban on the extraction of natural gas using a controversial drilling process called hydraulic fracturing. This was not an easy decision, but it was the right one. Many geologists and industry leaders believe that the deep shale formations underneath the state’s southern tier, known as the Marcellus Shale, contain bountiful supplies of natural gas. But extracting the gas, the governor concluded, carried — at least for now — unacceptable risks to the environment and human health.
In making what amounted to his first major decision since his re-election last month, Mr. Cuomo embraced the conclusion of state health officials that important health issues remain unresolved and that it was impossible to declare that hydraulic fracturing is safe for the environment or human health.
Acting health commissioner, Dr. Howard Zucker, told a meeting of the governor’s cabinet that “the science isn’t there” to say definitively whether hydraulic fracturing is safe or not. But judging from the overall weight of evidence, Dr. Zucker advised against going forward. “Would I live in a community with (hydraulic fracturing) based on the facts that I have now?” he said at one point. “Would I let my child play in a school field nearby?” After looking at the questions raised in numerous reports, he said, “my answer is no.” Mr. Cuomo found Mr. Zucker’s personal response particularly impressive.
Hydraulic fracturing involves blasting water, sand and chemicals into underground rock formations to unlock the gas. The technique has been around for many years and has been used, mostly without incident, in hundreds of thousands of natural gas wells. But the risks of water and air pollution have multiplied as the wells are drilled deeper and stretched vertically and horizontally to get at remote deposits….
Mr. Cuomo said that this was “probably the most emotionally charged issue that I have ever experienced” as governor and added that he made this decision as a layman bowing to the experts on his staff. His choice is a measured one that protects New Yorkers until the science of hydraulic fracturing can catch up.