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gaswell 120After years of uncertainty, local moratoriums and bans and a groundswell of opposition, Governor Andrew Cuomo's administration announced Wednesday that there will be no hydraulic fracturing (hydrofracking) in New York State.  New York will join Vermont and Hawaii in enacting a state-wide ban.  The recommendation was made by acting health commissioner Howard Zucker at a cabinet meeting called by Cuomo.

"I cannot support high-volume hydraulic fracturing in the great state of New York," said Zucker.  "I consider the people of the state of New York as my patients.  We cannot afford to make a mistake. The potential risks are too great. In fact, they are not fully known."

Zucker said that he would not allow his own children to live near a fracking site.

"This is a most happy day for the people of New York who will now know that fracking chemicals will not pollute our precious water and our air will continue to get cleaned up rather than made worse with the effects of fracking," NYS Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton said Wednesday.  'No amount of money can compensate for the loss or severe damage to those irreplaceable public goods."

Anti-fracking advocates including doctors were quick to release statements, Wednesday.

"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 Concerned Health Professionals's Larysa Dyrszka, MD.  "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."

But for fracking supporters the decision was not welcome.  Congressman Tom Reed, for whom job creation is a major issue, was quick to criticize Cuomo's support for the ban.

"I am extremely disappointed in today’s announcement from Governor Cuomo which bans hydraulic fracturing," said Reed. "This move effectively blocks the development of natural gas and oil resources in New York State. This is devastating news for the Southern Tier economy and its residents who are struggling every day. This decision makes it even more difficult to replace the good jobs that have already left due to New York’s unfriendly business climate. Once again Albany shows that it wants to enact an extreme liberal agenda rather than care about  individual property rights and job opportunities. I care about Southern Tier residents and will fight for them every day. Simply put this extreme liberal agenda is not right and not fair for our future."

The decision may seem surprising after Cuomo said last summer that he wanted to lift the ban on hydrofracking.  But rising anti-fracking sentiment state-wide evidently turned the tables.  Cuomo distanced himself from the decision, saying that the decision came from his commissioners, and that he doesn't have a role in it.

In June New York's top court ruled that New York towns can prohibit fracking, in a landmark case that affirmed Dryden and Middlefield's right to ban fracking within their borders.  Earlier this month the Lansing Gas Drilling Committee recommended a ban on certain heavy industries including hydrofracking.  Lansing has had a fracking moratorium on its books since May of 2012.  The Town Board said they want the committee to work on crafting a ban that could potentially be voted into local law.

That may not be necessary now (see accompanying story).  Cuomo said he would defer to the experts in supporting a statewide ban.  The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is expected to issue a legally-binding recommendation prohibiting fracking as a result of Zucker's recommendation.

"On behalf of millions of New Yorkers, we would like to thank the Governor for his leadership and keeping his word in listening to the science and protecting the health and safety of New Yorkers over the special interests of the oil and gas industry," said Frack Action's Julia Walsh. "The science on fracking has been clear. The toxic drilling process would threaten our health, poison our water and air, and forever mar New York as hundreds of health professionals and medical organizations have told us. This decision will affect New York for generations to come. We now look forward to making New York the renewable energy capital of the United States, leading the nation to a better, brighter future."

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